Sometimes it feels super easy to be happy, and sometimes…it DOESN’T.
Add in money, family, or work issues, anxiety, and aging into that equation, and life can feel more like a kick in the pants than a walk in the park.
I am 42 and have lived through more than one of the issues mentioned above, but I have followed the lead of people wiser than myself and been able to dig out happiness for myself.
Unless you are struck by some sort of spiritual lightning, happiness probably won’t just fall out of the sky and land on you (although that would be bitchin’).
But, you CAN make some tweaks to your habits and mindset and learn to be a happy woman over 40!
Let’s do it…
Make this thing easier for yourself…
I decided that since I am asking you to do so much personal reflection work in this post that it would only be fair if I provided you with a workbook, so, voila!
It’s not mandatory (this isn’t high school), but it’s free and it adds ease and greater value to this experience.
You can download it below. ↓
Live with Intention…
A great place to begin on your quest to be happy is intentional living.
Simply put, intentional living means figuring out what is important to you in life and how you most want to spend your time.
Once you have taken the time to figure this out, you simply plan your life, days, hours, and minutes around those precious things.
You’re setting an intention for your life.
Sooo easy, right???
Well, it isn’t a mind-blowing concept, but in our crazy-paced society, it can be much easier said than done if it doesn’t become a habit.
Let’s meet Sally…
She wakes up and has to hit the road running right out of bed.
For her, life feels like some twisted marathon filled with a never ending task list that she can never possibly finish: i.e. she can never win.
She goes to bed exhausted every night and feels guilty about her unfinished to-do list.
Sally feels like she is on autopilot and can’t even think about time for herself or doing things that are important to her.
Sally feels like she is on autopilot and can’t even think about time for herself or doing things that are important to her.
Sally is not a happy woman.
Poor Sally 🙁
Now let’s meet Sadie…
She doesn’t love the sound of her alarm clock, but she knows that if she gets up 30 minutes earlier than she has to she can set some intentions and goals for her day.
She may jot down 2-3 of the most important things she has to accomplish, but also plans in time for taking care of herself or doing her favorite hobby.
Sadie has mapped out exactly how she wants to live her life, and which parts are the most important to her.
Because of this, she doesn’t stress at the end of the day if she didn’t check a gazillion things off of her task list.
She knows that she got the most important things done, and spent time on things that are most important to her.
Plus, she has cut out so many things that took up her time and energy that now she has fewer obligations anyway.
She goes to bed feeling fulfilled because her life feels purposeful.
Sadie is a happy woman.
What is my point?
Be a Sadie.
Hopefully, Sadie and Sally are friends and Sadie can help a sister out with some good advice!
Soooo…where do I even start?
There is nothing better for figuring out how you want to live than some good ole’ self-reflection.
This means that you are going to sit and think about yourself and what YOU want!
For women, this can be hard because many of us are caretakers and we are very good at shoving what we want to the backburner past everyone else’s needs.
No more, ladies.
Being frazzled and strung out from stress helps no one: not you, your family, or friends.
Grab a notebook and pen and get somewhere quiet. For real, get yourself some peace!
Self-reflection requires asking yourself some questions and being completely and brutally honest with yourself.
This is no time to jot down what you think you should write, or what you think other people think you should write.
Write what you actually think and feel in your heart of hearts.
Here are some questions to get you started with your self-reflection.
Sorry if some of them seem a little blunt, but that’s how I roll.
- If I die tomorrow, what are the 3 things I didn’t do or try that I will regret the most?
- Which part of my day do I dislike the most and why?
- When I am in the middle of the part of my day mentioned in question 2, how am I feeling about myself?
- Which part of my day is my favorite and why?
- When I am in the middle of the time mentioned in question 4, how am I feeling about myself?
- Think over the last week and write down anything you did for yourself. Think about any self-care such as long baths, some spa time (whether at an actual spa or in your bathroom alone), meditation, exercise, and hobbies.
- What obligation(s) do you have that you secretly (or not secretly) hate and wish didn’t exist?
- What is one thing that, if you could do it every day, would make you feel happier?
Want to dig deeper?
Nice to meet you, self!
Analyze your results…
Generally, when people ask themselves these kinds of probing questions certain patterns emerge.
Look over your answers. Are you filling your day with obligations that don’t fulfill you and make you feel dread?
