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.

Monday, July 13, 2015

100 Things to Make You a Little Happier, Part I

Happiness is a curious and devilish little pursuit. It seems to come unexpectedly, and it slinks away just as we start to settle into it. Love awakens it, and love stomps on it. Experiences enhance it, and tragedy obliterates it. The truth is, there is no secret elixir. There is no certain and definitive way to be happy and remain in that felicitous state. But there are innumerable things we can do to bring happiness for just a moment, or just a day. And sometimes when life sends its typhoons and sinkholes we are desperate for even a moment of felicity. So I decided to compile a list of 100 little things that I have found make me a happier person. They won't all work for you, but if even one does then all has succeeded. As Brandon Flowers once said, "Be an advocate of joy."

I will post a list of ten things every two days. Please comment and add to the list, and share it with people who might be struggling for moments of happiness.

1. Sing in the car with the window down- This practice should be done with the music up as loud as your speakers permit. But most importantly you should try to get others around you to see and hear your vocal greatness. Let people at stoplights and lovers crossing the street know that you have a terrible voice and you are not afraid to belt it out in public. This is sure to elicit a smile or two from complete strangers, which in turn always causes inner happiness. If you are unsure of where to start, search Kelly Clarkson hits online.

2. Eat pizza by yourself while listening to indie folk music- (self-explanatory)

3. Read everyday- People talk endlessly about how they don't have time to read or that they don't have the attention span to sit down and open a book. This is hogwash. If you have time to check Instagram 45 times a day, you have time to read a few pages in a book. Reading if nothing else inspires the mind and motivates the soul. Truly intelligent people, and truly happy people read, and read a lot.

4. Give people obscure and unanticipated compliments- People hear all the time that they are looking good, or that they have good taste in music. A new outfit or a fresh haircut will surely bring in a batch of warm compliments. But look outside the elegiac box. Tell someone how cute you think their chin is. Tell someone how their handwriting reminds you of your grandmother's that passed away. When you think of something, even if it is silly, tell someone. It could make their day.

5. Savor and appreciate your food- It is easy to forget that much of the world never suffers from a "food coma." Millions of people are not even sure where their next meal will come from. And millions more have a diet so limited that eating cannot be much more than an act of life sustaining utility. So slow down. Appreciate re-fills and calories and blenders and sauces.

6. Play in water- This is easy. No one is miserable on the beach or the lake. But regardless of your geography, find a pond, a pool, or local tributary. Splash around. Remember your youth, and smile.

7. Try to understand people and things better- Too much of life is wasted in wondering why people are stupid, or complaining about things we do not understand. Take the time to understand why someone acts a certain way. Read up on things that leave you perplexed. Knowledge is power, and power is a portion of happiness.

8. Don't lay in bed depressed- It is okay to be depressed and sad. Life is hard. But don't hang on to a rope that is burning your hands. When you lay in bed at night don't think about all of your life's failures and shortcomings. Be grateful for what you have and what you are able to do. Dream. Dream of what you can accomplish. Read a good book, and fall asleep in the middle of a beautiful sentence.

9. Give your phone a rest- Every once and a while leave your phone home. Maybe even turn it off. I am not saying that going off the grid is the answer. Technology is important and vital to many people's success. But now and then take a step back and realize that your life is bigger than Instagram, and that real life conversations are invaluable.

10. Don't live for the weekends- I hate to break it to you, but the vast majority of your life is lived on weekdays. You know this. But still, so many people wake up dreading the day, bemoaning the week, and only looking forward to the two or three day respite they have coming at the end of the work week. Enjoy each day, and realize that your life is made up of Mondays that will change your life and Thursdays of unbridled joy. Sure vacations, holidays, and weekends are lovely and exciting. But look forward to every day. Don't just wait for 28 percent of your life. Live the other 72 percent like it means something.

Again, some of these are obvious if not redundant platitudes. But sometimes we need reminders. Check out the next segment of things that make you a little happier on Wednesday. And let me know what impressed you, and what you would add to the list.

P.S. my chubby niece make me happy.

Want more? Check out my book here

Monday, July 6, 2015

Making a U-Turn in Your Life

U-Turns are sudden and often risky maneuvers. But we do them because we're clearly headed in the wrong direction, and instead of circling around town for an hour, we make a rapid decision to change course.

Life is no different. Too often we are headed in the wrong direction, and we know it. But we are too scared to make any sudden change. We are terrified of jerking the wheel, so we would rather mosey about hoping that our course aligns itself. But we know life isn't that easy. We don't have a GPS that will automatically recalculate and get us back to our destination in a few quick turns. Life is more complicated, sinuous and messy. So sometimes the only thing you can do to get your life back, or to change your life is to jerk the wheel, screech the tires and barrel into the traffic and chaos of life.

Maybe you have a dream that is laying dormant in your soul. It is probably something you will shoot for when life settles down. It's probably something that you will do when you have more time or more money. Maybe it is a childhood dream that has been crushed by the reality and collective cynicism of adulthood. Whatever it is, whatever form your dream takes it should be chased and followed. The sad irony of dreams is that when you are a child everyone tells you that anything is possible and that you should follow what makes you happy, but when the stark reality of adulthood hits everyone is suddenly breaking it to you that your dreams aren't realistic, that your dreams are simply dreams not realities. My response to this way of thinking that has been conditioned in us as we break from a world of toys, creativity, and endless whimsy into a life of mortgage payments, student loans, and nagging lovers, is to make a U-Turn.

If you have a dream in you, a light aching to escape through the cellar doors of your soul, then let it out. A U-Turn in life will take sacrifice and certainly difficult changes. But let's not forget why we made the U-Turn. We did it because we were fed up with the path we were on. The direction we were headed either wasn't taking us anywhere, or was taking us to someplace dark and untoward.

I know for myself and the way I function I need to take a reckless U-Turn about once a week. I am easily distracted and frequently miss my exits, but that's okay. Too much of life people waste in self-deprecation, in complaining about what they haven't done, or never will do. Too much of this precious and fading life is spent on bemoaning the fact that we are off course, instead of getting back on course, no matter how radically.

So follow your damn dreams and don't let a wrong exit, a flat tire or a "No U-Turns" sign stop you from moving forward. There is great beauty and promise out there for everyone, but we cannot be afraid.

"Jump, and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall" 

~Ray Bradbury