Live Light: 19 Ways to Be Happy

Be Happy YogaLast Sunday, I roped my friend into taking yoga photos for me. I was bound and determined to get a great “I’m just casually doing yoga in front of this really cool thing that totally screams South Korea” shot for the Bad Yogis Around the World collection that Erin Motz is putting together. Though I set out with every intention of being bold and not caring what anyone thought of the weirdness I was about to pull, I had about 2 seconds of high school anxiety that sort of snuck up out of nowhere and I thought, “I can’t possibly climb up on this statue and do a warrior 2 pose, what will people think?” And just as quickly I thought, “who freaking cares?”

Though I did end up posing in front of /on top of/behind a lot of different things, and getting more than one interested stare, no one really cared about what I was doing…and it got me to thinking how often we sacrifice our own desires and our own happiness because we’re scared of what other people think. And THAT got me to thinking about how often the real struggle with living light, with losing that last 10 pounds (or 20, or 30, or 50, depending on where you’re at on your journey), with trying new things, with landing a new yoga pose, or with running a half marathon (or a 5km!), is that what we really want is to be happy, and pursuing that is sometimes a lot easier said than done; and that’s because we’re always getting in our own damn way.

So, how do you shut up your inner high school wallflower or the voice that says “you shouldn’t” and turn them into a “who freaking cares? I’m gonna do it anyway”? Well, I don’t promise to have all of the answers, but here are a few things that have helped me focus on the real, let go of the needless worries, and be a happier person overall. And the best part about it? Once I was finally in a happier place, those runs became longer, the pounds came off more easily, and I wasn’t as afraid to try those more difficult yoga poses. Turns out, the only thing stopping us in our ability to be happy is ourselves; we’re too damn busy looking for it that we don’t notice it sitting beside us on the yoga mat.

How to be Happy a la Kat Style:

1. Stop Shoulding All Over Yourself

20150123_154118“Mmmm I really shouldn’t wear this top, or eat this ice cream, or go to this pub, or do this thing or that thing.” And why shouldn’t you? Because some person that you DON’T know MIGHT have an opinion about it? I hate to break it to you, but you’re just not that important to strangers…trust me, your family and friends love you so they already don’t care what you do as long as it makes you happy; but that random brunette on the street? She’s got her own “Shoulds” rolling around in her brain to worry about yours. So, ditch the “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” and turn them into, “I’m totally going to do this”. Unless, of course, the shouldn’t is a “I really shouldn’t punch my a**hole boss in the face”, because you really, probably SHOULDN’T do that. The rest though? Totally ok, so stop making yourself feel guilty over something you want to do because of someone who doesn’t exist.

2. Stop Ignoring the Little Things, and INDULGE in them

“If I get that coffee today, and tomorrow, that’s $6 I can’t put toward my dream vaca in the Bahamas…I won’t get the coffee.” Oh for the love of everything good, GET THE COFFEE. Buy yourself that beautiful bouquet of flowers, get the chocolate eclair from the bakery, pick up that “I’ve been dying to read this” book, and sure as heck buy yourself that new top. I get setting aside a little money each month for a big purchase, but that doesn’t mean you have to, or should, sacrifice the small pleasures to do it. Turns out (according to a study that I promise was legit, but whose name I can’t remember), by not indulging in the small pleasures now and then, we actually end up LESS HAPPY than those people who do indulge, and who maybe take just a little longer to save for that big purchase. It’s great to have a dream and a goal, but don’t let the dream take away from enjoying the life you’re living NOW.

3. Be Still

Be Still YogaTake some time, each day if you can, just to be still. Whether it’s an extra minute hiding in the bathroom, or a full 10 minutes meditating on your yoga mat, take the time to slow your breath, empty your thoughts, and just enjoy being you. Our lives are already filled with too much chaos; we’re over-stimulated from constant interaction, social media, texts that never end, and facebook statuses that we simply have to check. Sometimes, the best thing you can do for yourself is to NOT be busy for 1 minute. Think that’s too hard to do on your own? Check out this great site; it has a gorgeous background and a timer to calm that busy mind of yours. It doesn’t matter how you do it, just make sure you do it. We all need to quiet the negative voices in our brains sometimes…how else are you going to hear yourself think?