Are you constantly putting your family or your work in front of your own needs as a human being and not bringing joy into your day by spending time on things that leave you feeling energized?
You are setting intentions for your day whether you mean to or not.
Again, I am pulling out some hard truths, but I am betting you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t ready for some.
So let me say that again in a different way: you have designed your life whether you meant to or not.
But now that you know that you have just taken a HUGE step forward because using your self-reflection answers, you can pinpoint areas to improve upon.
Use your analysis to your benefit…
I am going to make this as painless as possible.
- Think of things that you can quit doing. Salt the earth, people. If there is something that doesn’t make you feel fulfilled or really jives with you, bow out.
Do NOT feel guilty because not everything is everyone’s bag, but it WILL BE for someone, so leave it to the people who will get joy or fulfillment from it.
This is probably the hardest part, but DO IT. I have done this multiple times and it is LIBERATING.
The surprising part is that when you respect your own time, other people respect it more, too, and I have had no blowback from doing this.
- Pinpoint the tough areas of your day. Brainstorm any way that you can make them less horrible.
Could you do it at a different time, in a different way, batch it with other tasks, play music and light a candle during it, NOT do it, ANYTHING to make it suck less?
- Think about those moments of your day that you love and make you feel light inside. Figure out a way to lean into those moments more. What do you love about them?
Can you spend more time in that “sweet spot?”
- This may sound like blasphemy, but wake up 30 minutes to 1 hour earlier than you usually do. I know, I know!!
But I am telling you, there is NO better time to set intentions for your day than the morning when your mind is fresh and no one else is awake.
During this peaceful time you are going to map out ONLY the important parts of your day.
If mornings just won’t work for you, don’t sweat it.
Pick another time when you can get some peace and quiet alone.
Once you have used your self-reflection analysis to figure some things out, it is time for your plan!
Bring on the plan!…
Please know that this is your first plan.
Over the next few weeks, months, years, you will revise your plans as you change and grow.
That is a-okay.
Growth is good, BUT, we need a starting point on your quest to become a freakishly happy woman!
When you have your moment of solitude, either in the morning or whenever, get out a piece of paper or journal and write on the following prompts:
- How do you want to FEEL when you lay your head on your pillow tonight? THIS, my friends, is the “why” for your intentions, and the most important part!
- Next, what are the 2-3 things that you need to accomplish today. If you get these 2-3 done you can go to bed tonight feeling pretty good about the day.
Only 2-3, folks! Anything else you get done is gravy.
- List 3-4 things that you can do for your mind, body, or soul that will make your day fulfilling, zestful, or otherwise amazing.
Consider adding a form of exercise or yoga and any form of meditation or quiet time alone.
- Make sure the things you have planned today align with the “how I want to feel” portion you already wrote and will help you achieve those feelings.
- Now the only thing left to do is follow your plan. Make your day wonderful, or at least, better than it would’ve been. On some days, even a sliver more happiness is a win!
So what if you don’t get all of your tasks completed! *gasp*
WHAT IF THINGS ARE LEFT UNDONE?!?!
Then repeat them on your list tomorrow and give yourself some grace!
You are worth more than your task list!
Let me say it again louder for the people in the back: you are worth more than your task list!
You have done some self-reflection, identified areas you want to improve, and set some intentions!
Go grab a beer or a cool glass of water to celebrate yourself and, lady, let’s get back to the work of making you a happy woman!!
Be content with what you have right now…
Is there a link between feeling grateful and happiness?
The 2003 research conducted by Watkins, Woodward, Stone, and Kolts concluded that there was such a connection.
In their paper published in the journal Social Behavior and Personality, the authors explained that “Grateful thinking improved mood…These studies support the theory that gratitude is an affective trait important to SWB [subjective well-being].” (1)
“Grateful thinking improved mood…These studies support the theory that gratitude is an affective trait important to SWB [subjective well-being].”Watkins, Woodward, Stone, and Kolts
Let’s revisit Sally:
Sally’s kitchen is a hell hole.
There’s an odor.
Every time she looks in the direction of her kitchen she gets anxious and feels both irritated AND like a failure.
That, plus other frustrations throughout the day, leave Sadie a little jaded, truth be told.
She thinks: “why can’t things just be easier???”
It’s breaking my heart, but Sally is not a happy woman!
