This is it, folks! The grand finale of my Self Happiness Manifesto series! (if you go to the bottom, there will be a listing of all of the Self-Happiness Manifesto posts I have made.)
So here we go: How to feel good (and be happy) anyway! This is one of the longest posts I have ever written, so sit back, relax, and enjoy it!
1. Be Grateful!
“When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”
-G. K. Chesterton
I’m sure that at some point in your life (if not at many points), you have heard the phrase; “the grass is always greener on the other side”. This can be true – people often love to want what they cannot have as a way of escaping the unsatisfying doldrums of their own lives. The key to avoiding this dilemma is to be immensely grateful for what you DO have. This doesn’t have to necessarily refer to your material possessions, think of the many qualities and experiences that you have that make you unique. You’re an extremely special person with amazing gifts, and it would benefit you greatly to remember that!
Be thankful for everything, big and small. The world is full of amazing gifts that are hiding in plain sight. The key is recognizing them and appreciating them for what they are. This can be as small as the first breath you take when waking in the morning, to the endless night sky that sparkles for you every night. Remember the people who are in your corner, give you support, cheer you up when you’re down and congratulate you when you’re up. The people smiling at you on the street as well as the people who adore you unconditionally.
The other way to show your gratefulness is to give back! The fact that you are reading this site, on the internet, shows that you have a privilege many people don’t have in their lives. Whether you donate or do a community service, give back to the world. Need ideas? Just try googling “how to get involved” or “get involved with [insert cause/organization here]. There’s pages upon pages of information waiting for you! If you don’t have money to donate, or you don’t have the time or ability to make a large commitment like Peace Corps or Teach for America, start small! Put your skills to use: offer to help someone with minor household fixes or basic upkeep. Turn in that old clothing to your local Goodwill. Help pick up trash around your neighborhood. Spend an afternoon volunteering at the local YMCA or Boys and Girls club or become a mentor for a child in need. Train to help out at the local animal shelter, homeless shelter or nursing home. The possibilities are endless!
Approaching the world with gratefulness and wonder can really change your outlook. Sometimes this is hard – the world is gloomy and dark, nothing is going right, and all you can manage is a scowl – and that’s okay! We all have those days. The key is to remember what is good in the world. Keep a list of what – and who – makes you happy. Update it and refer to it often. Remember that things aren’t as bad as they look, and that every span of time, both good and bad, is only a blip in the world’s timeline. That’s the reason I write Slowed Down Sundays – so I, personally, can remember what is worth being thankful for. Remembering life’s little joys can help you stop and smell the roses in your own life, so to speak.
2. Make Some Goals!
“It takes as much time to wish as it does to plan.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Story time! There was a time in my life when I felt really down – about everything. I was sulky, moody and reclusive all the time, it felt like. The worst part? I had no idea why. My life was going pretty well. I was attending a great school, I had a stable job, a boyfriend, good friends, a supportive family…what was the problem? What did I have to complain about? Why did I feel so…blah? (For lack of a better word, of course)
After reflecting and meditating on it, (more on that on a later date) as well as having a much needed a pep-talk with my mother, I finally realized what my problem was: I felt stagnant. My life was going well, but it wasn’t going anywhere, if that makes sense. I was going through the motions instead of truly living my life. There were no real exciting prospects on the horizon, just more of the same. Day in, day out.
The best method that I could come up with to rid myself of stagnation was to make plans and goals for myself –and it could work for you too! It could be as simple as tackling that book you’ve been meaning to read or as grand as changing the world. Never underestimate how exciting looking forward to something can be.
What makes goals so hard is that they can often be easier to make than to actually do – it’s easy to come up with a fabulous aspiration, but what to do once you’ve made one? If you follow the quote by Mrs. Roosevelt above, it won’t be nearly as difficult. Yes, you think, I would love to drop what I’m doing and travel the world/run a marathon/write the next great modern novel/win a Nobel Peace Prize/etc! But how do I do that? If you have a giant, intimidating goal staring you in the face, it may be difficult to start, because you have no idea what starting is: where do you even begin?
The key is making the goal less abstract and more concrete, and the way to do that is to break it down into steps. What do you need to do to get to where you’re going? Evaluate what you already have ready and what you need to succeed at your goal. How do you carry out getting those things? Want to travel the world? Maybe you need to apply for a passport, first. Divide it into tasks that can be achieved one at a time. It might seem more tedious, but you’ll enjoy seeing your progress as you steadily move towards your goal. Bonus: you are less likely to stop and ask yourself, “What’s next?” A great way to do this is by making a list – it’s extremely gratifying to check a task off and see how much closer you’re getting!
Having something to strive for can do wonders for your well-being, not to mention the immense feeling of accomplishment that you can get once you meet your goals. And what do you do then? Make new ones, of course!
3. Be Kind to Yourself
You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.
Congratulations! You’re not perfect! It’s ridiculous to want to be perfect anyway. But then, everybody’s ridiculous sometimes, except perfect people. You know what perfect is? Perfect is not eating or drinking or talking or moving a muscle or making even the teensiest mistake. Perfect is never doing anything wrong – which means never doing anything at all. Perfect is boring! So you’re not perfect! Wonderful! Have fun! Eat things that give you bad breath! Trip over your own shoelaces! Laugh! Let somebody else laugh at you! Perfect people never do any of those things. All they do is sit around and sip weak tea and think about how perfect they are. But they’re really not one-hundred-percent perfect anyway. You should see them when they get the hiccups! Phooey! Who needs ’em? You can drink pickle juice and imitate gorillas and do silly dances and sing stupid songs and wear funny hats and be as imperfect as you please and still be a good person. Good people are hard to find nowadays. And they’re a lot more fun than perfect people any day of the week. ~Stephen Manes, Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days!
