“Comparison is the thief of joy.” wrote Theodore Roosevelt, and he was right on the money. One of two things inevitably happens when you compare yourself to someone else. You either judge them negatively to soothe your own opinions or perceptions about yourself, or you judge yourself negatively because your perception or opinion of that other person is higher than the one you have of yourself. Both of these are toxic, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy to stop.
Try to mentally correct yourself every time you go in for a comparison. Another woman having a happy family doesn’t mean that your family is less happy. Another co-worker getting a raise doesn’t mean that you aren’t appreciated. Your neighbor being gorgeous doesn’t make you less beautiful. When you stop the constant comparison, you offer grace to other people and to yourself to just be human. We all have good and bad days, and we all have good and bad traits. Not everything is visible on the surface, so stopping this unhealthy behavior is one of the biggest steps towards being able to celebrate with others the joys in their life while still caring for your own!
Connect with others.
It sounds so simple, but it’s true– humans are social animals, and we need some socializing besides just our family or co-workers to really live a full life. Whether it’s a running group, a book club, a volunteer organization, or a choir, get out there and find something that interests you, and then find where you can meet others interested in the same thing. Chances are you’ll make lifelong friends, and even if you don’t, you’ll get the double benefits of regularly pursuing an activity that serves no other purpose than making you happy, and you’ll get to do it with people that you have something in common with!
Clean eating can have a dramatic effect on our moods (not to mention our bodies and health stats!), so consider dropping processed foods. You don’t have to dive in head first, either– it’s a big change! Try adding more organic fruits and veggies to your diet and slowly cutting out foods that come in boxes or bags. You’re bound to start feeling better, you’ll probably lose a bit of weight, and you’ll definitely find a new recipe (or four) that you love! Taking care of our bodies and minds means literally caring about what we put into our bodies, so consider this an important first step on your journey to cultivate happiness.
Sounds philosophical, but it’s true that we should never stop learning. You might be done with formal education (or maybe you’re ready to chase that degree), but there are so many other things out there to learn. You could learn how to embroider, how to speak Spanish, how to bake vegan cakes, or how to blog! There is a wealth of information available to us for (mostly) free on the internet, and there are plenty of ways to turn your learning adventure into a new hobby or excuse for social meetups! Keeping your brain active will help you to feel happy, and the good feeling that comes with mastering new skills is addictive!
Just because you’re making it alright in life doesn’t mean there isn’t more you could achieve. Setting goals helps give us something to measure progress with, and it also helps us break big things we want into smaller and more manageable steps. Whether your goal is to save up enough money for a trip to Greece or learn a new language or lose 20 pounds or change careers, there are so many mental health benefits to setting out a blueprint to achieving something you want, and then using it to move through the necessary steps toward success. Whether it’s grafting plants into a beautiful technicolor garden, mastering the culinary art of sushi, or going back to school, there’s always something great out there to be achieved, and you deserve to be chasing it!
Use your body.
Exercise has great benefits for both your physical and your mental health! If you hate the gym, though, don’t write off exercise altogether. Keep trying until you find a physical activity you really enjoy. It could be swimming, hiking, weightlifting, kickboxing, yoga, ballroom dancing, fencing– the list is infinite, really. The point is that you should be using your body to move through the world in a purposeful way that makes you happy and keeps you healthy. Punishing yourself with workouts is a no-go. Find an exercise that you truly enjoy, and then reap the benefits of working out without it feeling like a chore! You’ll sleep better, your body will be healthier, and your mind will regulate your endorphin production– all a winning combination to cultivate happiness!
Help other people.
No matter who you are, you’ve got something to contribute to this world. Start small, in your community– even if you don’t have money to donate to organizations, you probably have a skill that could do some good for someone. You could teach English to recent immigrants, run donation drives for food or clothes, or help high schoolers with their university applications or resumés. There are so many ways to help others– when you really start looking, you’ll see opportunities everywhere! The mental benefit of doing something for others is huge– research has proven over and over again that we enjoy a mood boost when we do something kind for someone else. Go out there and get that mood boost, and make your community a kinder place in the process!
Easier said than done, right? Of course it is! But it’s true that worrying about tomorrow robs us of our peace today. Concern is warranted in some situations, but how much time do you spend each week worrying about things that might happen? Things that, in the end, don’t happen, or were going to happen inevitably and were thoroughly unaffected by your worrying? Imagine someone showing up at your door with a gift box filled with all of the time you’ve spend on pointless worrying!
It’s important to be proactive when you know a problem is on the horizon, but try to cut back your pointless worrying. You might have to establish a mental mantra, such as “I will not worry about things I cannot change”. You can also try “reverse worrying”– every time you catching yourself with silly or dramatic “what-if”s, give yourself a positive “what if” for each negative one you think. Actively and mindfully balancing out the possibilities of the future can help you to have a more positive outlook.
Plan a trip.
Even if international travel isn’t in your budget, a trip can be more affordable than you think, and it can do you a world of good! Think of the type of travel you are interested in– are you dying to go to Europe, take a road trip, go camping? If your budget is a limit, try looking for nearby “getaway” deals on groupon and airbnb. Even if you just drive 3 hours out of your hometown, changing your scenery and routine will give you the chance to readjust your perspective on your life, enjoy some time away from the daily grind, and give you the opportunity to see new places, meet new people, and try new things. Then you get to experience the joy of coming back home and sleeping in your own bed again!
Spend some time outside.
We used to live outside, don’t forget! It’s important for us to spend time outside, and even moreso for those of us that live in big cities and concrete jungles! Whether that means camping, going for a walk in a park, or having a tea and reading a book in a garden, make sure you spend a little time outside to reconnect to the world. Extra points if you get your hands and feet in the dirt! And while you’re at it, try greening up your office and your home with a few new house plants!
Which of these tips could you start enacting this week to cultivate your own happiness?
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