Thursday, July 30, 2015

100 Things to Make You a Little Happier, Part 5

We are half way through. In this and the previous four posts I have mentioned 50 things that if nothing else should contribute to your happiness a little bit. Again, this is not an obvious solution to an easy problem, nor is it a comprehensive list. Happiness can be found in road trips, Oreos, long talks, and in self-help. It can be found in the cold hours of the night, and in the fresh minutes of victory. Happiness is ubiquitous, but it is also a choice. Once again, here are some things that help me feel happier and more fulfilled as a human person.

41. Write down your ideas- People complain about forgetting their ideas, or having other people "steal" their ideas. No one stole your idea. They just had a similar idea, but acted on it. Your day is full of moments that will remind and inspire you, so pick up a pen and jot them down before these moments leave you forever like a betrayed lover. And forget not the fine words of William Thackery who said, "There are thousands of thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen and writes."

42. Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?-I think people are so obsessed with being right, with winning an argument, with holding the gauntlet of "I told you so" glory, that they forget how useless it is to be right if being right severed a relationship, or put a wedge between you and someone you care deeply for. Everyone would rather be correct, but realize that being right all the time will only ostracize those around you.

43. Reconnect sometimes- Some things will always remain in the past; old friendships, childhood homes, the place you had your first kiss. But sometimes ignoring the past only disrupts your future from effectively progressing. Seeing old friends, visiting avenues of yesterday can be a nostalgiac and highly cathartic thing. So, reach out to people you used to talk to every day. Visit cities that once brought you great joy, and watch a movie that reminds you of your Grandfather and his life-wielding laugh.

44. Move quickly, but stop rushing- Life is insanely busy, and this is good. It is good to have a lot on our plates with little time for idleness. A wise man in a suit once told me, "Be so busy that you don't have time to be tempted." But in all this hustle and quest for efficiency I worry about missing the big picture. I don't want to be in such a hurry to go to work that I don't notice the snow freshly painted on the mountains as I walk to my car. I don't want to be so rushed in jumping from one appointment to another that I leave a conversation that was approaching greatness. Be swift in the good race of life, but take your time, notice and appreciate.

45.  Wear skinny jeans- It's 2015.

46. Rid your life of envy- This seems like an obvious piece of advice if you want to be happy. But far too many of us waste negative energy on envying that of another, in hopelessly wishing we were more like someone else. Who cares if someone is in better shape than you, or if their car works every time they start it. Life is about you, and the people you touch. How can you be happy if you are constantly comparing yourself to other people, and fretting that you aren't measuring up?

47. Be kind to people making minimum wage- Most of us at some point in our lives have had a job that pays us almost nothing and is incredibly unpleasant. Yet, when out in the public, engaging with fast food workers, and novice employees we seem to be completely bereft of patience and compassion. Take an extra minute and ask the grumpy worker at Taco Bell how their day has been. Compliment the K-Mart worker on their trendy keds. Be kind. It is so easy.

48. Find a favorite author- Find an author that makes you understand life better, one that makes you want to drive across the country to see the house they grew up in. In doing so, read everything that they have ever published. Not only is it fun, but it is a much more productive obsession than a lot of things. And if you are reading more, that is great. Everyone should read more. I recently read that the average American worker reads less than one book per year, while the average American CEO reads 60 books a year. Think about it.

49. Surround yourself with winners- If you want to win, you have to be around people that have unrealistic dreams, people that have the loftiest goals on the planet. You will not be interested in mediocrity if you are surrounded by people that are dominating their craft and winning nonstop. If you need to get new friends, do it. There is no dearth of people on this earth that are magnificent champions. Find them.

50. Realize that people trump geography- I love cool places as much if not more than the next person. I want to be where history echoes off the walls, and art from centuries past smacks me in the face. I want to go do cool stuff all the time. But far too often I hear people complaining that where they are or what they are doing isn't fun enough, or isn't that epic. To me it seems insulting to those people they are with. Worry less about what you are doing, but who you are with. I would rather be in Reno, Nevada with my best friends, then the beaches of Bali with a negative complaining sucker of fun. Do epic things, but remember, people trump geography.

