One day last summer, I missed the bus to the train station, and when I asked a cyclist for directions, he offered to carry me to the station. How nice! How many examples of happy things in your life can you list, that you did or someone did for you? Take ten minutes: the first five to think of something nice to do, and the last five to do it. Life has nothing to offer if not optimism, and if you honestly think about it, you realize there are a lot of happy things people do for each other. You don't need to be optimistic about life, it is better to realize that life is optimistic, whether you are or not.
Make a gratitude list. Reminding yourself of all of the things you have to be thankful for will instantly make you feel happier. Take a pen and paper into a quiet room and write down at least 10-15 things that you are grateful for. They can be as big as the friends and family in your life and as small as the new garden that was planted near your home. Think of anything that makes you smile and which makes your life a little happier. Having all of these things written down will help you see how much you have to be thankful for – and happy about.
Indeed, Mai was from Vietnam, but I realized later she would never have called herself Vietnamese. She was Hmong—a member of a small, proud, isolated ethnic minority (what anthropologists call “an original people”) who inhabit the highest mountain peaks of Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and China. Kurdish-like, the Hmong have never really belonged to any of the countries in which they live. They remain some of the world’s most spectacularly independent people—nomads, storytellers, warriors, natural-born anticonformists, and a terrible bane to any nation that has ever tried to control them.
Mix up your routine. If you want to feel happier, then all you may need is a little change. If you’re not happy, it may be because you feel like you’ve fallen into a rut and that you’re sick of doing the same old thing day after day. Try having something different for breakfast. Take that yoga class at night instead of in the morning. Hang out with a new friend instead of the same old ones. Walk to work instead of driving. All of these little things can add up and make you feel happier.
You may think equality would make you happy, but the closer you get to it, the more your brain finds tiny differences to dwell on. When mammals gather, each brain seeks the good feeling of being dominant. You can easily see this in others, but when your brain does it, it feels like you’re just seeking what you deserve to feel good. Your inner mammal will constantly find ways that you have been undervalued and this can make you miserable even in a rather good life. You will feel much happier if you relax and enjoy wherever you find yourself.
This type of love is a much different story. It doesn’t sparkle but for a moment here and there. Our culture does a terrible job of ever showing this except for fleeting moments like “cute old people holding hands” or in the rare example of a healthy couple on television like the Taylor’s on Friday Night Lights (my personal favorite). Maybe we don’t see it because there isn’t much to see. Committed love is about sharing normal life together. It is about being supportive, affectionate, kind, caring, committed, responsive, and loyal. This is the stuff of the healthiest long-term couples, and can be thought of as “standing in love”.
Catnaps, power naps, a full night’s sleep… no matter the method, a quality snooze session is vital for overall well-being and happiness. In fact, research shows that not sleeping enough (four hours per night) may lead to lower levels of optimism. And other studies show skimping on sleep can damage our on-the-job performance and academic performance. The cost of poor sleep: workplace productivity loss and associated costs. Rosekind MR, Gregory KB, Mallis MM. Journal of occupational and environmental medicine / American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 2010, Apr.;52(1):1536-5948. Sleep and academic performance in undergraduates: a multi-measure, multi-predictor approach. Gomes AA, Tavares J, de Azevedo MH. Chronobiology international, 2012, Mar.;28(9):1525-6073. Your best bet: Load up on your vitamin Zzz’s for a healthier, happier life.