Happy Habits

Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. -Abraham Lincoln

I was talking to a good friend recently about all the goodness and new life happiness I’ve been exploring and developing over the past year. And as he shared his own similar quest, he mentioned his own journey to identify and implement what he called “happy habits.” What a great way to name it!

We all have the negative self-talk and some of us (like me) have an even more frequent propensity to get ourselves stuck in depressing trains of thought. So this practice can be beneficial for anyone, and especially valuable for folks like me who need that constant reminder of the good things in our lives that DO make us happy.

Here are a few “happy habits” I’ve discovered for myself:

1.Take care of your body and health first and foremost! This has been a tough lesson for me, having a tendency to prioritize all the tasks and to-do’s I have on my plate before I take time to relax. Throughout my life, this has meant inconsistent sleep schedules and unhealthy eating habits – often going an entire day without eating anything! But the truth is the healthier and happier we are, the more efficient and effective we can be. So I’ve learned to put this at my highest priority now, and make sure I stick to regular & healthier meals and a more consistent & complete sleep schedule.

2. Along those same lines, exercise exercise exercise! For me particularly, I never feel so alive as when I’m pushing my physical limits. So a trip to the gym or my regular stunt trainings are the perfect happy moments for me. But even if you’re not an adrenaline junky like me, you can still reap great rewards from breaking a little sweat. It’s amazing for your health & longevity, and who doesn’t feel happy when they’re in shape? Best of all, exercise gives you endorphins, which is essentially the happy brain chemical.

3. Spend more time with friends and family whose love and good opinion you seek. Of course I have members of my family and certain “friends” that haven’t been a positive force or energy in my life – so those aren’t the people I’m talking about. It’s been hard to learn how to spend less of my energy worrying about those relationships and focusing more on the uplifting ones. But it does make a difference, so it is definitely worth it!

4. Spend more time outdoors! It’s no secret that being around nature has a calming and soothing effect on people. Especially if you’re a wilderness lover like myself, you can’t go wrong with a quick trip to the park or beach. And if you can’t pull yourself away long enough for something like that, then at least get off your butt and go stand outside your office. Take a few deep breaths and just feel the sunlight on your face. If that doesn’t perk you up, I don’t know what will.

5. Take time to stop and reflect on the good in your life, and appreciate the little things. I’ve started a new practice inspired by my roommate. At the end of every day, he and I will tell each other what 3 things we are most grateful for from that day. It really is a lovely way to remind ourselves of the good things we have in our life. It’s even started to get us in the habit of looking out for those good things throughout the day, so we can remember to name them later that night.

6. Take an active role in something you believe in, be it a cause, an organization, a project or other creative outlet. I’ve found possibly the greatest source of happiness in my life from changing to a career that hits at the core of my passion – filmmaking and stunt acting. By getting to do what I love everyday, I’ve become so much more of a content and fulfilled person than I ever thought possible.

7. Play to your strengths, not your weaknesses. Forget all the hype about being “well-rounded”. That’s all really just a bunch of hooey. The smarter approach is to develop the skills you are already naturally good at, to build your marketability and appeal as an “expert”, rather than slave away at areas you don’t already shine in or enjoy. A community doesn’t thrive by having a whole lot of people who are all somewhat good at everything, but rather by having individuals who are each very good at different roles. So focus on things that utilize your strengths, and I guarantee you’ll have a better time doing them.

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