Nine Simple Strategies for Happiness

If you are totally organized and always know what you need to do next, always have control of your tasks, and always correctly forecast how long something will take… I am insanely jealous of your skillset.

Starting last October, even as I started to declare 2013 as my Year of Happiness (my 15th anniversary in business, etc), I began a slow slide into disorganization and overwhelm, mostly due to over-commitment. Most people are shocked when they hear this, yet it’s true. By late December I was underwater, in constant stress, worried that I was missing something important, and always feeling behind in my work.

So I did what any self-respecting coach might do: I hired myself a coach to help me return to sanity and recalibrate my broken systems. I’ve been working with her for a few weeks and I’m starting to feel like I’m in control once again. She helped me move my manual tracking system back into the digital world, which has been exciting. More importantly, she is challenging me to look at the STORIES I tell myself about my organizing skills, and in the process I’m learning some new things about myself.

One is this: I make things more complicated than they need to be. I often look to my own writing for coping strategies, and this time what jumped out for me was Happiness Principle #10: Simplify. I am moving from complexity back to a simpler system for me.

Thus my thoughts this month turned to “How to make Happiness and Leadership more simple?”

Simple Strategies for Happiness

This month I return to basics. Everything on this list can be integrated into your life in tiny bites, with minor disruption yet with big outcomes if you practice a few of them daily.

  1. Look for the Good/What’s right. You already spend time every day dealing with problems. When you start that process, pause for a minute and first ask, “What’s RIGHT about this situation?” or “What’s GOOD about this person?” Once you answer the question, you’ll notice your mood is a lot lighter as you tackle the problem.
  2. Breathe on Purpose. Breathing you do anyway. So every once in awhile, stop and do it with great attention, deep and slow. When you give attention to your breath, you experience a tiny moment of Mindfulness, which drops a wee bit of stress from your system. Then, go back to what you were doing.
  3. Smile. People are mirrors, and whatever you wear on your face gets reflected back to you. Any time you notice that everyone around you is grouchy, consider the common element: You. Smile and make eye contact, and notice how suddenly everyone around you is in a better mood. It’s all about you! HINT: do this every day as you brush your teeth. It will add no time, yet you’ll get twice a day practice.
  4. Be Selfish. Being overly helpful, too generous, and what we call ‘self-less’ can also be an addictive behavior that is codependent and even abusive (to self) when taken to the extreme. Instead, cultivate self-sufficiency and take just five minutes every day to take your own oxygen (do something just for you). When you are healthier, your relationships also grow healthier.
  5. Put on Confidence. One of the mantras I offer in my talks is to “Stand Tall, Breathe Deeply, and Smile Often.” Each time you stand up from a chair take an extra second to root yourself (feet shoulder width) and extend the full length of your spine. “Wear” this body each day for a few minutes and you’ll find it increases your personal strength in many difficult situations.
  6. Embrace What Happens. Recognize that a lot of Unhappiness comes from arguing with reality. When something happens that makes you go a little scrunchy inside (you know what I mean), step back, take a breath, and say, “Yes. It is what it is. AND here’s what I’m going to do next…”
  7. Create Connections. If you eat lunch at your desk and consider talking to others at work “a waste of time,” you are missing a vital nutrient in your emotional life. For five minutes each day, let go of your agenda or tasks, and focus on building a relationship through conversation – that’s just 1/3 of 1% of your week.
  8. Establish Boundaries. If you are a people pleaser or you dislike conflict, you may often find yourself overwhelmed and stressed. If at least once each day you say “No” to some request that you cannot handle right now, you will learn that if you declare boundaries, most others will respect them. (Note: a No can be absolute or simply a modifier e.g., “no, I can’t get that to you by end of day. Will tomorrow morning at 10 work for you?”)
  9. Take Action. Nearly all stress is self-created, based on the stories you tell yourself. When you notice anxiety is rising about something that is on your duty list, find something – even a tiny step – that you can deliver upon. You’ll gradually learn that moving forward is far less stressful than sitting in paralysis.

I might also have titled this article, Happiness in a Minute, but that’s not really the point. Each of these items, practiced regularly, will strengthen your Positive Emotion muscles for a lifetime.

Don’t make Happiness more complicated than it needs to be. Keep it simple.

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