Once again, be a lamb and share this with someone who might struggle to be happy. Happy can be hard. So if you are lucky enough to feel it, and feel it often, share it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

100 Things to Make You a Little Happier, Part 4

As I continue this foray of discovery into the world of happiness I find myself lost at moments. What really makes happiness endure? How can some people be so happy with so little effort? And how can others struggle their whole lives for a few moments of bliss? As the band Our Lady Peace said, "Happiness is not a fish you can catch." But maybe it isn't about holding the fish in your hand, maybe it is about the beautiful swim in the endless blue.

This list continues. Please comment on what makes you happy. Maybe nothing on the list really works for you, if so, what does?

31. Practice mindfulness- No matter your religious persuasion, you should take a page from the Buddhists every once and a while. Mindfulness is an important principle of observing and awareness of the things around you. It sounds overly zen and rather obvious. But I would look into it.

32. Meet odd people- Odd people are a special bunch. Their oddities range from silly hats to cult-like personalities. But spending time with people that you deem to be odd can be of great value. They bring to the table things that never cross your mind, and they remind you of the weirdness that you hide inside.

33. Take epic selfies- If you have to take selfies, (and you probably do) take them in awesome places, doing epic things. If your activities are going to be so overrun by the presence of your cellphones, you might as well seek to do cooler things that get you more likes. I am thinking less mirror selfies, and more selfies on elephants, more selfies with people you love exploring places that scare and excite you. In fact, get a selfie stick while you are at it.

34. Be more vulnerable- People are attracted to vulnerability. Let go of the ugly past and the things that have hurt you. Maybe write them down, and look not again upon their nasty memory. You deserve to be happy, and being vulnerable, and open to life and love is part of that. Being hurt sucks, but missing out on something because your doors are sealed shut is even worse.

35. Judge people less- Good luck in living a life without ever judging another person. Unfortunately it is kind of a knee-jerk reaction we have sometimes to meeting someone or hearing about another's way of life. Though we might be right in our hurtful assumptions, what good does it do? All it does is unfairly elevate ourselves, inflating our heads in the process. And an inflated melon is not the way to felicity. Take a few steps back and realize that you have no right to judge, and probably very little knowledge of what journey people are actually on.

36. Accept compliments- A good friend of mine taught me this one. Our culture has spread this false idea that compliments should be lightly refuted upon receiving. Instead of saying thank you, or reciprocating with an equally genuine retort, we often shake our heads and insist that "It was no big deal" or that "It's not that impressive." Sure humility seems to be the culprit, but insecurity is also a perpetrator. Realize that sometimes it takes great courage for someone to tell you something great about yourself. Don't negate their act of kindness with needless self-deprecation. That is no way to perpetuate happiness.

37. Screw orthodoxy- Many people are unhappy because a great portion of the world is telling them to live in a very certain way. You must do what you feel is true and wonderful, and it must be in your own way. Screw the notion that things must be done in a precise way. Break the box, destroy the mold, and be you.

38. Meditate in some form- No matter your religious loyalties or beliefs, find time to meditate. It doesn't have to be sitting down on a mat with Enya playing in the background and incense burning throughout the room. It can just be a brief walk through the woods, or a moment of solemn prayer. It could be with others or all by yourself and your favorite Spotify playlist. Just remember a cluttered mind is not a happy mind.

39. Try things that you used to make fun of- Maybe it's Tinder. Maybe it's Crossfit. Or perhaps it is snow-shoeing. Whatever it is, give it a try once. You might meet some splendid people, and you might even enjoy it. If nothing else, you will homologate your original beliefs, and you won't think twice about it again.

