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5 Ways To Be Happier In Our Upside-Down World

02/05/2016 10:57 EST | Updated 02/05/2017 05:12 EST
Dirk Freder via Getty Images

Can you remember when you last felt happy, really happy? Would you like to feel steadier in a healthy, mind-body way that does not involve pharmaceuticals? Is straddling a teeter-totter the last time you consciously considered balance in your life?

Today's topsy-turvy world has us all running madly in every direction. We often feel overwhelmed with what's before us -- and that is, even, before our feet hit the floor in the morning. We are losing our joie de vivre; there is precious little fun and almost non-existent downtime in our lives today. We are masters at multi-tasking; we excel at doing.

Perhaps, it's time to rethink the ways we choose to have a life and the ways we choose to fill a life. The life you are leading now is the life you passing on to your children. Is that what you want?

Here are five strategies to help you refind the happiness, steadiness, and balance in your life:

1. WAKE UP

I don't mean just get out of bed or off the couch, I mean become m-i-n-d-f-u-l. Happiness studies tell us that being mindful is the number one factor in creating a happy life.

If we are mindful, we are paying attention. We can savour every moment. We are no longer robots or automatons beating down the hours as the days slip by. The philosopher Kierkegaard talked about the "tranquilization by the trivial." That's what happens to many of us; we get lulled by all the details and non-essentials and forget what is really important to us.

Remember the 80/20 sales rule. You get 80 per cent of your business from 20 per cent of your customers, but your spend 80 per cent of your time on the 20 per cent that does not yield the results you want. Apply that to your mind. Where do you focus your attention? Do you feed your time and energy into your priorities? Or, like most of us, do the shiny things distract you and you head off in your own trivial pursuit?

Discern what is important to you and place your powerful attention and intention there. Think about it, our choices -- where we place our energies and focus -- determine our days and define our lives.

2. CHANGE ONE THING

Choose one thing you will do differently. Commit to making that change every day for 30 days. Want to do even better? Extend that commitment to 60 days. Really go for the gold, make that 90 days. Seriously, you will be a changed person after those 90 days.

What happens when you commit to yourself and you keep that commitment? You learn to trust yourself. We are very good at giving our word to our boss, our family, and our friends, but what about ourselves? Do we keep our promises to ourselves? Frequently, we do not. Thus, it becomes harder and harder to trust ourselves. We degrade our personal will and lose the stick-to-it capabilities that we inherently have at our beck and call ... with a little retraining.

If we want to be happier, we need to build up some energetic muscle tone and personal will power that says, in essence, I can do this: I want to; I am committed and I have given my word to myself. No matter how tiny the commitment, the dailiness and faithfulness to yourself creates an avalanche of well-being.

Happiness is knowing that you can count on yourself.

3. STOP

I know, it's a unique thought. To be happy and balanced, I suggest you need to stop and allow yourself to course correct and refind your centre:

Yes, stop right now and take a deep breath. Good, now take another. Is it possible for you to take a few minutes and give me 10 deep breaths? Fabulous. Look, your colour is better already.

May I suggest you take a few deep breath breaks during your day? You will bring yourself back to centre, re-oxygenate your body, and tap into the here and now.

4. DO SOMETHING EXPRESSIVE

Do you dance to the oldies in your living room? Do you like to create penguin cupcakes on your day off? Do you find great satisfaction in watering the garden and talking to the birds? Are you the queen of collages and vision boards? Do you make jewelry, paint watercolours, noodle around with song lyrics, play Bach on the piano, sew quilts, design clothes, or love your acting class?

What lights us up and turns us on is important. We all know that life does life. When we get exceedingly busy, those activities that feed, comfort, nurture, and soothe us can slip through the cracks.

Decades ago, psychologist Lawrence LeShan wrote a book entitled Cancer as a Turning Point. LeShan was a psychologist in a NYC hospital; it was the day when the C word was not said aloud. The doctors who gave their patients cancer diagnoses were at a loss of what to do next -- remember this was a long time ago and treatment options have exponentially increased -- and referred their patients to LeShan, almost as a last ditch effort.

LeShan asked his new patients to get out of the waiting (read: waiting to die) room and come into the living room. He asked each person to commit to a certain amount of time every week, whatever was doable, be it one hour or one day, and seriously commit to an activity that fed their soul ... whatever made them happy. Their time was inviolate.

After months of regularly doing what made them happy, a number of LeShan's patients experienced remissions from their cancers. As LeShan's patients prioritized themselves and did what infused them with life force, they became healthier.

5. HONOUR THE BODY

It's time. We all know it's time, no matter how much we struggle, pout, and resist. It's time to be pro-active and support our physical selves. So, let's begin slowly and work ourselves up to a more optimum way of being. We know we will feel much better; we know we feel happier, stronger (in both mind and body), more productive, and balanced. Really, what's to lose, outside of some old bad habits?

The greatest gift we can give ourselves and model for our loved ones is a life well lived.

In today's upside-down world, action is our primary modus operandi. Consider tweaking your idea of action and focus, and try these five strategies -- maybe, one baby step at a time. They are proven techniques with big rewards. They cannot hurt, and they can clearly help. Your life will become happier, steadier, and more balanced -- and isn't that, what is all about?

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