Why does happiness seem so fleeting?
One moment, you’re blissfully cruising along and the next you’re stuck in a death spiral of worry about your career, your love life, your too-busy schedule, some much-needed car repairs, your unused gym membership, a Facebook argument…the list goes on and on.
For most of us, the problem is that we misunderstand how happiness works.
Long-term happiness doesn’t come from some miraculous external source. It comes from inside you. If you’re waiting for happiness to just show up in your life, get comfortable — you’re going to be waiting for a long time.
Fortunately, you can take action to cultivate more joy in your life. By practicing this 5-minute routine, you’ll discover how to create and sustain your happiness, even in difficult situations.
1. Breathe (30 seconds)
Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath. With each deep inhale, observe how your body moves. Exhale and allow your muscles to relax as any unnecessary tension floats away. Notice what thoughts come to mind as you complete 3-5 rounds of deep breathing.
2. Welcome Your Emotions (30 seconds)
How do you feel, right now? If you feel happy, relaxed, loved, and well-rested, that’s wonderful. Notice how those emotions manifest themselves in your body. You may feel a warm openness in your chest or a full-bodied sense of ease and grace.
On the other hand, you might feel sad, tense, lonely, and tired. Maybe you don’t really feel anything at all. None of these feelings is bad. Each emotion is simply part of the human experience.
When we experience “negative” feelings, most of us have the urge to push those feelings away. Resist that urge. Instead, observe how your emotions make you feel. Mindfully notice any sensations of comfort, tightness, pain, or pleasure. Since nothing is permanent, you will likely notice that these sensations change over time.
By observing your emotions and accepting them, you embrace your capacity for calm mindfulness, even in the toughest of circumstances.
3. Smile (30 seconds)
If smiling is easy for you, give yourself 15-30 seconds to enjoy the sensation of a broad, toothy grin. Does anything change? Do you feel lighter? More relaxed? If you want, feel free to laugh at the absurdity of smiling to yourself. You might be surprised how your body reacts to a good laugh.
But if you find it difficult to muster a smile today, that’s alright. Bring a hand to your heart and feel the warmth on your chest. Imagine that you’re walking down a busy street when you encounter a great friend or close family member. You’re so excited to see them that you smile broadly as you embrace in a much-needed hug. Hold this image in your mind as you smile for the next few seconds.
Even the smallest smile can change your mindset. Allow yourself the time you need to enjoy this happy moment, free from worry or distraction.
4. Visualize a Joyful Occasion (1 minute)
Recall a past event at which you felt happy. It doesn’t matter if the event was last week or years ago, what’s important is that you remember how you felt. Even if the details are fuzzy, you can remember how great it was to be overcome with joy.
Give yourself 2-3 minutes to visualize the moments of this past event that stand out in your memory. What did you see and hear? You may even remember your feelings in such detail that you feel them again now.
5. Visualize Your Future Happiness (2 minutes)
Pick a future event for which you’d like to cultivate a sense of joy. It could be an event where feeling happy will be easy, like a date, a friend’s wedding, or a vacation. You could also select an event about which you feel anxious, like a presentation, or an important meeting.
Visualize yourself waking up on the day of the event feeling confident and at ease. Smile as you visualize as many details about the event as you can guess. What will the space look like when you walk in? Who will be there? Imagine yourself performing successfully, whether you’re speaking to a group, negotiating, or having a powerful conversation.
It’s alright if you don’t know all the details of this future event; an educated guess is all you need. If you start feeling worried or nervous during the visualization, simply pause the visualization, smile, and get back in touch with your capacity for calm joy.
6. Smile and Laugh (30 seconds)
Whether you had an awesome visualization session or a nerve-wracking one, give yourself one more smile before going about your day. If something unexpected, funny, or shocking happened, feel free to laugh about it.
Sometimes happiness visualization is easy. Other times it is hilariously difficult. No matter what, you benefit from the practice of feeling happy. With time and practice, the joy that you cultivate through visualization will start to stay with you throughout the day.
What’s standing in your way?
We all struggle to feel happy sometimes. I have my tough days too.
On days like that, I’ve found it incredibly helpful to identify — specifically — which negative thoughts are holding me back. Whatever is going on, whether it’s a difficult professional situation, an argument with a friend or loved-one, or political turmoil, it’s better to acknowledge the problem rather than to try to run away from it.
So, take a moment and ask yourself:
What’s standing in my way today? What is the main thing that’s keeping me from feeling happy?
Send me a quick email at email@example.com and let me know what’s blocking your happiness. I look forward to talking soon!