Now let’s revisit Sadie:
Sadie’s kitchen is a hell hole.
Dishes are piled high.
There’s an odor.
Every time she looks in the direction of her kitchen she feels gratitude that she has food to eat and dishes to eat off of.
It’s not like she loves the kitchen being dirty, but she keeps it in perspective.
The mess is temporary and a by-product of living and eating with the people that she loves.
Sometimes she has frustrations that are a lot harder and more complicated than unwashed dishes, but Sadie continuously and consciously tries to find something to be grateful for in every situation.
She may only succeed with this 80% of the time, but even with that, it leaves her feeling lighter and more joyful than most people.
She thinks: “Things aren’t perfect, but I have so much to be grateful for!”
And she doesn’t just say it, she lives it.
Sometimes it takes work, but Sadie is a happy woman.
Gratitude is a choice…
We all know people that have more than the average person and complain incessantly.
We also know people whose lives seem like a train wreck, yet they are usually happy and are genuinely thankful for what they have despite their circumstances.
This is because being grateful and feeling content with what you have is a choice.
Feeling content with what you have is a choice.
What is hard about this is that, depending on what was modeled for us, who we spend time with, or simply our own natural inclinations, we can be programmed to fixate on the negatives in most situations.
If this rings true for you, ask yourself some questions:
- When I was being raised, who modeled for me my perspective on life? Did they generally highlight the positive or negative aspects of a situation?
- Who do I spend most of my time with now? Do they usually swing toward gratitude or complaints?
Whether you can pinpoint where your discontentment sprung from or not, it doesn’t matter.
You can fix it.
How do I keep on the bright side?…
The Watkins, Woodward, Stone, and Kolts research (1) I mentioned earlier showed us that happiness can absolutely be affected by how much gratitude we feel.
So how do we tap into that?
I have a few different avenues you can take.
The blunt approach…
Just like with anything, there is more than one way to tackle this.
It will depend on your personality and what approach has the most meaning for you.
The easiest way to immediately feel more grateful is both to the point and sugar coats nothing, and it’s the one I use.
When I find myself in a pity party over anything less than harm coming to a loved one I firmly tell myself: “Absolutely no one feels sorry for you. Not a single person in the entire world feels sorry for you.”
This isn’t beating myself up or calling myself names, it is simply forcing myself to look at my “problem” through the eyes of many, many people in this world that would give anything to have my “problems.”
It is telling myself to pull up my big-girl pants, figure out how I can make it better, or let it go.
My strategy works well when you are in the thick of it and find yourself dropping into that negative pit.
There are a few methods, however, that are more proactive.
The “sit in quiet and reflect” approach…
Call it meditation, or call it sitting quietly and thinking.
Either way, it accomplishes the same outcome.
Take 5 minutes and sit comfortably somewhere quiet.
Set a timer if you would like to.
Do nothing in that 5 minutes but think about all of the things in your life you are grateful for.
This can be really difficult the first few times, especially if you have negativity deeply ingrained in your mindset.
Some ideas that you may want to consider adding to your list:
- the comfy place you are sitting
- the warmth in your house in the winter, or the coolness in the summer
- running water that is clean enough to drink
- a functioning vehicle or public transportation
- the farmer that grew your food
- the teacher that taught you to read
- houseplants that look pretty AND clean your air like magic
You get the idea.
Five minutes is long enough that it forces you to think past the obvious, which is good because that compels you to find more gratitude in your everyday experiences.
Find more gratitude in your everyday experiences.
The gratitude list approach…
Both the gratitude meditation and this approach are perfect to add to your morning routine.
There have been many a-morning where I have woken up on the wrong side of the bed and had it turn around when I list grateful thoughts.
It’s simple and it works.
This strategy is very similar to the “sit in quiet and reflect” approach, but instead of thinking about it, you are writing it (I BET you already guessed that).
When I do this in the morning I start with a fresh page of paper every day.
I challenge myself to fill at least ¾ of the page with things I am grateful for at this moment.
In the past I have included entries such as “COFFEE,” “a husband who is nice to me,” and “the pen that I am using to write my list.”
It can seriously be anything, even a pen, because what would we do without pens?!? Really!!
This is a simple exercise, but it works.
The bait and switch approach…
Feeling a dark cloud of negative energy hanging out over your house?
Take a more targeted plan of attack.
