Practicing Happiness: Your How-To Guide

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Groundhog HappinessIn central Pennsylvania where I live, Groundhog Day is a big deal. For us, Punxsutawney Phil is not just a little groundhog that pops up out the ground each February 2. He is a celebrity, and the pomp and circumstance that surrounds his prediction about the arrival of spring is second only to a royal wedding.

Yes, it’s true. We are a little nuts in central PA. It is most likely due to the fact that winter seems like it goes on forever, well past the time when we would like to trade in our snow boots for flip flops. So we have to work hard to beat the winter blahs and stay upbeat and cheerful as the snow continues to fall well into March.

One thing I have learned living here is that happiness is not a state of being. It is an art. And like any art form, like music, for example, it needs to be practiced. After all, the more you practice something, the better you get at it. And you can get better at happiness.

Why should you practice happiness? What results can you expect? I can think of three results, any one of which would make practicing happiness.

1. You will increase your energy. Feeling happy feels good. You’re not stuck. Everything seems to flow. Remember that old saying that it takes fewer muscles to smile than it does to frown.

2. You will radiate the good energy that attracts other people. That good feeling of happiness flows outward; it is by nature generous. And that is a feeling that others want to share. They want to come in your circle. Which leads to number three,

3. Opportunities will come your way. People want to collaborate with happy people. Nobody wants to work with a glum, depressing person. Happiness can make things happen.

So are you ready to start? Here are some practical ways to begin building the happiness practice habit:

1. Gratitude is the right attitude. A thankful person has a healthy perspective. He looks outward to others, not just focusing inward on himself. He acknowledges the help or support they have given him. When you are grateful and appreciative of others, you shift your focus away from you in a healthy and positive way. Try these suggestions to practice gratitude:
Start a gratitude journal. List daily something or someone you are thankful for.
Thank someone each day for something specific, even if it’s just for being your friend.
Send a “thank you” email to someone who has helped you with a special project.

2. Give out, give back. Happy people are naturally generous. Think about the guy who buys a round of drinks for everyone in the bar to celebrate something that happened to him. Happy people give. (And of course, those who give, usually receive many times over what they gave. After which they are grateful – see number 1 above.) Practice generosity.
Surprise a friend with a cup of coffee or a cookie, just because.
Post a “shout-out” on Facebook to celebrate the good news or achievement of a friend or co-worker.
Go the extra mile for someone who needs your help.

3. Listen to yourself. Be aware of negative speech habits. I often catch myself saying, “I HAVE to play this concert,” when I really should be saying,”I GET to play this concert.” I like playing concerts. Why should I make it sound like a chore?
Exchange negative adjectives (horrible, terrible, awful) for positive actions (I need to practice this specific thing.)
Don’t auto-complain. If there is really something to complain about, stop complaining, take action and fix it. If you’re just grumbling out of habit, stop.
Say, “I might try…” instead of “I can’t.”

Three happiness resources:
Dennis Prager, Happiness is a Serious Problem
Is There a Link Between Music and Happiness?
Godiva Chocolates – works every time!

What makes you happy?

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