14 Simple Steps Toward Happiness in 2014

My theme for this year (if you’re not sick of it already) is to be kind to myself, to take better care of myself emotionally, physically and spiritually. I mentioned in an earlier post that this attitude has, unexpectedly, made me more productive and efficient. As you might imagine, it has also made me way more happy.

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Photo Credit: Purple Sherbet Photography, Creative Commons

My gut says being “kind” to myself won’t look the same for me over the entire year; and that my path to being kind to myself will look different from yours—but these small, seemingly insignificant ways I’m caring for myself are ushering in tiny, very significant moments of joy to my life.

Again, they’re very simple, but that’s part of the beauty.

It makes me realize how happiness might not be as complicated or illusive as I once thought.

As you read, be thinking of what your own “happiness list” might look like. What would be on it? Chances are, as you make a mental or actual list, you’ll find the contents are quite simple.

You may start to wonder why you haven’t been being kind to yourself all along.

1. Sleeping

I’ve been letting myself sleep as long as I need it. Of course, many days, I have to be up at a certain time. But I also make space for naps during the day when I feel like it, I sleep in on the weekends, and I go to bed on time. I don’t guilt myself for needing more sleep. I figure if my body asks for it, I should probably give it.

2. Taking break from “working out”

I’ve been a running girl, typically, and the “runners high” is no joke. For the past few years I’ve been borderline addicted—running most days of the week. Recently though, I’ve just decided to give my body a break. Instead, I do yoga, or go for walks, or do something else that is active and fun.

3. Buying full-price

This might seem strange, but after years (and years and years) of bargains shopping, I’ve realized that having one item I really love is better than having three items that don’t quite fit the need or desire.

4. Supplements

I’ve just been taking a few vitamins that I never gave myself permission to buy before. I figure, as I nourish my body, it can’t help but make me more effective in all areas of my life.

5. Refusing to diet

I actually eat pretty healthy. I’m just not dieting. I eat all the chocolate and drink all the red wine I want. But I also eat plenty of fresh vegetables, and try to buy quality ingredients. When I eat quality ingredients, it always seems like less is more.

6. Using lotion

This seems dumb, but I bought some nice lotion, and I use it every morning. Something about the ritual of putting it on each day helps me stay connected to the parts of my body that usually get neglected in the winter. And it’s occurred to me recently how crazy it is that I neglected the largest organ in my body (skin) for so long.

7. Rejecting guilt

I’m rejecting guilt—from myself, and from others—as a strategy to get me to change my actions. Guilt is a powerful motivator, it just isn’t always a positive motivator, and what I’m finding is that I felt guilty a lot. In all that space where guilt used to be, I’m practicing empathy instead.

8. Investing in friendships

I don’t know where I got this idea, but somehow I was walking around with the unspoken assumption that work was my primary responsibility in life, and relationships were secondary (if I had time). That assumption led me to a place I didn’t like very much. This year, I’m investing myself fully in seeking out and growing relationships with people I care deeply for.

9. Being generous

Research shows that being generous actually makes you happier, so I’m treating myself to some absurd generosity this year. You guys—giving things to other people is so much fun!!

10. Quitting diet coke

In a way, Diet Coke made me happy, but mostly I was just addicted and it made me feel like crap. So I quit.

11. Taking a whole weekend

The past few weekends of this year I’ve taken the whole weekend (novel concept) to do whatever I want. I honestly can’t remember the last time in my life I did that, but it’s been heavenly. It’s amazing how much more productive my work week becomes, and how much more I have to offer the world, when I’m rested and happy.

12. Slowing down

I tend to move really fast. But lately I’m just allowing myself to slow down a little. Or, as one blog-reader described it, “to experience life, rather than just consume it.”

13. Taking long showers

All I can say is this: Sometimes it feels like all is lost, but really you just need to take a shower.

14. Choosing to be happy

For most of my life,  I didn’t think it was possible to make this choice. Truthfully. I was always waiting for my circumstances to make me happy, or my friends to make me happy, or my job to make me happy. I rode the wave of my mood swings and my emotions. These days, I’ve just decided to start practicing the choice of happiness. It doesn’t always work. But happiness, I’m finding, is a little bit like a muscle, and I’m learning to flex it.

7 comments on “14 Simple Steps Toward Happiness in 2014

  1. How do you get over the feeling guilty? I feel guilty all day long. I feel guilty if I don’t go run. I feel guilty if the kids don’t eat healthy. I feel guilty if I don’t eat healthy. I feel guilty if I just want to sit and read…. blah blah blah, it’s really frustrating.

    • Stephanie — great question, although I don’t think there is an easy answer.

      But the thing I’ve done to get over guilt is spell out the train of logic I’m subconsciously following. In other words, next time you sit down to read, ask yourself: why do I feel guilty? What do I feel guilty about? Usually, the logic that follows is faulty. You might feel like you’re ignoring your kids (except they’re napping), or that you’re neglecting your responsibilities (except everything is done), or that someone else is going to be angry with you for resting (except they likely won’t).

      When you follow the logic, but the logic doesn’t make sense… it helps you to let go of that unhelpful pattern.

      I hope that makes sense.

  2. Love this! Simple but profound. It’s amazing how feeling guilty for sleeping in or skipping a workout can alter an entire day…focusing on a couple of things that weren’t accomplished only to completely ignore a number of things that were. Too much pressure to do it ALL and we place that pressure on ourselves. I relate completely to #14, I’ve realized recently that I started allowing my circumstances to dictate my happiness & instead of making changes, it’s so much easier to slip into whatever mood I feel like. It affects those around me just as much, if not more, than myself. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I love this; as a shopper, I get the full price thing! I think i’m in between on that one. I love getting a bunch of beautiful things in a thrift store for 60 bucks or buying a bunch of expensive things in an upscale thrift store for not much. The bargain itself is thrilling for me. But recently I bought something “full price” at TJ Maxx, where I bought an item for $40. It did feel good, as I hadn’t spent that much on an item in a long time, though I do make an exception occasionally for shoes or handbags. Great post.

  4. I love the simplicity of your list. When I feel stuck or frustrated or negative, I think “what will make me happy in this moment”…sometimes it is a nap or 30 minutes with a good book. Another favorite is looking at my Instagram feed (or my kids’s feeds)…random moments that remind me that I have a good life.

  5. I love all of these suggestions and have made many of these changes in my life, also. On February 1st, I will be giving up Diet Coke. I am terrifyingly addicted. I’ve tried and failed before, but I’m really, really going to give it a go this time. Thanks for your blog.

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