St. Augustine said,
“Indeed, man wishes to be happy even when he so lives as to make happiness impossible.”
Many of our choices make us feel good in the short term but actually damage our happiness in the long run. For example, we might feel like we would be happier if we skipped our workout, watched TV and ate ice cream. For a few minutes of pleasure (which is usually less pleasure than we thought it would be) we trade self-respect, some more unwanted weight and a belly ache. On the other hand no one, at the end of the day, says, “I sure wish I wouldn’t have exercised today!” but how often do we regret skipping a workout? How many times have we regretted some unscheduled self-indulgence in food, time or money? Look around you and you will find that the happiest people are the ones who know how to delay immediate gratification for a greater and lasting happiness.
Happiness is the ultimate thing we all seek and is within the grasp of every human being but happiness, like everything worthwhile, takes some effort. Here are a few of the things that I have found that bring happiness:
Do hard things for happiness
It is counter-intuitive but I have learned that doing hard things brings happiness. Do something that challenges you. For years when my esteem or happiness was low I would pick a hard hill, usually the road to Table Rock, and ride my bike to the top. It never failed to improve my happiness. A few years ago I hiked to the top of Mt. Borah, the highest peak in Idaho. It was hard. Really hard. But the days following I felt I could conquer the world and I was so pleased with myself. The options for hard things are limitless. Run in a local race, serve someone you would rather not serve, take a class or ride your bike up a hard hill.
Fill your mind with happy things
Drastically limit the news, talk radio, television, internet junk, most screen time, etc. These things are all negatives. Replace those things with things that are motivational and inspiring. Keep good audio programs or music in your car and a good book on hand.
Exercise for the happiness effect
Studies continue to show that exercise works better than antidepressants. And you don’t have to be depressed to feel the happiness effect of exercise. The results are even better with INTENSE WORKOUTS. Intense exercise is also best for a general feeling of well-being and sense of accomplishment. You can postpone a lot of things but you cannot do today’s workout tomorrow.
Sleep for happiness
Get enough SLEEP. It is hard to be tired and happy at the same time.
Eat for happiness
Eat often. Avoid simple carbs like sugar and flour, and get some protein in each meal to prevent SPIKES IN BLOOD SUGAR which in turn causes mood swings, irritability, depression, anxiety and stress.
Find happiness in the moment
Raising six kids and all that goes with it taught me to multitask pretty well. Now I am unlearning it. When doing two things at once, or doing one thing while thinking of what we will do next, we miss the joy of the moment.
Express gratitude for happiness
Keeping a gratitude journal is a great thing but like G. B. Stern once said, “Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone”. Verbalize your gratitude to those who need to hear it, which is everyone.
Make someone else happy
What does gossip, criticism and pornography all have in common? They all degrade another human being and we cannot degrade another without diminishing our own esteem and happiness. The opposite is just as true. We cannot lift another human being without building our own happiness.
Let sadness touch you
Don’t wallow in it but let it touch you. Sadness and heartache are a part of life and we can be wiser and happier for having felt it. The shortest verse in the Bible may also be the most profound, “Jesus wept”.
Happiness is a choice. Happiness is something we can choose. Choose it every day.