The 50 things I have learnt about happiness as a counsellor, father, brother, widower, friend, activist, tennis player, gardener and sometimes larrikin. There is no definitive list. But here are my 50 nonetheless.
1. Remember this is your “one wild and precious life” – make the most of it.
2. Wake each morning, sit up, stretch and as loud as you can say “I’m alive, I’m alive.” Isn’t it exciting that you are back.
3. Then lie back down and think about the 5 people you are grateful for.
4. Then get up and greet the ones you live with, with love, welcoming them to this new day, knowing that they are also back.
5. Remember where you are – at home, work doesn’t start for a few hours.
6. As you travel to work savour your environment.
7. There is a Buddhist saying that I think is worth remembering “The art of life is to remember you are ordinary.”
8. As the comedic activist Wavy Gravy stated “We are all bozos on the bus.”
9. The image we present to the world is just that, an image, a created fantasy.
10. We are all “fucked up” to some degree or other.
11. We have all failed, made mistakes, wounded the people we love, whilst carrying on as if nothing has happened.
12. Life has got really complex and there are demands placed on us that are entirely unrealistic.
13. We are all worriers, filled with anxiety and stresses.
14. There is no instruction manual on how to live life. Just do your best.
15. Develop self compassion towards yourself.
16. Stop trying to show people you are better than everyone else.
17. It is OK to fail, in fact there is real connection with others when we share our failures and disappointments, the vulnerability revealed by failure can nurture empathy and communality. Downfall writes the American Zen Buddhist, Natalie Goldberg – “brings us to the ground, facing the nitty gritty, things as they are with no glitter. Success cannot last forever. Everyone’s time runs out.”
18. Some of the funniest stories that you will ever share (and please share them), will be about your failures and embarrassments and not your successes.
19. Stop taking yourself so seriously.
20. When you are stressing out at someone else, ask yourself this question “How mental am I being right now?”
21. Are you prone to catastrophising and awfulising situations? Do you ever ask yourself, how does this help?
22. And while we are at it, stop seeing your friends, loved ones and family members as projects. You are just as flawed as them.
23. As Graham Long the Pastor from the Wayside Chapel in Sydney states “Stop seeing people as problems to be fixed, but instead as people to be met. This will fundamentally change your life.” Hear hear.
24. Do you ever ask yourself – “how difficult would I be to live with?”
25. I have sat in my counselling room with hundreds of clients who are convinced, that they can moan their way to happiness, but in all my years as a counsellor, I have never met anyone who has succeeded.
26. Stop moaning about other people and begin living your life and treating people how you want to be treated. Otherwise you’ll be waiting a long time.
27. When you think of intervening in some situation or other, do you think of a whole lot of strategies, weighing them all up and then decide a good episode of moaning will be the most effective? Then you act on it, by moaning and then after you have completed your moan, do you reflect on how successful it was? And then afterwards do you ask yourself “am I closer to happiness than I was?”
28. I have also met thousands of people who believe that they are not fundamentally responsible for their happiness, that their happiness is dependent on how, “the clown they married” treats them, or “their dickhead workmate”, or “their stupid friends” etc….The belief seems to be – If all these people change, then I’ll be happy. Well again you will be waiting a long time to welcome happiness into your life.
29. The story people tell themselves about their lives can close the curtains on happiness.
30. Remember your thoughts aren’t your friends. They are just that – thoughts.
31. Tell the “know all committee of critics” in your head to wait, they’ll get their chance to give you feedback when you are ready and if they don’t, tell them to shut the fuck up.
32. Meditate, but remember mindfulness meditation is not just about being present, but is also about standing back and observing the absurdity of your life.
33. Remember to play.
34. Practice fun, schedule it into your life, right now get your diary out and schedule it.
35. Stop behaving to all the rules – wear bare feet to work. Well if not work at least on the beach.
36. Learn to say NO otherwise you can’t say yes to yourself.
37. You are not your job, it is just a part of your life.
38. Ask yourself this question “Am I stressed?” Then ask yourself what areas of your life you have put on hold or sacrificed to get the job done? When will you invite them back?
39. Your wellbeing is essential to your happiness, prioritise it.
40. Wellbeing is about your physical wellness, your emotional wellbeing, your psychological and spiritual wellbeing, you can’t leave any of them out.
41. Lighten up and have fun, jump in puddles, wear a red nose, watch funny movies.
42. Sometimes we forget that laughter is contagious, if you laugh others will join in, but remember it is feral and unruly.
43. Remember laughter is good medicine.
44. Join the Slow Movement.
45. Luxuriate and savour your life, it will be gone before you know it.
46. Reflect on what makes you happy and do a lot more of it.
47. Have fun in the middle of things, don’t delay it, don’t wait.
48. Have potluck dinners.
49. Be with friends, share your life.
50. Keep adding to the list.
For more see: www.hellohappiness.co.nz