Is That a Sunbeam on Your Face?

Man, I’ve been putting in some major hours. Waking up early, making strict lists, doing a lot of reading. I didn’t get a new job. I’m working on my happiness.

My 8-year-old just made this. Hopefully this means I'm being a good role model!
My 8-year-old just made this. Hopefully this means I’m being a good role model!

Recently I made the startling realization that I do A LOT of things in a day to keep me happy. Not just to keep me alive—but to keep me happy. When I made an off-the-top-of-my-head list of things I do on a daily basis…well, it was shocking. Staying happy—really happy, not just content—is sort of like a job.

Here’s some of my list:

  • Doing yoga/stretching
  • Meditating
  • Reading (fiction, motivational, educational, news)
  • Watching (informative shows, staying up-to-date shows)
  • Reading Notes from the Universe email
  • Eating super consciously (cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, parsley, veggies, vitamins, probiotics, oh my)
  • Drinking water
  • Keeping a one-line journal
  • Noting moments of gratitude
  • Drinking tea
  • Keeping everything in moderation (exercise, fun, food)
  • Getting good sleep
  • Balancing work-life
  • Exercising
  • Spending focused time with the kids
  • Having a conversation or two with my husband

The thing is, it’s a heavy world we’re living in. It would be very easy to give in and let cynicism and depression take over. But there’s a lot of beauty in the world, too, and I choose that side. But like an arm-wrestling match, many days the gloomy side is pushing awfully hard against the sunny side, and it takes great effort to keep sunny in the game.

What do you do to stay happy?

My list works for me—you can’t just copy it, because drinking lots of water and knowing you’re healthier for it might not make you feel happy like it does me. So where you might need a chat with your mom or best friend, I might choose a quiet 30 minutes curled up with my book. Either way, both of us will have boosted our happiness chemicals (e.g., serotonin and dopamine). The neurochemicals are a real thing, as fluffy as this subject sounds, and just as insulin is necessary to regulate blood sugar, dopamine and serotonin are necessary to regulate our happiness, motivation and feelings of self-worth.

If the idea of making your own list and introducing a few new happiness-inducing action items into your daily life makes you feel—well—unhappy, try to add just one new habit at a time. “Start exercising” might be too big, too vague. So maybe you can start with a gratitude journal, and I give you permission to make just a bullet list of 3 things you are grateful for each day. Try that for 2 weeks and see how it makes you feel. If you’re enjoying it, add in another action item. Maybe it will be to sign up for a once weekly yoga class. See there? Happiness is creeping in.

It takes effort to keep our minds peaceful, our attitudes playful. In fact, if you just go about your daily existence giving no thought to your happiness, you are pretty much guaranteed to be less than a happy person. Try to see the list you create as an antidote to a ho-hum life. Positivity is empowering. It makes you walk taller. As Roald Dahl said, If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.

May you always look lovely.