40. Don't think or speak in absolutes- This goes a bit hand in hand with #39. If we think or speak in such absolute and definitive tones we are really limiting ourselves. People change, and the world changes. Be open to new ideas and new ways of approaching life. If you must be firm and absolute in a few things that is okay. Be absolute in your faith, in your love, and in your drive. But don't build a dam where water should run free.

As per usual, please let me know which ones you liked, and what it is that brings you happiness. Stay tuned for the fifth segment in a few days. Cheers.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

100 Things to Make You a Little Happier, Part 3

I was supposed to post this yesterday, but I instead went to the movies and a wedding reception. But here it is, a continuation of the series on happiness. The real question is, what makes you happy? And what can you do to spread this noble disease?

21. Try new things- This does not mean you need to go try cocaine or do body shots off a homeless person. New experiences are great and teach us much, but some things should be left alone always and forever. But be open and willing to try new hobbies. You never know what might become a new life-long passion, or what obscure activity might bring you and another soul together. Try curling, watch a Danish film, eat something squirmy, maybe even learn how to play Bridge.

22. Serve people- It sounds like an obvious part of being a good person, but it is so easy to get caught up in your infinitesimally small world. Sylvia Plath said it best in her published collection of journals. She wrote of the rain and how it seemed to enclose her tiny world, "Closing in your pitifully small radius of activity." Young Sylvia was right. Our minuscule circle of people and activities is so limited. Look outside your world, past your immediate radius and help someone. Reach an arm across that invisible line that separates your world with the rest of humanity. And serve.

23. Look for silver linings- Life is full of disappointment and terrible folly. But what good comes from seeking out the dark matter? In awful situations try to find a parcel of goodness, or a nugget of experience. Those who seem to always be happy are looking for reasons to be happy, they aren't looking for reasons to murmur and cry.

24. Don't be a hoarder of culture- If you have discovered some great new song, or have just read a book that shifted the way you view life, why keep it to yourself? Maybe you feel cooler for having seen films no one has ever hear of, or perhaps you feel especially hipster purchasing records from bands no one has ever heard of. But this is selfish. If you are lucky enough or supremely cultured enough to enjoy certain beautiful, but rare commodities of art, share them with the people you enjoy and care about.

25. Share your goals with people- It is much easier to realize a dream if you have others pushing you and reminding you that you aren't that far off. The easiest thing to do however is keep quite. Tell no one your goals or wild aspirations, that way no one will be let down if you don't achieve them, right? Poppycock. Hold yourself accountable and share your wildest dreams with people you trust, with people that motivate you. Some will scoff, but let the scoffers scoff. A dream untold is usually a dream unrealized.

26. Take night walks- This probably isn't for everyone. If you live in a dicey neighborhood, or it is below zero outside this probably sound quite daft. But for me, in the warmer months of the year, an occasional stroll of solitude in the hushed streets of the night is quite soothing and rejuvenating for me. It clears my head, and gives me a few moments of clarity that I cannot seem to find while the sun is up and the world around me is awake and shaking.

27. Hold babies- This is self explanatory. Just do it as much as you can. It is hard to not be happy when you frequently behold innocence in its purest form.

28. Care less about celebrities- There are too many relevant relationships around you to waste time in concerning yourself with the trends and gossip of celebrities. It is one thing to study them, to find inspiration from their success, and to emulate their work ethic or innovation to their craft. But to spend precious energy on "celebrity crushes," to waste time reading asinine articles about their latest purchases or divorces does you little good.

29. Travel even if you can't afford it- If you can afford it, great. If you have a little extra pocket change, go see the world. Understand new cultures and take in new corners of the earth that were always foreign to you. But if you are strapped for cash, start small. Visit states you have never been to, or even go to nearby cities or towns that your feet have never entered. Much can be gained from discovery. Even going to an old library or new restaurant in your hometown can be a micro form of travelling. But regardless of your budget, go see what you have never seen.