I absolutely adore both of these quotes, so I couldn’t pick just one! The fact of the matter is, they’re both correct. Nobody’s perfect. Mistakes and flaws are a part of life, unfortunately. But there is no reason to beat yourself up!
When looking at yourself in the mirror, rather than saying, “My butt is huge, my thighs jiggle, my acne is horrendous…” think along the lines of, “My eyes are gorgeous, I have a wonderful smile and beautiful curves”. Everyone – yes, EVERYONE, is beautiful. This is another time where keeping a list may be beneficial. Remind yourself what makes you a beautiful and special person. There is a difference between seeing yourself as a lost cause and accepting your flaws while knowing everyone has room for improvement. Hey, you can always make personal fitness a goal of yours, anyway! (Note: Before you take any extreme steps (ESPECIALLY diets) to alter your weight, please read Gala Darling’s article about this topic)
This, of course, is not just limited to your external appearance. People (including me, I’ll admit it!) have the tendency to be extremely harsh on themselves, especially when it comes to mistakes that they have made.
Newsflash! Everyone makes mistakes. EVERYONE. You aren’t stupid, you’re human. Another thing? It’s probably not the end of the world. I promise you. No, really, I do. If it spell the end of the world, find me and I’ll buy you a nice cream soda. (Then again, if the world has ended, where would I find cream soda?) I know it feels impossible to think of it this way – I speak from experience – but really try: Will this matter a year from now? Will it even matter a month from now? A week? Also be sure to ask yourself what is probably the most important question: What do you do now? From experience, you are probably the last person to forget about your personal faux-pas. People more on a lot faster than you might think.
When it comes to mistakes, while it is useful (and essential) to use them for future reference, there is nothing to be gained from beating yourself up about it constantly. The real challenge is to move forward in a thoughtful way. That doesn’t mean putting it behind you and forgetting it ever happened, of course. It means doing what you can to remedy the situation as well as learning a valuable lesson from it. Many mistakes can be fixed, or at least improved. And as much as we wish we could, no one has the ability to time travel. Your only options exist in the now or later, not then. Accept that mistakes happen, and that you are a better person due to the learning experience they gave you. After all, you learn more from mistakes than you do from success.
4. Take the Initiative!
“Most people spend more time planning their grocery shopping than designing their future. The basic difference between people who live their dreams and those who only dream about how they would live, are
the accuracy of their plans, their ability to generate new ideas, and their ability to take action.”
It is easy to let life pass you by if you idly let it happen to you, rather living it yourself. While you have no control over certain things, like the sunrise, other people’s opinions or the fact that your next favorite movie doesn’t come out for another week, figure out what you can change and do it!
Are you sick of feeling sluggish and out of breath? Look into getting fit. Join a fitness club or join up with a fit friend for regular workouts.
Hate the food at the chain restaurants on your street? Look into cooking on your own. It can often be much cheaper AND much healthier.
Feeling down? There’s help! Speak to a professional and evaluate your options.
Want to write the next great novel? Put your pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard?) and get started!
Do you think the world is spinning out of control? SAY SOMETHING! There are thousands of organizations who would love a passionate voice to add to their ranks. Without the first step, there cannot be a movement!
5. Find Your Passion
“If there is no passion in your life, then have you really lived? Find your passion, whatever it may be. Become it, and let it become you and you will find great things happen FOR you, TO you and BECAUSE of you.”
-T. Alan Armstrong
There are many amazing hobbies and passions out in the world: writing, bird-watching, hula-hooping, playing an instrument, watching clouds, scaling mountains, walking dogs…
How will you know what sparks your mind unless you try it? Find what moves you, what drives you. Take a class in something new. If someone gives you the opportunity to try something you’ve never done, say yes! Variety is the spice of life, I’ve heard.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or be burned by an experience that was less than amazing – these are necessary risks that are a part of life. Look on the bright side: at least you know that it wasn’t for you, and you weren’t left wondering. When you find something that makes your heart sing and your brain work overtime, the possibilities may overwhelm you: they’re endless! Even better, you can find other people that share your passion, making it better for everyone involved.
I didn’t know I had a love for traveling until I took a risk and applied to be a Student Ambassador in high school. I had never traveled outside of the country before and I had certainly never rode in a plane somewhere without my parents. I didn’t know any of the other students on the trip, so the prospect of making friends concerned me. I didn’t speak the languages in any of the countries I visited either. Plus, I had absolutely no sense of direction. What if I got lost in Italy and never made it home? Side-note: I did get lost in Italy. Twice, actually. Enough times that I got a nickname in sign language that roughly translated to “Tara, who is lost”. As you can see, I clearly made it home. While it was a horrifying experience at the time, by the time I had returned to the US I was able to look back and laugh. Was it new, unknown, and therefore terrifying at times? Yes, of course. Did I get to do so many things I would’ve never done otherwise while having a fantastic time? Definitely! It was, hands down, the most life-changing experience I had ever had. (If you’re in middle school or high school, definitely look into it.) I have met friends that I still adore to this day, and I truly believe it made me a more well-rounded, confident and independent person. And if I had never taken the risk, it wouldn’t have happened!
So go on! Find something that you love – or throw yourself into something you already love! And be happy doing it!
ps – What is making YOU happy today?
Read the other Self-Happiness Manifesto Articles:
1. Worry Less
2. Smile More