This time, rather than listing what you have to be thankful for, indulge your dark side for a moment and make a list of things that are bugging you or downright pissing you off.
Go. To. Town. Let it all out, sister.
Once you exhausted your list of grievances, next to each one write how you are also grateful for that thing/situation/person.
Yes, you read that right.
It might make you curl your lip when straining to think of any positive that could come out of your discontent, but it is possible for every single one.
A few things I have written down are:
- My dog won’t stop barking today! But, she loves us and would do anything to protect us.
- My son argues with me constantly! It is irritating now, but I know he has a good heart, and when he matures this will come instead as a strong will, which is a good trait.
Please know, I don’t take this lightly. You may have some pretty heavy, horrible, or heart-breaking things on your list.
I am not making light of these things.
- You may have a serious illness, but you are still here today.
- You may have lost a dear one, but you were blessed to have had them in your life and given you cherished memories.
- You may have gone bankrupt, but you can get up on your own two feet and keep going.
This is not trying to turn horrible things into good things.
Not at all.
What this exercise does is start to help pull your mind out of the dark place that isn’t serving you in any good way.
There is light even when we don’t want to see it.
This exercise can help us get closer to being ready to look for it.
Keep one or all of these approaches to greater gratitude in your arsenal to help you feel more happy and like you are the most blessed person on earth!
Save some love for YOU!…
Have you ever heard someone say that no one thinks about you as much as you think about you?
Oftentimes we live our lives and make decisions tailored around what other people might think.
But, I’ve got some news for you. Nobody’s thinking about you!!!
I don’t mean that to say no one cares about you, I mean that the vast majority of worry we have about what other people will think of us is a moot point because people are thinking and worrying about themselves, just like you are.
That weird hair thing you are self-conscious about today?
No one is even looking.
Becky in the next office is worried that her pants shrunk and might be a little too short.
She was thinking about her pants when you walked by and said hi.
Did you notice her pants?
I bet you didn’t.
AGAIN, you were thinking about your hair!
Let me break this down for you…
We are going back to poor Sally.
Sally has some baby weight she hasn’t been able to lose.
It has been 11 years.
She bought some kickin’ red pants for work, but when she wore them to the office she was fixated on how she has a bit of a roll that makes the waist fit strange.
All day Sally felt self-conscious about this and she tried to cover her waist with her legal pad when she talked to people.
She wasn’t trying to, but Sally was giving off a lack of confidence vibe that her co-workers could sense, because honestly, that is how she felt.
When she got home she threw her red pants in the giveaway pile.
Oh, Sally. Not a happy woman.
Of course, we know that Sadie is going to handle things a little differently. She is SO smart!
Sadie has some baby weight she hasn’t been able to lose.
It’s been 11 years.
She bought some kickin’ red pants for work, and she did notice that she’s got a bit of a tummy roll at the waist.
But, she knows that nobody will notice.
Sadie realizes that everyone has their own “things” they are worried about, too, and most people don’t have time to pick out other people’s flaws (because, again, busy with THEIR OWN worries).
People don’t have time to pick out other people’s flaws because they are busy worrying about their own!
Another thing Sadie reminds herself is that she rarely thinks about the flaws in other people unless it is super-obvious and in her face.
If SHE isn’t thinking about others in that way, chances are, other people aren’t doing that to her, either.
Sadie walks around the office in her chic new red pants with her head held high, not even bothering to think about her tummy roll.
Without realizing it, or even trying, Sadie gives off an energy that tells her coworkers that she takes pride in herself and is of high value because that is what she is actually thinking.
Seriously, no one noticed her waist.
In fact, she got a boat-load of compliments (not that she needs compliments to feel happy with herself…but it still felt good)!
When she got home, Sadie threw the pants in the hamper.
She’s going to wear those babies next week!
Yep, a happy, happy woman with CONFIDENCE.
Women tend to be their own haters…
I have noticed that being self-conscious about looks is a MUCH bigger phenomenon for women than men.
Men can be balding in spots, have a double-chin and a beer belly and still hit on the hottest woman in the place.
AND sometimes he wins her over!
He is CONFIDENT despite his physical appearance and THIS is appealing to other people.
It’s his vibe, not his looks.
Contrast that with some gorgeous women I’ve seen who walk with their head down a little bit, avert their eyes when they talk to someone, and put their hand over their mouth when they laugh-clear signs they are self-conscious.
