"Don't Worry, Be Happy." If only life were that simple, right? But you have a commute to survive, deadlines to meet, children to put through college, a garden that needs tending, the dog should be walked, your anniversary is coming up and it would sure be nice to get to the gym every once in a while.
And long before Bobby McFerrin shared those four words of wisdom, Abe Lincoln told us that we're about as happy as we make up our minds to be. Don't all of the parts of our life need to be in harmony and balance, or is it really up to us to decide how to be happy?
Both McFerrin and Lincoln shared some common advice, but even in its simplicity, many of us find it hard to integrate into our daily lives. There are some crucial elements which contribute to a 'happiness quotient', if we only take a few moments to examine them. In no particular order, here are those elements which most happy people say makes them that way.
Focus on What's Important and Limit the Noise - The talk around the dinner table matters. Happy people make time for those they love. Starting the day as a family at breakfast, and doing a wrap-up at dinner time keeps every member of the family connected and in the loop. If you feel you must read the newspaper or watch the news, do so on your own time when the kids and your partner are away or in bed. Better yet, drastically cut back this activity to only what is absolutely necessary.
Communicate Effectively - The first part of communication (with everyone) is listening. When someone is speaking to you, give them your full attention. To make sure you are interpreting their meaning accurately, replay it back to them such as: "What I think I heard you say was…". The happiest people are clear and concise in their own communication, they don't make assumptions and they have empathy for those around them.
Practice Patience, Tolerance and Acceptance - To be happy does not mean that things will go your way in every situation. Temporary disappointments require patience, long-term irritants need tolerance and those things which are simply part of life require acceptance. Happy people recognize that they cannot control everything in their lives
(surprisingly little in fact), but they are always in charge of how they feel. They take full responsibility for their emotions.
Bring Presence and Joy to the Littlest of Things - Whether it's teaching a toddler to tie their shoelaces, buttering a piece of toast or cleaning the bathtub, learning how to be happy does not require the absence of trivialities or time consuming activities. Rather, it means being fully attentive to all the little nuances of whatever is showing up in the
present moment. There are few greater joys than the smile of success on a child's face when they tie their first pair of shoes. To be happy is to be part of that joy.
Belief in a Higher Power - Whether through religion or spirituality, and regardless of the label (God, Source, Infinite Intelligence), those who have the greatest peace believe in a guiding intelligence that is personal to them. They may be committed churchgoers, or they may be private meditators, but the happiest people communicate with their Higher Power regularly, and have a well defined faith and belief system.
The happiest people remember that life is short. They're confident that at the end of their life, their last words will not be "I wish I would've worked more". They know that even if life is throwing them curve balls at the moment, that it is temporary and it will pass. They recognize that the greatest gift they've been given is that of life itself, and feel it is their responsibility to give back to life as much as possible. They cherish each moment, laugh frequently and cry without shame. They've made a decision to be happy.