1. Give Yourself Permission To Be Happy
You can be happy.
That’s not a critique or a challenge, or a dismissal of your life. It’s just permission from me, some stranger, who knows the comforting, blanketing truth that you aren’t as bad as you think.
Sometimes I don’t let myself be happy; there’s so much to do, so many stresses and anxieties and insanities that my life is never clear of problems. Never. I have permanent insecurities, temporary problems, and returning ambitions that promise my schedule is never clear to happiness.
But it’ll never be clear. And neither will yours.
You can be happy anyway. I promise, it won’t slow you down.
2. Be Aware Of Ratios
What is the ratio of currency (time, money, stress as the main ones) to the ratio of happiness gained?
Frozen yogurt with tons of candy toppings is my favorite example of high happiness for low cost. It’s super tasty, the places are nice, it’s social, everyone likes it, it gets you to be a little active and it’s a great tack-on to any activity.
It costs very little in terms of time, money and stress. It’s under three dollars and under five minutes for an insane, hand-picked collaboration of treats that will brighten your whole day.
What else is best in life like that? Music, short phone calls, getting a beer with a favorite friend? A double cheeseburger from In-N-Out with animal-style fries you put on the burger?
Err on the side of metaphorical froyo.
Meanwhile, what’s giving you the worst return on your ratio? What activity is just draining you? Cut it. Meanwhile, what could you be adding? Not making my bed, for example, made my room look worse and my sleep uneven and cold. Now I make my bed, and, like with froyo, I get a huge return on my investment.
3. Say No To Bad Things
Super obvious in print, super nefarious in life. People love drama and negativity. I know I do; I wallow in frustrations and self-obsessed negativity because it’s weirdly addictive and it feels almost immoral to be aimless and happy when I could be XYZ, or any other infinitely variable nitpick of my life.
But, sometimes, I can say no.
It’s tricky, but identifying bad cycles and dismissing them- giving yourself permission to say “pass” and enjoy yourself instead- is a real and powerful thing. Try it, when you can.
4. Try To Treat Yourself As Well As A Dog Or A Toddler Would
Dogs don’t judge you. Neither do toddlers. I sometimes help work at a preschool and the kids adore me. Don’t be impressed; they’d adore you too. They adore grapes.
Toddlers and dogs are filled with adoration and hugs and loving calm. That can’t be your life, though, and it shouldn’t. Part of a full life includes responsibilities and stress and other textures that build your character and soul.
But an underlying awareness and striving for that simple love and gratitude can lighten your load.
5. Remember: It Takes Two To Tango
If you don’t embrace and recognize the drama in your life, it will collapse.
If you don’t embrace and recognize the good in your life, it will collapse too.
Pick your dance partners wisely and remember that you have some power to choose – life throws a lot at us, but in the end we have a level of agency to pay attention and time as we choose.
6. Comparing Yourself To Hypotheticals Is A Bad Idea
A hypothetical comparison point involves what you should be – wealthier, happier, capable of cleaning your effing room or cooking like an actual adult – takes all your actual successes for granted and conveniently forgets the very real and human struggles of day to day living.
Don’t fall into the trap of only looking forward without appreciating where you’ve gotten. Live life in the earned and the actual, and aim your energies to small accomplishments you can hold rather than obsessing about bigger, harder things you’re missing.
7. Take Mental Breaks
Obsessing rarely helps, but it’s often a natural result of a persistent worry or problem; it feels irresponsible to forget in a way, but always take a break when you can.
If you clear your mind and enjoy something else and set aside your problem or stress, I promise you won’t forget it- you’ll return clearer and sharper to handle the problem, relieved from the rest.
And if you do forget it?
Good. It meant you could afford to. You’re free.
8. Know What Works And Do It
At the last, most clinical level, treat yourself with the basic knowledge you have.
I am grumpy when I’m hungry. I forget this when I’m grumpy. Granola bars change my mood; I keep granola bars around and eat them when I’m grumpy even if my problem is totally a real thing and “not because I’m hungry.”
Sometimes the granola bar helps. Sometimes it doesn’t. But it never hurts, and that’s just good operational work.
What works for you? Music, a shower, exercise (which works for everyone, though we often ignore that) or a call home? Making a list of your problems or taking a mental break with Netflix? A simple snack?
Whatever it is, do it. You might as well. Your misery is serving you no good, and, with the kindest nihilism, you may as well be happy.