And I’m like “whaaaaaattttt???” How do you not know you are a beauty???
Women are programmed by many different social channels to never be satisfied with their appearance.
This is a thing.
The question is, what do we do about it?
How do I rock the proverbial red pants like Sadie?…
To become a happy woman, you have got to learn to ignore your flaws, just like the rest of the world ignores your flaws.
I’m not saying that you should never try to improve yourself or practice any kind of self-care.
What I mean is that, even if you have a tummy roll like Sally and Sadie, you might decide that you want to get healthier and will work on it, but for now, you aren’t going to let it define who you are.
Beauty and magnetism start in your mind and radiate out.
It doesn’t manifest in your waist or tummy!
I’m betting since you are reading this you aren’t there quite yet, but you can retrain your mind to think this way and I have a few options for you!
The “gentle reminder” approach…
I use this one all of the time, especially right before I walk into a room where I know I may feel a little insecure.
Ok, so the reminder I give myself isn’t that gentle.
In my head, I say to myself “No one’s thinking about YOU!!!”
It is super effective, and it helps if you say it with sass usually reserved for 16 year olds who just learned to drive and now know everything.
And when I say I use this frequently, I am not exaggerating.
- Meeting with my boss? Gentle reminder approach.
- Get-together at a new friend’s house filled with people I don’t know? Gentle reminder approach.
- My turn to share my ideas on whatever at our all-staff meeting? Gentle reminder approach.
That instant snap back to reality that notes how everyone else in this situation will be focused squarely on their own insecurities and not yours can be very powerful and can instantly change how you hold yourself.
Need something more systematic? I’ve got that, too.
The visualization approach…
Right now I want you to envision yourself eating one of those super sour candies you probably ate as a kid (but now can’t because your 40-year-old stomach says no).
I wouldn’t be surprised if you physically made a face like you were eating something bitter.
What does this tell us?
It tells us that our minds and bodies are intricately interconnected and what happens in our mind absolutely reveals itself in our bodies.
This happens in a few ways.
One way is through expression through our physical being.
It will come through in our faces or body language (which other humans are able to read with pinpoint accuracy, btw.
So remember that our faces and how we hold ourselves display to the world who we think we are, good or bad.
If you want to own the room , you have to believe you do.
How we feel also triggers our bodies to emit hormones other humans detect without realizing it.
Hormones released via our thoughts also send signals to every system in our body: respiratory, circulatory, digestive, and nervous systems.
Your body FUNCTIONS are dependent on your mood.
And let’s not forget about the energy we give off.
Can I put my finger on what this is or how it works exactly?
But, we have all been around people who seem to have a magnetic energy that draws people in.
We don’t have to know exactly what it is to know that it affects how others perceive us and how we perceive ourselves.
SO, to begin to reprogram your brain and let in more respect for yourself, you could work some self-love visualization and meditation into your day.
This would be perfect to add to your morning routine.
Here is a guided meditation from Maryamhasnaa specifically created to nurture more love for you!
We need affirmations, people!….
The last approach I will share for improving your self-image, and therefore your overall happiness, is to bring more affirmations into your life.
I know you’re thinking of Stuart Smalley right now….because I am, too. And I always, do.
But, Stuart was onto something.
If you remember the sour candy example I described earlier, our brains and our bodies are linked.
If you repeat the same thing to yourself multiple times and make a habit out of this, your brain starts to believe it.
This is exactly what Delroy Paulhus concluded in his paper Bypassing the will: The automatization of affirmations where he explains that his research is “demonstrating the feasibility of changing one’s self-image through the force of frequent repetition.” (2)
“demonstrating the feasibility of changing one’s self-image through the force of frequent repetition.”Delroy Paulhus
In other words, you can change how you see yourself by repeating compliments to yourself over and over.
A list of niceties…
Not sure how or where to start with this?
Anything that you can say to show yourself love will work, there is no magic here.
I have made a list of ideas you can use below.
You can add this into your morning routine and practice it by either repeating your affirmation silently or out loud to yourself while sitting with your eyes closed.
Another option is to say them to yourself in the mirror as you are getting ready.
As long as you fit it into your life somewhere, you are good to go.
- I am powerful.
- I am strong.
- I am worthy.
- I deserve love.
- I love my body.
- I am a happy woman.
You get the point.
