“I want to be more happy.”
Have you ever felt that way? Or maybe:
“I just want to stop feeling so bad (overworked, dull, robotic) all the time.”
Well I have felt that way and I did an experiment that was pretty successful in fixing the problem. Let me share with you.
Remember When Life Was Easy And Happy?
I was in a little rut of feeling kind of blah and I wanted to get back to feeling how I felt I was younger, when I thought I had no limits. I wanted to recapture that time in my life when I felt carefree and when optimism, delight, and happiness bubbled up as easily as natural spring water. I wanted that lightness.
Where Did The Happiness Go?
What happened between then and now? Serious studies in college, high pressured corporate job, the huge responsibility of the mortgage, difficulties in marriage, losing a loved one, daily responsibilities of being a single parent, running households, being self-employed, primal fears of death and losing loved ones. You know, LIFE happened! 🙂 Whoa! That’s heavy!
Not So Bad, Not So Great
Okay, so my life was not all bad stuff. My life is full of lots of very good stuff, but all this adult responsibility and worry kind of trained my mind to be serious, responsible, planning, worrying, etc. My natural inclination for lightness and joy was tucked away in the bottom drawer most of the time.
There was just too much to do to even consider taking out my lightness and joy to play with for a little while. I even forgot they were there in the back of that drawer. In fact somewhere along the way they were packed up in a box and put into the basement for even safer storage. LOL.
I mean you’re not allowed to be a grownup, getting things done, be productive, AND be happy, now, are you?
Let’s think on that…
Why the hell not?
Turns out that was a limiting belief I had and I needed to get rid of it!
The Search For My Treasure
Since then I have learned mindfulness. I’m a beginner and feel like I will always be a beginner but that’s okay. The idea of mindfulness is that by staying consciously present as much as you can you’re able to fully experience the joy that is intrinsic to each moment of life.
Yes, there are moments of pain in life but even those are better when we can be mindful instead of worried about the future.
So I started with mindfulness (this was the book that really set me on this great path – The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh) and that was good. Mindfulness helps so much with anxiety and helping to feel calm and peaceful.
Mindfulness was a good start, and then I decided I still wanted more! I wanted that automatic carefree feeling and lightness of heart (like kids and special grownups have). So I started watching happy people. How were they so happy?
I noticed they smiled a lot. I noticed they laughed a lot. They were truly “easy-going” as in “not needing to control everything.” They could really let go of being so grown-up serious!
The Smile Experiment
So I decided I would try to recapture daily delight and joy by just smiling more. These happy people seem to smile a lot and I knew that when you change your physiology that your body chemistry will actually follow that. I knew that with my brain, but not with my heart. But I was willing to try.
So I decided to start smiling more on purpose. I made sure to smile anytime I looked in the mirror. At first it looked and felt so fake! But again I knew that theoretically this should work. And after some time it did! It took a few days to become more natural, but it really did work.
And then something funny happened. I started to have spontaneous happy thoughts. (Wow!) I started to laugh more easily. I found myself playing with my son and being silly with him more spontaneously. This was true play that arises naturally. That was cool.
So before you think “yeah whatever. Unrealistic. I don’t believe it.” Let me tell you it’s not a cure-all. I still have cranky moments, sad moments, anger. (I mean I’m still human!) But here’s the cool thing. I now have more of a tendency towards happiness.
This is doable. This can make your life happier.
When I nurture this habit of smiling, being silly, being present in this moment, the greater this Tendency Towards Happiness becomes. In fact you need to nurture this habit everyday, like watering your plants. In the face of stress and difficult people in your life, you need to put even a little more effort in, but the payoff is great and well worth it!
How To Get YOUR Smile Back
This is what I did. It’s pretty basic.
- Smile all day – any time you think of it. (seems weird, I know, but just try it for a day or two. What have you got to lose????)
- Fake it till you make it. (Inevitably this will feel unnatural at first, but stick with it!!)
- Set in place some new beliefs: (use these as morning, afternoon mantras)
- I’m allowed to be happy right now and any time.
- I’m allowed to Smile at all times.
- Life is meant to be enjoyed.
- I’m allowed to be silly and have fun.
- Problems are an opportunity to find a laugh.
- Nothing is so serious that I can’t find a laugh in it.
- I’m allowed to enjoy life.
- I’m allowed to be happy while I work.
- I’m allowed to be happy when things go wrong. I just fix them and move forward.
- Create reminders:
- Place “Smile” sticky note reminders on your mirrors, in your car, and in different rooms you frequent.
- Place the mirror at your desk. When you see yourself, smile. Practice loving yourself. Kindness towards yourself will slowly melt your heart and bring that smile more easily.
- Create a smile reminder bracelet with a string, or maybe a ring. Or designate a hat as your smile hat. Whatever item you can have with you at all times that can remind you, designate it as your smile reminder.
I hope you’ll have a chance to try this experiment too. I’d love to hear back from you how it works for you!
If you think this is a good idea, please share it with your friends or send us a comment below or via Facebook or Twitter.
Thank you for reading! Wishing you happiness!