USA Today came out with a study recently finding that “Mental Happiness” improves with age. “Two California researchers say that mental health improves with age; most people get happier as they get older, and those who are older have more control over their emotions and are less negative.” Oddly enough my perceptions are just the opposite, at least for the most part. Children appear to be the happiest, and it seems as though our level of happiness actually DECREASES over time as a result of our transition into adulthood and the associated trials and tribulations of being an active participant in this world.
Finding true happiness in life as we get older takes effort as we focus on that which is most important in life. Generally the longer we live, the more responsibilities we take on, and the greater our experience or understanding of death (facing it within ourselves and often the loss of those we love). We quite often get into debt, and many times we wake up one day and feel as though our life has passed us by. There does seem to be a time when some reach a certain “peak” age, perhaps as seniors but without generalizing too much…some achieve an awareness or an understanding about life itself. It is as though they have survived and overcome enough challenges to realize that they are simply a part of life regardless of outside circumstance…a clarity achieved as a side of effect of an intentional life, an engaged life.
To clear at least one misconception here…happiness is not reflective of income and if anything it has an adverse reflection on income – the more money we have, quite often the less happiness we experience. The happiest people I have ever met are those with the very least of worldly possessions. Perhaps there is something to that.
So with all of that in mind, perhaps we can all find just a little more happiness regardless of our age.
Here are 12 simple ways to increase your level of happiness:
- Be Grateful – for what you have, and for what you don’t. You can always find those less fortunate than you. Start with what you see around you, the fact that you have so many incredible gifts. Isn’t it interesting that our most valuable possessions are those that we receive at birth. Appreciate the amazing things you are surrounded by – nature, your home, friends and family. Even take a moment to appreciate what you don’t have…legal troubles, medical problems, a family member who is ill, termites or perhaps crabs. The beauty of the world around us is the first thing that we ignore when life gets challenging.
- Find Something to Look Forward To. Life needs to be exciting and mysterious. So many of us get complacent and stuck in our routine…but it’s the mystery of life, the creativity and the unknown that gives life so much of the meaning we desire. Change your schedule, sleep on the other side of the bed, find a new restaurant, take a different route to work, go someplace new, put the left shoe on before the right – or vice versa, or make a new friend. STAY UP ALL NIGHT! Get up early in the morning and watch the sunrise. Eat your dessert first. Have a few cupcakes for breakfast (Ok – maybe after you get out of your diabetic coma you will have a realized that this is not a very good idea). Regardless of your situation, CHANGE IT UP!
Make a List of all your achievements. It’s so easy to forget all of your success when you are mired in conflict, challenge or disappointment. You have spent your entire life to get to this place…give yourself credit for everything you have accomplished.
- Set a Goal - for the future. If you aren’t happy where you are…what do YOU think will make you happy. In case you have forgotten, I may remind you that happiness comes from within, and there is nothing (absolutely nothing) outside of yourself that can fill any void that exists within your being. However, that aside, there are always elements of our outside world that require our attention and focus, and as such they have the ability to assist us with finding our inner happiness. Make a list of the aspects of your world that you want to change. Focus on what you really desire in life and get to work!
- Don’t Sweat the Details – the little stuff. We tend to get so caught up in the little things in life…the Escalade that cut us off on the way to work, the milk that was spoiled and ruined our breakfast, the rude waitress, the phone call that got dropped, and on and on. We all have an endless list of those things and people that push us over the edge…but who cares. Get over it…life is too short. If you are stuck…please refer back to item #1.
- Love Yourself…really, just love yourself. Nobody is harder on you than you Nobody is more judgmental, more callous, more competitive with us than we are. Give yourself a break, and just love you for you.
- Be Generous – give and be of service. There is nothing like giving to someone in need. Being of service to others is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves. Find someone in need and give to them…selflessly, and with wild abandon (thanks Marc Cohn).
- Communicate – Quite often our frustration is a result of a situation we find ourselves in, and there are times when open communication is exactly what is required to clear the air and bring us back to our center. Open up your heart…and get out of your mind. EXPRESS YOURSELF!
- Smile – that’s it, just smile. Give it a try…I dare you to smile in public for 10 minutes straight without finding an improvement in your state of being. Just by smiling you can change the world – inside and out.
Care For Yourself - Get to bed at a reasonable hour and don’t oversleep. Try healthy eating and a little exercise. Nature has a tendency to heal all ills – even just a nice walk in the park or in the woods. Listen to the birds, and feel the wind blow through your hair. Take a yoga class, or even a nice hot bath – trust me, you deserve it.
- Find a Hobby – or something you are passionate about. Try something new, or get re-engaged with something that makes you happy. Play a musical instrument, put together a puzzle, bake some cookies, or put on some music from your childhood. Reconnect with an old friend, find something to look forward to today and tomorrow.
- SAY YES TO LIFE! Simply put, just say yes. Snap out of your rut and just get on with it.
Remember, happiness cannot come from anything outside of you…it can only come from within. Try out some of the recommendations that I have provided, but in the end you will need to look deep within yourself for the truth of your life and what you really desire. Nobody can provide that which you inherently seek…and everything you truly require is deep within you.