Make your own, or look for more on the internet.
However you choose your mantras, the important part is that you use them!
If you have never tried using affirmations before, congratulations on trying something new!
AND, that makes a perfect segue to the next habit that will help you become a happy woman.
Don’t be stale…
Now that you have already tried some new things, like reflection questions and self-love meditation, keep that train rolling!
We are going to peek in on Sally and Sadie again.
Sally got home from work, took off her bra, and sat on the couch. Today was loooong.
Luckily, her show was on tonight.
She had set up the DVR in case she wasn’t home in time to catch it.
In truth, this is what Sally does most nights.
Once in a while she thinks back to when she was a kid and about all of the things she thought she’d try when she was older.
But, damn, she’s tired and this is her routine.
I really wish it weren’t so, but Sally is not a happy woman.
Then there is Sadie (yes, you knew she would have her crap together on this one, too).
Sadie has to catch her show on Tuesday nights. She won’t miss it!
She was tired when she got home from work, but tonight is the first night of her scuba class.
At this moment, with how dragged out she feels after her day, she kind of regrets signing up for it, but she knows that once she gets there she will feel energized.
If she could handle this, Sadie was going to ask a group of friends if they wanted to fly to Grand Cayman in the spring to see the reefs.
That would make for some pretty sweet lifelong memories.
Sadie is kind of a bad ass, and a happy woman!
But new things freak me out…
I found this incredible quote from Alex Licherman M.D. for Psychology Today: “…nothing, I believe, contributes to our happiness more than shattering the delusions to which we cling…(especially beliefs about ourselves).”
“…nothing, I believe, contributes to our happiness more than shattering the delusions to which we cling…(especially beliefs about ourselves).”Alex Licherman M.D.
What Dr. Lickerman is alluding to is that we all hold preconceived notions about ourselves and what we are capable of (and not capable of).
There is an unmatched kind of joy that comes from trying something you believed you could not do.
Why this is perfect for women 40 and up is because so many things have changed in our lives over the last 5, 10, 20 years.
We are not the same women we were in our 20s.
We have endured many storms.
We have gained wisdom.
We are galvanized.
If you find yourself clinging to the ways in which you have done things since…forever, now is the time for you to break out of your self-confinement and get some new grooves, if for no other reason than it will make you a happy woman!
Umm…what am I supposed to do, exactly?…
This is obviously very personal, but when I say try new things you can think big or you can think small.
- Maybe you usually only hit TGIFriday’s and you want to try Brazillian food.
- Perhaps you would like to try your hand at rock climbing?
- Has a certain musical instrument always intrigued you? At this moment there are online classes for any instrument under the sun, plus you can rent most instruments pretty affordably.
If in the past change has been especially difficult for you to handle, start small with a new place to eat, wearing a bold color you have never worn, or taking a free online course (there are a million of them over every topic, and since they are free there is no risk, lady)!
Work your way up to experiences that feel bigger and more risky.
A good place to start is to take a look again at your self-reflection answers and see if there is anything you have always wanted to try or feel you are missing out on.
You know I like lists.
Make a list of things you want to try big and small.
If you have never done this before I bet you will be surprised at how electric and excited you feel afterward, even before you have actually done the things!
Don’t get me wrong.
When you are in the heat of the moment, roasting that dude on facebook who wrote the idiotic comment feels pretty good.
But that feeling fades.
Even if it doesn’t fade all of the way, it does nothing to add to your positive energy.
We will only briefly pop in on Sally and Sadie, but as you can imagine, Sally indulges herself by being rude to the waitress who honestly was not doing a great job of waiting on her table.
The waitress felt awful and took this sadness home with her.
Sally didn’t really even think about it after that.
While she had no idea that her behavior was contributing to her “funk,” Sally’s mindset was NOT helping to make her a happy woman.
The next day, Sadie happened to have the same waitress (what a coincidence) who was just as frazzled as the day before.
Sadie looked past the crappy service and saw the human being who was obviously struggling.
Rather than shorting her on her tip, she tipped like she normally would, but wrote a kind note on the bottom of the ticket that said “You seem like you are having a rough day. I hope things get better for you.”
It took Sadie 3 seconds to write this note and didn’t really think too much about it.
As she was leaving, the waitress ran up to her and caught her at the door.