4. Love. Love. Love.

Love yourself. Love your friends and family. Love everyone around you (but maybe from a safe distance if you don’t know them). We’re so busy thinking about our to-do list, or our responsibilities at work, or that annoying driver who cut us off on the way home (how dare he?!), that we often forget to leave room for love. When everything else seems hectic, or awful, or like you want to tear every strand of your hair out one-by-one, it’s important to remember the things we love, and the people who love us. Sometimes, it’s easier to take our anger and frustrations out on the people we care about than to put those frustrations aside and show those people love. This is an exercise I encourage you to do though, because I think you’ll find that when you leave your outside anger at the door, and act out of love, everything negative you’ve been feeling will fall away and leave room for happiness. Too cheesy? Try this: what will create a better mood for some laughter and loving; a fight, or a hug? Think about it.

IMG_08825. Put Goodness Into Your Body

It’s not enough to just do good things, and be physically active, you  also have to put good things INTO your bodyl. Making sure you eat healthy, well-balanced meals that aren’t processed, fast food is going to go a long way to making you feel better about yourself. You’ll have more energy, feel more awake, and be able to fill your days with more things that you want to do instead of just getting through all the things you HAVE to do.

6. Shut Up, and Listen

We all have problems, and we all want to share these problems with our friends and family so that we can feel better about them. Sometimes though, you need to just be the friend or family member who doesn’t say anything, you need to be the person who just sits there, buys the coffee, and listens. Sometimes, not focusing on everything that’s going wrong in our lives, or the small things that are bothering us, is the best way to be happier. Being there for friends and family nurtures our relationships with them, and it’s these relationships that add that much more happiness to our lives. Plus, if you’re there for your friends and family, it will make it that much more likely that they, in turn, will be there for you when a real problem rears its ugly head in your life.

7. Have a Dance Party

You’re a smart person, you don’t need an explanation for this one. But just in case: put on some music (and no Jewel or Faith Hill, put on some crazy 80s), and rock it out.

8. Get the F*** Out of Bed

There is no better way to spend a Friday night or lazy Sunday than lying around in bed…except when there is. It’s totally ok to spend nights in bed, especially when you’ve had a long week, but for the most part, you need to get out of bed. If you spend most Sundays under the covers, you’re going to start feeling like you’ve wasted days, and that is NOT a great feeling to have rolling around inside you…it’s kind of like you’ve missed out on your life, and I can’t think of a greater source of unhappiness than that.

20150124_0823279. Go Outside.

Seriously, staring at the same 4 walls all the time will drive you mad. You look at the same walls at work, and then go home to 4 more; it’s bound to get repetitive, and boring…and nobody should feel bored with their life. So, switch it up a little! Go outside, soak in some Vitamin D and stretch your legs; the fresh air never hurt anyone. In fact, it does a body a lot of good.

10. Don’t Neglect the Right Side of Your Brain

Exercising our bodies is great for getting fit, feeling lighter, and having more energy; but, it’s just as important to exercise both sides of our brains as well. Don’t just work the left side of your brain, especially if that’s the one you use most of the day for work. Tap into the right side by doing that artistic thing you love: play an instrument, draw some pictures, write a little poetry or flash fiction, take some photographs, listen to music, or take up any of the other limitless possibilities that art offers. Don’t make your life just about work, you’ll feel more whole and be more balanced if you don’t.

11. Be Selfish

Sometimes, it’s ok to think about yourself first. If you really don’t want to take your coworker’s shift on a weekend, or would prefer to stay home instead of seeing your friends every Friday night, that’s ok. Every now and then, we need to put ourselves first and think about what we want…don’t always neglect yourself for the sake of others.

IMG_684512. …but Practice Kindness

Putting yourself first doesn’t mean you have free reign to be an arse; so while you can take time to yourself and do the things you want, never forget that your greatest asset is extending kindness towards others. Need some time alone? Then don’t simply cancel a date, reschedule it. If you have to bail on something because life got in the way, then make sure you do a little something to make up for it.  To this end, don’t forget to extend that same kindness to strangers as well, you never know who might need a little extra help now and then. The more good you put out to the universe, the more good you’ll get in return. Cheesy? True. Karma? Oh yeah.

