Everyone deserves happiness in their lives. Too often, entrepreneurs believe that happiness is only about success and miss out on the benefits of finding happiness in the little things. Without living in the joy and happiness offered by loved ones and your surroundings, stress soon becomes the focal point of your life.
We know that stress builds upon stress. The longer you allow stress to run your thoughts, actions, and behaviors, the more it becomes your default setting. You wake up in the morning, and your brain instantly searches for what is wrong in your life rather than right. Your mind cannot focus on the joyful aspects of life; your kids, friends and family, good health, or whatever you treasure. Before you know it, stress dictates your decisions, and happiness takes a back seat to worry, fear, and anxiety. Not an excellent way to live—for you or the people who love and care for you.
It's time to increase your happiness factor!
While we know that proper diet and exercise, going to a therapist, taking vacations, being present in the moment, and all the other things that are good for us decrease stress, they all require life change. Today's happiness-inducing tips take seconds to minutes, and that's all. You can incorporate these little actions into your life without interrupting your day. These new habits are simple to attain yet powerful. Refrain from dismissing these little gems as too easy to be true and effective!
Happiness comes with a smile.
That's right. Endless research shows that the simple act of an ear-to-ear smile immediately impacts your state of mind. You see, a smile spurs a chemical reaction in the brain, releasing certain hormones, including dopamine and serotonin, the happiness hormones. When you smile, your brain automatically assumes something humorous is happening and responds accordingly. And here's more good news: your brain doesn't know if you're smiling because you genuinely feel happy or if you're pretending. That's right, fake it until you make it.
Does your brain come to life in the morning with stressful thoughts, dread, frustration, or fear? Interrupt that pattern with an ear-to-ear smile. Okay, it may feel goofy to lie in bed smiling at the ceiling, but I kid you not; it's extremely effective. Give it a try! And when you're ready to take things to the next level, find something to laugh about!
Increase happiness when you put a little vacation in every day.
I felt a sinking sensation during my corporate years before I got on the commuter train each morning. It was as though my life wasn't my own once I boarded that train. One day I realized that, between being a single mom and working a demanding job, I had very little of my own time, so of course, I dreaded going to work. So, I decided to change that feeling, even for only a few minutes a day.
I began leaving the house 20 minutes early (no small feat with stunt-loving toddler twins around), but I made it happen. I used that 20 minutes at my morning commute's front or back end. Sometimes, I stopped in the little coffee shop at the station and either laughed and chatted with the owners and other customers or took my coffee to a bench under a tree. There, I focused on the feel-good aspect of being alone; the sweet sound of the birds talking or whatever made my heart feel good.
Other times, I would go out of my way to walk along Lake Michigan to get to work. I would stop in the satellite department store near the train station downtown or browse in a bookshop—things I would do if I were on vacation.
Now, I work from home. I take frequent 5-minute breaks to gaze into my beautiful koi pond or even pull a few weeds (it's meditative!). I'll play with one of our pets or laugh over something silly with my daughters. Other times I'll stop in the middle of the day for something more time-consuming: a massage, a long walk in the woods, a pedicure, or a bit of retail therapy.
I refer to these mini breaks as my way to put a little vacation in every day. This time reminds you that you can escape the stress and daily demands to make yourself feel special and at peace. Make it a rule. Put a little vacation in each and every day!
Show some gratitude.
If a pill could simulate the effects of gratitude, everyone would be taking it. Again, there are countless studies on gratitude's mental and physical benefits. We know that feeling thankful can improve sleep, mood, and immunity. Gratitude can decrease depression, anxiety, chronic pain difficulties, and disease risk.
Gratitude and happiness go hand in hand. But I'm not talking about a robotic recital of a gratitude list. We're all (hopefully) grateful for the important and good things in our lives. Make your gratitude memorable with this simple practice.
Step one is to actively look for simple things that bring joy to your heart. This step requires intention and practice, but this gratitude practice will retrain your brain to focus on the good rather than the stressful stuff.
If you leave the house for an errand or a walk (Walk your dogs! It's a great break for both of you!), watch for the simple things that bring you a moment of pleasure: a beautiful flower, a sweet interaction between a parent and child, a pleasant smell in the air. These are simple pleasures you're looking for, nothing big and life-changing.
You get the idea. This exercise is a highly effective way to practice being present in the moment and teach your brain to seek happiness, not misery.
Step two in the gratitude exercise:
Spend just 5-minutes every night recording your moments of pleasure in a gratitude journal. No cheating! Again, this isn't about the things that you're grateful for; this is about seeking out simple reasons for happiness. You don't have to write a book; a basic sentence or two is perfect.
As you record these special moments, allow your heart to feel them all over again. Going to bed happy provides many benefits, including a more peaceful night's sleep.
Perform random acts of kindness.
I was checking out at Trader Joe's (one of my happy places) a couple of weeks ago. The cashier was a young woman who happily chatted with each customer and did her job joyfully. I don't recall the questions I asked her, but I learned that this happy woman worked three jobs! I asked when she found time for rest, and she responded, “Girl! I've got goals; the time for rest is later!” She went on to say that she loves all of her jobs and is saving so she has the financial means to make her dreams come true.
I was so taken with this magical personality that I went home, grabbed some cash, put it in an envelope with a little note, and returned to the store to give it to her. I told her it was my small way of contributing to her dreams. I can't get the image of her joyful spirit out of my mind. I'm still riding this roller coaster two weeks later.
Along with your gratitude practice, keep your eyes open for small ways to be there for someone else:
- Help someone put groceries in their car.
- Send an employee home early as a special treat.
- Show your appreciation to someone amazing.
- Put a little love note in your child's lunch.
- Surprise a friend by leaving flowers on their doorstep.
Get silly and move!
Just like a smile, shifting your physical state of stress invites your body and brain to feel good. What we call a state change in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) means to change your body radically – to move into a powerful state. Change your posture, facial expression, and breathing. Move to another room, or stand up and strike a Superman pose!
When I began public speaking, I was petrified. It was about more than just getting up on a stage but about creating a presentation powerful enough for an audience to appreciate and benefit from. My anxiety would put a freeze on my creativity. In fact, it crippled my brain! So, I put my knowledge to work. Here are a few of the exercises; they are simple (even goofy) yet effective.
When you're overwhelmed to the point of being frozen, shift to an empowering state to generate happiness and confidence.
Stand tall, and walk around the room while reciting empowering affirmations. Use a strong, confident voice and your hands and arms to accentuate the words. Here are some of the affirmations I used. Before long, I didn't need to do this exercise because I trained my brain to know I was confident, experienced, and strong.
Short and simple affirmations for happiness and confidence.
- I AM an expert!
- I bring value to my audience (or whatever you're doing)!
- I am a great entrepreneur!
- I have everything it takes to succeed at this!
- My voice is powerful and knowing!
- I am confident, capable, and wise!
Remember, use your body, exaggerate your movements, and emphasize key words in your affirmations.
Baby steps. That's all it takes to bring a bit of joy and happiness to your heart. Don't wait for success, don't think you have to make massive life changes. Keep it simple and do it now.