“The most important thing is to enjoy your life—to be happy—it’s all that matters.” ~Audrey Hepburn
Happiness and its pursuit fascinate me.
Like most people, I’m curious why on some mornings I wake up and the world is a wonderful place—the sun is shining, happiness oozes out of my heart like warm honey, and the sound of bird song brings a smile to my face. I can only describe this as bliss.
On other mornings, it feels as if all color and wonder in world has drained away. My heart feels heavy in my chest. I’m indifferent to the sound of birds singing outside my window; if anything, it irritates me.
Why? How? What is the difference that makes the difference with happiness? I’d love to have the answers.
All I can do I share my truth. Share how I intend to make 2018 a happy new year.
1. Focus on what makes me feel good
As Tony Robbins says, “Focus creates feeling.”
It’s my choice whether I focus on the good, the bad, or the ugly. The mind, with its negativity bias, will steer me toward the ugly. The worst-case scenario for the future. The memories I wish I could forget.
Identifying with these thoughts, focusing on them, I’ll feel a certain way (crappy).
The great news is, if I steer my thoughts toward the best-case scenario for the future and the memories I hope I’ll never forget, I’ll feel the way I wish to feel.
Matthieu Ricard, the French writer and Buddhist monk, suggests a great practice: for ten minutes each day, connect with thoughts and memories that make us feel good. When I practice this, I take myself to my “happy place” (I think we all have a happy place). Mine is a secluded beach in New Zealand called Ocean Beach.
In my happy place, I imagine it’s 2012 again and I’m back standing on the hot sand, surrounded by my friends as we jump joyfully into the towering waves. I recall the taste of the salty water, the heat of the sun on my back, the sounds of laughter and the great roar of the ocean. Within seconds of reconnecting with my happy place, these warm feelings, much like the waves themselves, begin to flow.
The feelings that were there, all along, inside of me.
I sometimes forget this truth, so to remind myself I’ve written on my wall:
“Will, you are only one thought away from what you wish to feel.”
2. Make the relationship I have with myself my most important relationship
I’ve had conversations with friends before, good people who are real givers; they genuinely care for other people. Yet they neglect themselves. They tell me they feel guilty for making time for themselves; they feel bad for putting themselves first before other people. That it’s somehow selfish to do so.
The way I see it, putting ourselves first is the least selfish thing we can do.
When I take care of my own needs, I’m able to give more to others because I’m in a good mental place.
When I treat myself with kindness and compassion, this is naturally how I treat other people.
When I honor and look after myself, I’m giving others permission to do the same.
When I look after myself, everyone is better off, myself and others.
A ritual I created this year that I’ll be carrying on into 2018 and beyond is to take myself on dates.
Yep, that’s right, once per week I’ll take myself out on a date.
We deem our loved ones worthy and deserving of dates, why not ourselves?
Sometimes, a self-date means treating myself to a long walk in the forest with a piece of cake in one hand and a coffee in the other. Sometimes, I’ll go for lunch at my favorite Japanese restaurant.
The rules for my self-date are simple: I give myself an experience I enjoy, guilt-free.
Most of us are great at meeting the needs of others, loving others, and responding with understanding, compassion, and kindness.
My question is, what will it take for us to show up like this for ourselves?
I know in 2018 there are going to be days where happiness eludes me. I’m going to experience failure, disappointments, loss, stress, anger, and frustration.
All of which will be difficult, but I know this: I can rely on myself to guide myself through them, as I’m committed to prioritizing the relationship I have with myself.
3. Find glimpses of happiness even during tough times
Happiness for me is an inside of job, as my feelings come from inside of me; they’re internal.
When I believe my happiness is determined by the external world, I’m at its mercy.
I may or may not achieve my goals. I maybe will or maybe won’t have health, wealth, and success in 2018.
There are lots of maybes, which are not necessarily in my control.
So, while I may not feel happy all the time, I’ve decided that my overall happiness will not be a maybe.
I’m a firm believer that even in life’s darkest moments, there are, what I call “glimpses of happiness” to be found.
Sadly, this year, my family and I lost a very special lady, my Nana Joyce.
On the day of my Nana’s funeral, I was due to read a poem, but when it came to standing up and reading, however, my emotions and body had other another plan: to break down.
I’d barely read the name of the poem before tears of grief erupted. Uncontrollably.
I stuttered in an attempt to get the words out, but it wasn’t happening.
The realization that my Nana was gone had hit me.
Then something beautiful happened. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see someone walking toward me.
It was my Uncle Barry.
”Would you like me to read this for you, Wills?”
I groaned something that sounded something like “yes.”
My Uncle Barry proceeded to read the poem, slowly, with a tone of sadness in his voice.
Rather than disappearing to my seat, I stood with him, my hand on his shoulder as I took some deep breaths to calm down.
Despite the strong and shattering grief I experienced, standing there with my uncle, there was a small glimpse of peace, as I knew I wasn’t alone.
Throughout the rest of the day, I noticed more glimpses.
Glimpses of love as my family comforted one another.
Glimpses of laughter as we recalled funny stories from my Nana’s life.
Glimpses of happiness as I acknowledged my family were here on this day as one, supporting each other on this most difficult day.
These glimpses of happiness are always shining, and they work by reflecting back the happiness that already exists inside of us.
They are in the room with me now. They are surrounding you as you read these words.
Acknowledge these glimpses as they appear and you’ll feel happy a lot more often.
Happy New Year.
About Will Aylward
Will Aylward lives to help others and spends his days coaching people to become more confident in themselves and their ability. Will’s loves are travel, drinking good coffee, turning strangers into friends, and making music. Will lives in Germany with his partner (in crime), Yvonne. Visit him at willaylward.com.