Life throws some crud at us all sometimes, and yes some more than most, but I do genuinely believe that happiness is a choice. Be happy. Be yourself, that genuine authentic you, whatever others may think. If people don't like it, let them go. Let them be whoever and whatever they are and move on. Easier said than done, of course, but remember that for every minute you are angry or irritated, you are giving up 60 seconds of happiness. Choose happiness.
Being yourself will involve negative emotions too, of course, but try to look for the silver lining, the humour in the every day even when life sucks, the love that surrounds you even when you feel alone. Admit when you feel scared or threatened or challenged; speak out against injustice, to yourself or others; ask for help and guidance when you need them, and accept both with confidence and joy.
Be responsible for your own happiness, take it from within rather than from outside your self.
Be the Best YOU
Choose to be the best YOU can be. Don't compare yourself to anyone else, or try to be better than anyone else, just be your best you. Get behind your goals and beliefs. Give everything you do as much effort as it requires; give it your best.
The baseball coach John Wooden famously advised his teams to only focus on what they could control, i.e. their own effort and commitment. Becoming the best you can be is your responsibility, and starts with your own internal monologue, your beliefs about yourself and your life.
Never let someone else's belief or opinion become your reality. Love who you are and stick to what you believe in, whatever anyone else thinks.
Choose a Good Attitude
Forget how life was supposed to be by now, forget the picture in your head of what success is, and how unachievable it seems from here. Don't look at how much further you have to go to get that mythical point, look at how far you've come. Make every day your masterpiece.
In this life journey every moment counts. Every single moment you live will not come round again, so make the most of each and every one. Say yes more, embrace opportunity. Tell yourself every morning that this is going to be a great day - say it until you believe it, and make that weedling negative voice go away. Your life is the most precious gift, choose to enjoy it.
You feel the way you do because of how you choose to act, not the other way round. Fake it till you make it. Hold your head high, breathe well and think positively and you will carry yourself differently. It's the same with happiness. Believe it, smile and look for the good things, happiness will follow.
Yes, it sounds like a fridge magnet or a bumper sticker, but seriously, SMILE. If you're met with blank looks, so what? You're happy, smile. A genuine smile will make you feel happier, make those on the receiving end happier, and also boost those feel-good happy hormones, endorphins. Win win! Smile.
Living in a materialistic society this is a tough one, but being grateful for what you have will boost your happiness exponentially. Happiness isn't about having the best car/phone/TV/address/stuff. Who cares? Really, when the chips are down, will you care??
Choose to focus on what you have, not on what you haven’t. And not the superficial material goods, be grateful for the roof over your head, the food in your fridge, all the goodness in your life. If it suits you keep a note in your diary, a gratitude journal; or just think of the things you're grateful for as you fall asleep and when you wake up in the morning. When you appreciate what you have, what you have appreciates in value, and boosts your happiness. Be grateful and choose happy.
Be honest with yourself, and with others. If you don't want to do a thing, say no. Be kind, but be firm and stay true to yourself. If you disagree with something, make a stand. Be political, be true, be outspoken, stand up for what you think is important and don't be swayed by other people, no matter how loud they shout.
Be faithful to your partner in thought, word and deed. If your eye wanders a lot, ask yourself why. Be honest with yourself, can your relationship be improved or repaired, or is it time to move on?
Let go when you know you should. Do you get enough support, kindness, love, friendship from the significant people in your life? Do you give as much as you should, and get the same back? If the balance is askew, be honest with yourself. It is hard, but ultimately, letting go and moving on will make you stronger and happier, opening up space for new people and new memories.
At work, do the right thing. Don't steal other people's ideas, or ride on their coat tails. Do your best, work hard but don't let it take over your life. Set limits to the hours you work, and stick to them. Don't take work home. Turn your e-mails and your smartphone off after office hours, focus on the things and people that matter instead. Have proper, uninterrupted conversations.
Maintain integrity in all aspects of life. Avoid dramas that are nothing to do with you. Gossip is negativity, avoid it. Keep your life simple, enjoyable and happy by doing what you know in your heart is right.
Take Care of Yourself: Exercise
If your life is a precious gift, the next logical step is to believe in yourself, and that starts with the physical you. Choose to take care of your body.
Address your physical energy and balance and mental energy, focus, balance and purpose can follow. Treat your body badly and they will all be negatively affected.
Studies repeatedly show that one of the best ways to combat stress and depression is through exercise. Levels of happiness will be boosted in the short and long term by making exercise a regular habit. The gym or classes if that's your thing, but Pilates, Tai Chi and Yoga will help connect mind and spirit if practised mindfully and consistently. Start by incorporating a daily walk in nature into your routine. Just half an hour walking in a nearby park, across a field, by the sea, in woodland, anywhere you can see nature and colour, will give you a boost.
If even that seems a daunting task, start with ten minutes today. Then ten minutes tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. It will soon become a habit, and as time goes on you can gradually increase the time.
As much as you enjoy take-aways or ten cups of coffee a day or chocolate bars or 2 litre bottles of Coke, they aren't ever going to love you back, and they aren't going to love your body for you. Choose to only put good things into your body, the best food you can afford.
If you can't cook, start with some simple recipes or watch a cookery show. Sign up to a class. Make the decision to quit the ready meals, and if money is an issue find cheap bean, potato, vegetable and lentil recipes that can be made on a budget.
If you don't know where to start, take a look at our recipes or follow our weekly meal plans. If planning is an issue, read our meal planning series.
Nobody's saying you can never have a treat/take away/coffee again, but you'll be amazed how much better you feel if you start eating 8-10 portions of fruit and veg a day, a rainbow of colours and textures, more protein and less carbs.
If weight is an issue for you, the bonus side effect is that walking and eating better will help, all without beating yourself up or starting some punishing and probably self-defeating diet plan too.
Your body really is a temple, look after it!
Embrace the Future
Change is hard, nobody denies it. But if you keep on doing what you have always done, you will get what you have always got and be what you are now. Change, however small, means embracing the future and all its possibilities. You can hold on to your past, or you can create your future, and your own happiness, today.
Every day is a new beginning, so if yesterday ended badly or you didn't eat well or exercise, if everything went wrong, start anew today. Make tomorrow your best day yet. You are strong enough to make a change. You are strong enough to face your problems. Your first baby step can be right now, then take another and another and another.
Embrace the future, smile, and keep looking straight ahead.
The choice is yours. Choose happiness.