Tuesday, September 10, 2013

On Being Happy

The other day I was asked the question "how do you make yourself happy?"  I sent the following response and thought it might make a good post here (since I have been so delinquent in posting things here.)  Being happy is certainly a driving force for any Priesthood Warrior.

Here is my email in it's entirety:

You asked me the other night how to be happy…the short answer that I gave you was that you simply “Decide to be happy and then be that way.”

I still think that is the easiest definition of happiness.  Being happy is a choice, not the mere result of luck or circumstance. That is why people in the worst conditions in the world, can still find happiness.  There are people dying of cancer who are cheerful and inspiring…and it’s not because their life is great.  This is because real happiness comes from within, not from without.  There are many miserable rich people in this world (just look at celebrities and professional athletes for an example).

So being happy really is a choice.

In the second part of my quote, I say to just “be that way”.  Sometimes you have to put on an act.  You have to pretend you are happy even when you really aren’t.  This is a real test of character…to be cheerful and have joy when things around you seem to be driving you in the opposite direction.  This is the mark of a real man.  This is the man who will not complain or whine about his life. This is the man who will seek the comfort of others before his own and this is the man who will lift others spirits…even when his in the depth of despair.  Sometimes the mere act of pretending to be happy is enough to shake us out of our funk and we actually begin to genuinely feel happy.  You can’t smile for very long without suddenly realizing that you aren’t forcing it anymore.

So just Decide to be happy and then BE that way.

There are a few more elements to being happy that are key.

1)    Service.  You can’t serve another person and come out of it sad.  It just doesn’t happen.  When you forget yourself and focus on others, suddenly  you cannot dwell on whatever it was that was making you mopey to begin with and you decide that it wasn’t that big of a deal afterall.
2)    Laugh.  Whatever it is that you laugh at…you will INSTANTLY feel better.  This is a great way to serve too, when one of your friends is down, make them laugh.  Pull your shirt up over your head and become the “Gimp” and act stupid, they will laugh. It’s better than taking drugs!  Laughter truly is the best medicine.
3)    Count your blessings.  Start listing all the things you have in your life that you are truly grateful for.  Home, family, food, friends, health, warm chocolate chip cookies…etc… you will soon find that you have SO MUCH to be happy about, that being sad or mopey is an obvious sign of ingratitude for all those blessings. 
4)    Have a great relationship with your Heavenly Father.  You can ALWAYS talk to him through prayer and ask for help…but you have to be ready for the answer to come because it will and sometimes it isn’t what we expect, but rather what is best for us.
5)    Stay healthy and fit.  "A healthy mind cannot exist in an unhealthy body." (Gen. George Patton)  Take a nap, eat some food, take a shower…be healthy.

Here are a few other tips to finding happiness.

a)    Music.  Play it loud and sing along.  It feels great!
b)    Run, lift weights, do push-ups.  Physical activity releases endorphins into your body that are mood altering.  The result is a feeling of happiness.  Especially when you can run in terrible weather.
c)    Play with a little kid.  This will result is instant happiness.
d)    Do something nice for a sibling or parent a teacher or a friend.  Make somebody’s bed, cook or clean for them, take out the trash…whatever it is, do something nice and DON’T GET CAUGHT, then watch their reaction.
e)    Read your scriptures…always a good idea!
f)    Change negative thoughts and words to positive ones.  Stop using put downs and ridicule and find more positive ways to express yourself.
g)    Hang out with positive people. You are who you hang out with.
h)    Eat good food.  It’s been shown that eating a lot of junk food generally results in a lowered mood. (this doesn’t mean that you can’t eat it, just don’t gorge yourself on it.)
i)    Stand up tall. Good posture elevates your mood as well.
j)    Start something and Finish something every day (doesn’t have to be the same thing), this also releases endorphins into your body that make you feel happy.
k)    Create good daily habits and stick with them, you get more done and feel better about yourself.
l)    Never make excuses. Own your mistakes and learn from them.  That is why we are here.
m)    Avoid excessive screen time (TV, Games, Etc…) this has shown to increase negative feelings.
n)    Say “Hi” to someone new every day. If you can, learn their name and say “Hey, (name)…how’s it going?”

There are a ton of things that I could add to this list, but it really boils down to simply being a happy person.  Think about people that you like to be around and consider what it is that makes them that way and then emulate that in your life.  It will not be easy and (as with any time we try to improve ourselves) Satan will do all he can to stop you.  You have to keep at it and keep at it.  I’ve been doing it consciously now for over 25 years and I still don’t have a very good handle on it…but the key is that I KEEP TRYING.

Remember that “men are that they might have JOY.” (2 Nephi 2:25)