13. Spend the 5 minutes to Look Good

I know, I know, mornings are hectic. I’m not suggesting you wake up an hour earlier to have a fixed beauty regimen that makes you look like you stepped out of Vogue. I do, however, suggest an extra 5 minutes for a little mousse, a little concealer, and a wee mascara. Putting in the extra 5 minutes to make your outside presentable will you help feel that much better on the inside. You’re probably a pretty wonderful person, so let your surface reflect that awesomeness. That is, of course, if you’re not hungover, or sick, or just having a really bad day…on those days perfect is impossible, and boring.

Sit Down to Eat14. Sit Down to Eat

When life grants you that amazing, extra 15 minutes of free time that seemed impossible, why not use it to actually sit down with your meal instead of eating it standing over the sink or on the bus to work? Taking the time to appreciate the meal – especially if it’s breakfast – will set the tone for your entire day and help you feel more centered, more calm, and ready to take on the world.

15. Stop Complaining, Start Appreciating

Too often, we (and yes, I really mean I), get caught up in the small stuff; in the tiny annoyances that add up to one, big, “F everything” attitude. And what do we do when this happens? We complain about this “huge” problem (or person), that’s not really a problem, because we’re so focused on the small stuff that we forget the bigger, better things. If you’re in a relationship, this is especially true. Instead of always bitching about your significant other to your girlfriends or best mates, why not try to think of something positive your lover has done for you? Think of the way they made you smile today (and not how they made you roll your eyes), the way that they made you your morning coffee (and not how they didn’t put it in your favourite mug), and the way they gave you a kiss on your cheek (and not how they forgot you had an important meeting). We’re all human, which means we’re all going to make mistakes, and we’re all entitled to. So, instead of complaining every time one thing goes wrong, try appreciating the good things that happen. The result? The more you share your appreciation with your friends, the more appreciative you’ll feel, and the happier you’ll be overall.

IMG_145416. Hug it Out

Most problems can be solved with a little compassion, and some hug time. Seriously, try it. Maybe not with your boss or that junior employee who’s driving you nuts, but definitely schedule some battery charging snuggles for the end of the day; you’ll be surprised by how quickly it makes the frustrations melt away. Don’t have someone to hug it out with? Get a cat or a boyfriend pillow, it really is ok to be that person. In fact, more people probably wish they were you.

17. Be Brutally Honest with Yourself, and a Little More Straightforward with Everyone Else

No one likes a fake person who plays mind games; but how do we avoid being this person? Be honest with yourself. I know it’s hard to look at ourselves in the mirror and admit we have faults, but sometimes it’s what we need to do to move on, to be happier with who we are, and to develop as a person. If we’re honest about what’s working and not working in our lives, we’ll be able to make the changes we need to be happier – and heck, maybe better – people overall. And if we can learn to be honest with ourselves, then we can also learn to be honest with the people in our lives. I’m not saying we should forgo the white lies (your coworker does NOT need to know her butt looks big in that skirt), but we should practice honesty for the big stuff. Be more open, honest and truthful with your thoughts and feelings; it cuts down on the confusion, the time wasted trying to play the guessing game, and resolves issues more quickly and efficiently…leaving a lot more time for fun, and cutting out a whole heck of a lot of undue stress in the process!

18. Earn the Oscar (aka: Fake it ’til You Make It)

LiveSometimes, despite our best intentions, there are days that suck. There are weeks from hell, and months we wish would just disappear. But what do we do in those extended, crappy moments to be happier? We fake it. We act like we’ve never acted, and we earn that Oscar for which we’ve been practicing the acceptance speech in the mirror for the past 10 years. The funny thing about faking it, is that the more you pretend to be happier, the easier it becomes to fall into that role until, one day, you realise that you are, quite simply and suddenly, happy.

19. Go do that Thing You Love

Find a hobby, and do it. Do it for one hour a week or 10 minutes a day, whatever fits into your schedule; just make sure you do it.Happiness can be found in a lot of places, but it’s not just going to fall into your lap, you have to get outside and look for it, and by doing the things you love. Whatever it is that brings you joy, you should make an effort to make it as much a part of your routine as brushing your teeth in the morning.

 

Above all, do you. Do what makes you feel good, love whoever makes you feel joy, and pursue every opportunity that brings you freedom. Life is a journey, which means that happiness is too, and it can be found on every mile of the trek.

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