DIY Happiness: Here’s How You Can Feel Good Today
It’s easy to blame our blues on our present circumstances. Imagining that if only we had more money, more friends, or a better job, we would have the perfect life is an escapist fantasy that lets you put off true happiness until certain outside conditions are met. But as many optimistic pop gurus have pointed out, it’s not about having what you want; happiness comes when you want what you have.
The first step to wanting what you have is knowing what you have. How can you appreciate the richness of your life if you’re blind to all your blessings? Luckily for us it’s a lot easier than you think to build up an appreciation and even a gratitude for the good things you have in your life. All it takes a is little intention, increased awareness and a commitment to building your own happiness.
Making a short list of people who love and support you, who are willing to field late-night phone calls as well as spontaneous road trips, is a great way to begin nurturing your happiness. Naming your support groups will shore up your ability to handle stressors either on your own, knowing others have your back, or with help from friends. Having a list of people to call before you need them means that if something goes wrong you don’t have to think; you already know exactly who to call.
Once you’ve filled your phone with a roster of all-star supporters, shower them with love. Seek out images and experiences you think they will enjoy to share. Let your connection to those you love be a relationship you enjoy instead of just an emergency aid. Sharing photos you think will perk up a loved one has been shown to increase your happiness, too, as you consider the joy you are bringing to someone who makes you so happy in return.
If for whatever reason you’re no longer in contact with your family or you’re running low on all-occasion friends, there’s no reason you can’t still grow zen-monk levels of peace and satisfaction. For the ultimate instant pick-me-up that you can practice anywhere, anytime, try something radical: be kind to strangers. Smile at the cashier as you take your receipt, hold the door open for an elderly man struggling with his cane, offer to help a moving neighbor carry their couch up a few flights of stairs. Knowing you have made the world even a little better for another person will renew your faith in others and encourage you to see the best parts of yourself.
Last but not least, practice. Happiness is not a static psychological state you wake up to one day, it is a perspective you spend your whole life growing. Take a moment to imagine what your average day would look like if you were happy. Not that you live in a different house or have different relationships, but if you found a way to live exactly the life you have now that could bring you deep joy. Make your vision so real that you can give it a dry run and try it out. When you’ve lived one day of your perfect present life, review: what would you change? What would you do again? With enough time, practice and patience, happiness is truly something you can do yourself.