Why do some people seem so happy? Is it in the water? A well-guarded ancient secret? Maybe they remember a thing or two that others have forgotten along the way. After all, between work stresses, family issues and life’s little ups and downs, snatches of joy may seem elusive. The thing is, upbeat people don’t wait for happiness to find them—they seek it out. Try some of their proven methods:
So your family has started calling you “Flash.” Let them. They’ll be happy you have snapshots of the family dog, the neighborhood kids peering out of puffy snowsuits, the time Uncle Bill took everyone for a spin with the top down. Preserve everyday moments on film, through drawings or in a journal. If you used to dread essays in school, buy a small calendar instead and jot short entries beneath each date: “January 9: Went ice skating with Colleen.” Leafing through your log years from now will call up pleasant memories.
Windows freckled with rain. Steam rising from a cup. The way your baby folds his thumbs under his fingers when he sleeps. Joy is not hidden away: It’s everywhere. Little things never fail to surprise us with their beauty—and the immense place they hold in our lives. Begin your own mental list of unforgettable details each morning and see how long it has grown by the end of the night.
Nothing feels better than making someone’s day, and you’ll certainly be doing that by pitching in at a local shelter or keeping an elderly neighbor company.
Maybe it’s the way your friend listens to all of your stories. The fact that the woman at the market always remembers your name. Or knowing that if you had the option, you’d choose the mother you’ve got, hands down. Be thankful for what makes your life special, unique and irreplaceable.
Has it been a long time since you turned off the TV and tuned in to your thoughts? An empty page will listen without judgment and bear the burden of your worries. Write, sketch or paint your emotions. Compose music, dance or take a walk and enjoy how good it feels to be part of nature.
Sight. Why does a yellow room make you feel like having a friendly talk? Or a red coat dazzle your eye and quicken your heart? Studies show that color plays a big role in emotion. For example, people who work in green environments seem to have fewer stomachaches, and pink rooms appear to have a calming effect. Paint with the colors you like best … and wear them often.
Smell. It’s the sense with the longest memory. How else to explain why the aroma of simmering tomato sauce always reminds you of your grandmother’s kitchen or the scent of hot pretzels takes you back to your first real baseball game. Scents come with their own special abilities, too—lavender soothes anxiety, peppermint peps you up. If there’s a smell that makes you particularly happy, splash it on or add a few drops to a kettle of boiling water.
Taste. Stop off at the grocery store and buy a different healthy snack for every day of the week—a bag of pistachios, sliced cantaloupe or an exotic fruit will give you something good to munch on while catching up on the latest novel.
Sound. Settle into a comfy armchair, close your eyes and listen to some evocative ballads. Or throw on your favorite record and dance all over the place. Who cares if you’re more like Lucy Ricardo crashing the Tropicana than Gene Kelly twirlin’ his umbrella?
Touch. The oldest form of communication will never go out of style. You can communicate love and offer comfort by simply squeezing someone’s hand or stroking your loved one’s hair.
Rituals don’t have to center only around the holidays. Stay home, pop popcorn and compete in family game night. Institute a yearly block barbecue or holiday party. Small traditions, too, are enriching: an after-dinner stroll with your neighbor, brushing your daughter’s hair before bed.
It’s not just the dog-eared book and well-worn chair that help make a house a home. Your favorite creature comfort may come with a wet nose and furry feet. You may find adopting a four-legged friend makes those empty corners vanish. If you’re not quite ready for a fuzzy companion, a family of fish can raise your spirits—and lower your blood pressure, too.
It’s bound to happen. You say the wrong thing, flub the big meeting or fail to meet standards you set for yourself. You’re not alone—there are about 6 billion other people who make mistakes, too. If you spend time regretting the past or worrying about the future, you won’t have time enough to enjoy the here and now. Focus instead on what you can do to change a negative situation—and create one that will bring you joy.