30. If you have a crush, tell them- If there is a human out there that rattles your fancy and shakes your nerves, tell them. Otherwise it is just a romantic notion void of any real meaning.

Stay tuned for the fourth segment here in two days. And let me know which ones have been your favorites, or what you would add to the list.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

100 Things to Make You a Little Happier, Part 2

As I continue my little search for happiness I find that each day is made up of moments. Some are glorious, some are painful, and some zoom by without notice. Happiness isn't an endless wave you can ride forever. It is exhilarating and beautiful, but it will crash, it will end. But it is up to us to find further joy in the splash, in the salty water, and in the far off horizon.

The list continues....

11. Go to the airport- There is something I love about the airport. It isn't the 13 dollar sandwiches or the endless line and utter disdain for anything that could be misconstrued as terrorist toys, it's the people. There is no better place for people watching. All walks of life scuttle about with hurry in their step. Lovers say goodbye, families bid farewell, and momentous returns are witnessed. Human emotion is at its finest and most public display. Plus duh, you can magically fly through the air at rapid speeds to anywhere you want.

12. Recognize the majesty of nature- Maybe I am getting soft in my old age, but sometimes I cannot help but gaze off into the beauty of the mountain ranges that encircle the valley I live in. Sometimes life is so hectic and disruptive that it is helpful and cathartic to stop and realize the symmetry and poeticism of the earth we have been blessed to live upon.

13. Become obsessed with something(s)- Quit concerning yourself with what other people think and chase your passions, like you are a starving animal hunting the last piece of meat on the planet. It matters not what your obsession is. It does not need to be wholly altruistic or philanthropic as long as it doesn't hurt yourself or others.

14. Tell a good friend an old secret- We all have a person we tell everything to. No subject is taboo, and no confession is met with judgment. Yet there often remains corners of our souls we wish not to expose. Every once and a while it is a good idea to tell a true friend something you have never told them before. You will feel lighter, and they will feel loved for having heard it.

15. Kiss someone fiercely- Perhaps you have a significant other, or maybe just a terrible crush. Or maybe you are wandering around just hoping someone will notice you. Either way it is important and essential to your happiness to kiss and be kissed. But not just a cordial peck. A mighty, body tingling kiss is sometimes enough to send us in a tailspin of happiness. So seek those lips that change the way you think.

16. Forgive someone- We frequently forgive people in our heads. Maybe we were wronged years ago, and we decided to just get over it and move on. Or maybe someone close to us recently betrayed us. No matter the incident, it is difficult to seek out someone you are angry with and try to not only make peace, but tell them you forgive them. They were probably in the wrong. But who cares? How much more of your life will you waste in not forgetting the past?

17. Eat carbohydrates- I am just saying, don't take the diets so serious. Bread is delicious. If you need to run an extra mile to feel good about eating a sandwich then do it.

18. Write things down- There will come a sad day when things of your past are harder to remember, a day when names are unrecalled and details are blurred. There will also come a day when you are no longer here, and your memory will be suspended by what you leave behind. Are your only traces of the best scribbled in some ratty journal you had to keep for 10th grade English? If not just for yourself, write things down for those who love you and will one day wish they had just one more sentence to read about your life.

19. Stop thinking your life is a tragedy- No matter what you have been through it doesn't help to go through life with a self-constructed gray cloud over your head. Brighter days are ahead, and complaining about the past will not help.

20. Prioritize your life- Take a moment every now and then and evaluate what is truly a priority in your life. Is spending time with family as important as finishing your Netflix series? Is a promotion at work as important as seeing your son score his first touchdown? Is sleep more important than finishing a painting that you put your blood and toil into? It is easier said than done, but sometimes a step back, a moment of introspection is all that is needed.

I am trying to not simply list obvious virtues and forgettable cliches as some sort of secret recipe for happiness. But most things we have heard before, in some capacity, we just need to hear again, and maybe in a different voice. So please share with those that might need to hear a new voice. And let me know which ones you loved, and what you would add to the list.