We all know a few of those people who seem to be genuinely happy. They’re upbeat, optimistic, joyous, and grateful. Are they for real? Is it possible to be truly happy? I say yes because I know several of those happy people well, and they’re the real deal. It takes more than just thinking happy thoughts, but the reality is that you can be happier. Here are some insights:
1) In Chinese medicine, your heart is the home to your Shen, which is your mind, memory, consciousness, and spirit. While this may sound far-fetched, much of our language about the heart refers to it as an organ of feeling. When you say someone has broken your heart or you know something deep in your heart, you are speaking to an emotional organ rather than simply a muscle that pumps blood. The primary emotion associated with your heart is joy, so activities that bring you joy also nourish your heart. Doing things that you enjoy, connecting with people you care about, and even sharing a meal with loved ones all feed your Chinese heart and are a path to happiness.
2) Nourish your Yin by getting enough downtime. In Chinese medicine the Yin aspect of the Yin/Yang dichotomy is nourishing and associated with rest, recovery, and rejuvenation. Nurture yourself by setting aside time for quiet and contemplation. Look inward, get enough rest, and spend a little time connecting with your spiritual side.
3) Develop a sense of gratitude. The benefits of a glass-half-full attitude include increased mental alertness, better physical health, an increased sense of well-being, and increased optimism. In addition, a sense of gratitude can decrease feelings of envy, materialism, self-centeredness, and yes, even depression.
4) Connect with nature. Researchers in Japan have found that hanging out in the woods is good for your health, and have even coined the term “forest bathing”. It seems that time spent in the forest can lower your blood pressure, decrease stress, and ward off depression. This isn’t surprising, as the foundation of Chinese medicine is based on our relationship with nature. Furthermore, connecting with nature puts you closer to your elemental self and the divine–however you describe it for yourself. So, if you want to feel a little bit happier, go take a stroll in the nearest park or forest.
5) Learn to let go. Have you ever noticed that the harder you try or the more you want something, the more elusive it seems? Trying to muscle an outcome seems like a recipe for frustration and unhappiness. Stop trying so hard, wanting so much, and being so very attached to the results. Your life will flow just a little bit better, and you’ll feel happier.
6) Reach for a better thought. Okay, so your car won’t start, your co-worker is an ass, and the washing machine ate your favorite sweatshirt. You have reasons to be in a foul mood. But what if you decided to reach for a thought that’s slightly better than the one you have right now? What if you decided to think about your day off, that great meal you had last night, or playing with your new puppy? The point here is that you have a choice. You can stay grumpy or you can choose to feel just a little bit better. It’s up to you.
7) Stop waiting. Some people truly believe that they’ll be happy when they lose those last 15 pounds or when they retire or when they win the lottery or…the list is endless. What if those things never happen? Does that mean they will never be happy? Don’t be one of those people. Quit waiting for the perfect moment. Be happy now.
8) Smile. Did you know that when you smile (or even just use your smile muscles) that your mood is improved? It’s true, when you engage the smiling muscles around your mouth, you actually feel better and a little uplifted. Try it–smiling will make you feel happier and improve the landscape for everyone else.