She said that she was, in fact, having a difficult time as her dad just got put in the hospital and all she can think about right now is him.
The note, she said, means a lot to her.
As she left, Sadie felt a little warmer in her heart and the waitress took home with her that little bit of love that Sadie wasn’t obligated to give her, but did anyway.
Dangit, you can’t help but like that Sadie, and because of it she is a happy woman.
But will being nice make me a happy?…
There is a concept in yoga called ahimsa, and according to YogaJournal.com, this concept is nearly 4,000 years old.
Generally speaking, it means that one should bring no harm to others.
A similar idea exists in the Christian tradition and that is: do unto others as you would have done unto you.
Might there be wisdom in this ancient tradition?
Can ignoring that guy on Facebook and sending him a “peace be with you” thought rather than blasting him ACTUALLY make you a more happy woman?
Yep, and research supports this, too.
In their published work entitled Happy people become happier through kindness: a counting kindnesses intervention, authors Otake, Shimai, Tanaka-Matsumi, Otsui, and Fredrickson conclude that “The most important finding reported here is the close association between kindness and happiness in everyday life.” (3)
“The most important finding reported here is the close association between kindness and happiness in everyday life.”Otake, Shimai, Tanaka-Matsumi, Otsui, and Fredrickson
One interesting detail they noted was that this happiness is compounded.
“Our results suggest that happy people are more kind in the first place and that they can become even happier, kinder and more grateful following a simple intervention,” (3) with the “intervention” in their study describing the act of doing kind things.
Every human is…human…
The first step to being more nice is simply to view every person you encounter as a human being.
Every. Single. One.
This sounds so basic, and at times can be sooo much easier said than done, but it definitely helps you keep your reactions in check.
Mentally approach challenging people with curiosity.
What life experiences have brought them to this?
I wonder what is going on in their life right now?
This is NOT to try to justify their behavior and it absolutely is not to say that you should allow yourself to be disrespected by others.
It simply reminds you in that moment that, even though this person is being a jerk, they are a human, too, and you might realize that they are on a different path than you are right now.
You can take a moment to be grateful that you have found a road to happiness and don’t feel the need to act that way.
Too bad for them.
Think to yourself that this person is obviously struggling with themselves enough right now so you don’t need to say or do anything to make that worse, and walk away.
Can you learn to be more nice?…
There is a type of meditation called metta.
In english, it is called “loving-kindness meditation.”
What is great about metta meditation is that you always begin the practice with thinking about showing love toward yourself, and then work up to sending kind vibes to that person that is really irking you.
I am including a video for a metta meditation from my favorite YouTube channel for such things, the Honest Guys.
As you have discovered, happiness is a choice that we make every minute of every day.
“Becoming” happy isn’t always easy for anyone.
Unless you are a zen master, you WILL NOT be happy all of the time, and that’s ok.
A lot of personal growth happens in the dark times.
However, through the use of tools like setting intentions for your life, sifting through your mind to find things you are grateful for, reframing your thoughts to see yourself as incredible, jumping out of your comfort zone, and practicing kindness, you can absolutely find greater joy become a happy woman!
Btw, Sally decided at the last minute to take that scuba class she had always wanted to take. She met Sadie and they became fast friends. They are both part of a girls’ trip to the Cayman Islands in March.
(Yes, I am a sucker for happy endings)
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(1) Watkins, Philip & Woodward, Kathrane & Stone, Tamara & Kolts, Russell. (2003). Gratitude and happiness: Development of a measure of gratitude, and relationships with subjective well-being. Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal. 31. 431-451. 10.2224/sbp.2003.31.5.431.
(2) Paulhus, D. L. (1993). Bypassing the will: The automatization of affirmations. In D. M. Wegner & J. W. Pennebaker (Eds.), Century psychology series. Handbook of mental control (p. 573–587). Prentice-Hall, Inc.
(3) KEIKO OTAKE, SATOSHI SHIMAI, JUNKO TANAKA-MATSUMI, KANAKO OTSUI, BARBARA L. FREDRICKSON. (2007). HAPPY PEOPLE BECOME HAPPIER THROUGH KINDNESS: A COUNTING KINDNESSES INTERVENTION. J Happiness Stud. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2007 Mar 13. Published in final edited form as: J Happiness Stud. 2006 Sep; 7(3): 361–375. doi: 10.1007/s10902-005-3650-z.A