Ten Simple Steps to Happiness
I’m not sure what exactly prompted me to write this post. It’s not recipe related–although I have been thinking a lot about these things in regards to my career as a food blogger, an author, a recipe developer, and also as a vegan–so I think it applies. Really no matter who we are, we all get bogged down with the details of our daily grind, and sometimes it helps to just stop and look at the bigger picture. That is, I guess, the best explanation I’ve got for this post. That, and I’m damn thankful to be able to do what I love, and I wanted to take this opportunity to say “thank you” to all of you who are reading this (see #1 on the list below). I was in a much different spot in my life when I started this blog, and one of the things that I am so grateful for is how much I’ve learned since I began. I’ve learned a little about blogging and writing, but mostly I’ve learned about people and about human nature. Also, I’ve learned more about playing the game of life. One of the most important things I’ve gathered about playing this game is you have got to be a good sport. Play fair and have fun.
That’s really what it’s all about, right?
Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of negative emotions pouring out of many people I know, both in my professional and personal life, IRL and on the internet, and it makes me want to reach out, give them a hug (or a <3), and say, “it’s okay!”. But, then I thought about how I sometimes feel those ways too, and I thought about what always pulls me back up onto my feet. A gentle reminder is usually all it takes, and maybe some of you could use that too. And maybe, in a way, I’m reminding myself that we all deserve to be happy and that it’s really quite easy to achieve.
I’m not claiming to have everything figured out–not at all. Although, like many people, I have had a life which has dealt me numerous blows, and it has taught me a LOT: I survived a very unhealthy relationship that lasted the first 5 years of my impressionable young adulthood, I lost the most important role model in my world (my father) to diabetes when I was in my early twenties, I was a single working mother while attending college full-time, and I’ve had more than enough health problems along the way–more seeming to crop up each year thanks to celiac disease and the shitty aforementioned relationship. And, despite all that I’ve been through, I wake up smiling and happy (well, it’s masked by the morning grog pre-coffee, but trust me it’s there) every. single. day.
I wouldn’t say that I am a religious person. But, I have faced many occurrences where I have ultimately questioned my religion (or lack there-of), as I’m sure many of us do. While in college I enrolled in almost enough religion courses to qualify me as a religion minor, all in an attempt to figure out what this world was about. Did it help? Well, yes and no. You can’t exactly decode the meaning of life by enrolling in a handful of classes. Who knew? But I discovered a really fascinating way of approaching life through the study of Buddhism and Hinduism: simply to live compassionately. I tossed a lot of what I didn’t feel applied to me and kept that one notion. And, it really does go a long way.
That is why I’m vegan. I’m not in it for denser bones, healthier eyes, stronger muscles, or smoother digestion–although these things are very nice perks. I guess you could say I do it for my mental health. I do it because it makes me happy. I do it because I want to be a compassionate person, both to others and to myself. For me, veganism just fits right in with everything so very nicely.
Over the years I’ve honed what I learned in all my religion classes and fused it with some real life experiences to ultimately achieve the guidelines I try and follow every day. I think it’s worked out well for me so far. I love my life very much and am incredibly grateful for the abundance I have. But, I also take full responsibility for making my reality what it is, crediting all the many wonderful people who have shaped my life into what it has become. Like all of you…
Summed up, I would say that the concepts I outline below are fundamental in everything I do. I try and remember them even in the hardest of moments, and sometimes, it’s really tough to do… but it’s truly worth it if you can.
Ten Simple Steps to Happiness
1) Say thank you, and mean it. Seriously be thankful for what you have. It may not be much (or it may be a lot), but it’s yours. Family, friends, health, knowledge–those are what are important. If something comes up above and beyond that… lucky you. Be thankful.
2) Take change as an opportunity to act. Big things happen in life. Sometimes they are shitty. Don’t let these things become your identity. Or do. Make them yours; own them; live from them, and then only keep what you find valuable. Discard the rest. If you lose your job, don’t harp on how unfortunate the circumstances may be at the time, but take it as an opportunity to finally pursue that dream job you’ve always wanted, or maybe take a job that you never knew you’d enjoy. Or, view it as an opportunity to take a long needed break giving you time to rethink your future. A positive outlook is everything. For instance, when I was first diagnosed with celiac disease, I honestly believed (for a little while there) that my dreams of becoming a cookbook author were over… until I realized that I actually had a knack for gluten-free baking. Now I see it as nothing but a blessing.
3) Have no expectations. I have, on countless occasions, turned a situation from good (or at least not bad) to horrible… because I had expectations about how the situation would turn out. This was dumb of me. We can never predict how a situation will turn out, whether it’s a job interview or a trip to the market. We are humans, not wizards with soothsaying abilities. Expectations only breed disappointment; chances are, whatever you’re dreaming up in your head is waaaaaay better (or worse!) than what’s going to actually happen. The best way to approach things is with an open mind. So roll with it. Sit back and enjoy the view. Whatever happens is gonna be fine. And remember, everything happens for a reason, even if you don’t quite understand it at the time.
4) Smile. Over my lifetime I’ve had a few friends that simply refused to smile and preferred to scowl at life, and they were some of the most miserable people I’ve ever encountered. Perfect strangers would actually walk up to them and ask “why so glum?”. Approaching both people and situations with a smile is perceived more positively by others than if you were to approach them sporting a frown. Imagine how it can change your attitude if you do this all the time? People will see you smiling, and maybe they’ll smile back at you. Before you know it, there will be happiness all around. Try it. It works.
5) Let the important people in your life know how much they mean to you. Hug the ones you love hard and often. If you can’t hug them, send a letter, a gift, a facebook message, whatever it takes. Never take for granted the impact those people have on your life. When they are gone, remember them fondly.
6) Don’t get bogged down with toxic emotions like jealousy, anger, fear and self-loathing. They all go hand in hand and are unnecessary, not to mention destructive. Everyone is on their own path trying to figure out their own lives, just like you and me. If they cross into your path, step aside and let them pass, or walk alongside them for awhile. And do so politely. Do not judge how heavy or how lightly they tread, but focus on your own pace and the direction you are heading–lest you trip along the way.
7) Love your body. It’s the only body you’ll ever have… follow the golden rule with it. Treat your body as you’d like it to be treated. Compassion, kindness, and tenderness are always encouraged. Treat your body with love, nourishing food, and regular exercise, and it will be much happier.
8) Help others. Reach out and volunteer at a homeless shelter (for humans or non-humans), offer to help an elderly person take their groceries to their car or home, send greeting cards to random strangers in nursing or children’s homes. Make someone smile today.
9) Surround yourself with positive people, and let the one’s who don’t bring you positive energy (and especially those with downright negative energy) fall to the wayside. Focus on the positive, and have compassion for those who focus on the negative. Be a role model when you are around negative people, but don’t try and be these peoples’ psychologists if they resist your influence, unless of course, that’s your profession…
Because, ultimately, to be happy, one must:
10) Be the change. We’ve heard it time and time again, because it’s true. If you want something to happen, make it happen on an individual scale. The world cannot make you happy or sad, only you can. If you want to be happy, it’s simple: make the commitment to be happy. See the glass half full, starting now. Life is pretty amazing, and yours is certainly worth celebrating.