If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that happiness is not always easy. We have now spent a full year learning how to laugh and celebrate and find joy in the midst of confusion and uncertainty. It has been a year in which all of our plans have been canceled, the basic interpersonal safety nets we took for granted removed, and some of us – especially important workers – denied the comforting monotony of a predictable and safe working day. This new collective muscle memory for resilience will certainly strengthen us as we (slowly) get used to the new normal.
It is fitting that now, almost exactly a year later, we are taking a break to celebrate International Happiness Day. However, the happiness we celebrate today is different from a temporary mood boost or toxic positivity that requires us to only look at the bright side of life.
Our new resilience has taught us that happiness doesn’t depend on how shiny our life looks on the surface, and that joy doesn’t have to wait for the perfect conditions to take root. What we’re celebrating today is the decision to create and find happiness, even as the hits keep coming.
As we observe the value of happiness in our lives today, we also take a break to celebrate what this year taught us: Even when the circumstances around us feel anything but joyful, we always deserve the relief that smiles, laughs and a few happy tears can deliver.
Celebrate International Lucky Day by adding one or more of these simple (and sometimes frivolous) lucky charms to your everyday life and helping your heart feel light-hearted all year round.
The well-worn adage, “It is better to give than to receive” still sounds correct. We all naturally view life through a lens that takes into account our own circumstances first, which can distort our perception of reality. When we are ready to look up to see that the world is more than just our own lived experiences, we will discover ways in which we can alleviate the suffering of others, including our own. Donate blood, volunteer at a food bank, write a letter to someone who could use encouragement or hand out a meal to a neighbor who is recovering from an illness.
Notice where you are uniquely equipped to solve a problem or make someone else’s day better. That could mean gleefully doing a job your spouse dreaded or offering to fix a neighbor’s leaky sink with the tools you already have in the garage. The magic of happiness that consists in helping others is related to our willingness to notice the needs around us and then use the time, resources, or connections we have been given to meet them.
Commit to unexpected acts of kindness
Simple acts of kindness share generosity, love, or compassion in ways that surprise and delight the recipient. Joy is contagious, and spreading it to others is one of the quickest ways to experience it for yourself. If you’ve ever been to a drive-through restaurant in a pay-it-forward chain with the person in front of you paying for your coffee or lunch, you’ve already experienced this feeling.
But friendliness is not limited to meal times. Spend an afternoon picking up trash at the local park, delivering cookies to first responders, calling your local utility and paying someone else’s overdue bill, tip your waitress 50%, listening to an older neighbor without going through that Rush talk, or send flowers to a local nursing home. The daily ways to show kindness are limitless and you can even inspire your own Pay-it-Forward Swiss Solidarity.
Save before you spend
Spontaneous spending can cause a brief dopamine hit, but it’s long-distance savings that bring the greatest ROI to happiness. If you’ve ever helped a child count down to the end of the school year or planned a vacation six weeks in advance, you know the power of anticipation. Getting through the work week is so much easier when calm, fun, or excitement is just around the corner.
Save savings for a tropical vacation, a designer coat, a relaxing spa day, or that expensive high-tech device you’ve always wanted. In the meantime, take the opportunity to enjoy your purchase in advance. Plan out trips and choose restaurants to try island hopping, or imagine the outfits that you will pair with your new designer look. Talk to your partner or friend about what you are saving for and let them dream about what it will add to your life.
As soon as you have reached your savings goal and actually made the purchase, you will enjoy the bonus of being able to enjoy the memories of that moment without feeling guilty, without the burden of spending the next months or years paying it off.
Enjoy where it matters
It’s shocking how much money can fly out the door if we’re not careful. Small fees, like additional cable bills or meal delivery charges, that we easily collect ourselves, compound over time, and deplete our financial resources with no real lasting benefit. However, there are categories in which we could use those wasted dollars to improve our mental or emotional wellbeing.
Think about where you put most of your daily energy or hours into and throw money (budgeted) on the problem. A $ 400 orthopedic office chair may sound frivolous. However, if you sit at your desk for hours every day struggling with back pain, paying a large sum for this lumbar support can improve your quality of life.
Splurge-worthy purchases are not the same for everyone as they are unique to individual habits and lifestyles, but they offer real, noticeable improvements to the rhythm of daily life. If your minivan’s crumb-coated, sticky floorboards raise your blood pressure every time you unload the back seat, then you should get your car detailed. If your smartphone’s broken screen is slowing down your daily searches, then prepare for the repair. The fine print: happiness and debt don’t easily co-exist. So don’t go overboard and stick to your budget.
Count the comfort of your creature
When you take a break to say thank you for the people, things, and moments that make life beautiful, you instantly increase your happiness. Seriously take stock in the format that works for you: a gratitude journal, daily prayer, thank you notes, scribbling on the back of receipts while you ride the subway.
As you make these lists, keep in mind that comparison games often decrease rather than increase the enjoyment. So the point is not to ponder how others are doing worse than you, but rather to focus on the abundance that is already in your own life.
Line up all the conveniences you enjoy every day – freshly laundered sheets, a refrigerator to keep groceries cool, transportation, running water, pain relievers, music – and let them remind you of how spectacularly every day is full of happy outbreaks to make yours Life more pleasant.
Say “yes” to surprises
It’s so easy to stay locked in our comfort zones, but saying “yes” to new things can enrich and expand our lives. Try a new restaurant, join a hobby club, volunteer for a new work assignment, travel to a place you’ve never been.
Some adventures will bring joy while others will later when they are retold as stories. Each new level of memory leaves a path that we can return to when we need it most. Open yourself so that the world can surprise you with joy you have never met and you will soon have a supply of happiness to draw on all year round.
Photo by Rawpixel / Shutterstock
Sarah Paulk is a freelance writer best known for interviews with the thought leaders of multi-million and multi-billion dollar brands. Her cover stories and articles have been featured in Success from Home, Direct Selling News, Empowering Women, and others. Sarah is also an author and ghostwriter who helps her clients bring their memories and research to life in book form. Connect with her on her website www.sarahpaulk.com.