A while back I was talking with a friend about my pillars of happiness: 10 reminders that help me lead a happier, healthier life. She told me that it was a new way of thinking for her, the idea that happiness could be cultivated and made intentional.
For me, learning to be content with my life stemmed from acknowledging my feelings and honoring my needs, my natural tendencies and rhythms. Here are my pillars:
- Release the negative
- Express gratitude
- Eat healthily
- Take a multivitamin or iron supplement
- Get outdoors
- Check for tiredness
- Trust in my value
- Be productive
These pillars have been developed over many years and are, first and foremost, reminders. When I’m feeling a bit off, a bit unhappy, I review the list: Have I been taking a multivitamin or iron supplement? Do I need a nap? Have I gotten exercise or been outdoors lately?
The pillars are also open to continual adjustment and improvement. For example, I just added “connect,” acknowledging that I have a tendency to hermit but that getting out of the house and reaching out to others often feels better.
Many of my pillars of happiness are pretty self-explanatory but, for the few that aren’t, I’ll add some clarification:
Releasing the Negative
As I’ve mentioned, I had a fairly negative mindset growing up and so, when I’m in a bad mood or not feeling so hot, my negative thoughts could spiral out of control. When that happens, I remind myself to let go and re-focus on the positive. That may involve meditation, breathing exercises, journaling and, on occasion, the Sedona Method. Being productive is another way to change my mood for the positive, and so I recently added that reminder to the pillars as well.
Hubby and I took a healthy eating workshop in 2009. It started with an elimination diet, where we removed common allergens from our diet for several weeks and then examined how we felt as we added them back slowly and methodically. From the workshop, the hubs determined that he has a dairy sensitivity (this has subsequently been verified by testing) and I determined that eating refined sugar was painful.
How we eat continues to be a process of refinement. While I don’t believe there is just one healthy way to eat for everyone, I do believe there is a healthy way for each of us to eat individually and that it is our responsibility to identify the fuels that make our bodies function best and to honor that, if we want to feel our best.
When I don’t have art and beauty in my life, the world is a bit grayer. Therefore, I must create! Watercolor painting has become something of a meditative practice for me. It helps me stay present in the moment and acknowledge that I can’t control everything. The paint and water move as they will, and the paper accepts or repels what it will.
I came to watercolor painting through experimentation with many art processes: jewelry making, glassblowing, lampwork beadmaking, origami, jade carving, you get the idea… Watercolor stuck because I enjoyed the process and there was an ease to it. I now take a weekly watercolor class to ensure I get in regular creation time.
Checking for Tiredness
When I get really tired, one of two things happens: I get amped like an overtired 3-year-old or gremlins take over my mind. Before today, this was probably something only my husband knew about me. Neither of the above is an appropriate response to fatigue and so, if I’m feeling out of sorts, my pillars of happiness list reminds me to consider how tired I am. It might be nap time or bedtime.
I can be a world-class procrastinator and avoider, watching tv, reading novels, and generally avoiding things that seem difficult or undesirable. But—and this is a big but—when I self-medicate this way, I feel like crap afterward. Therefore, my list reminds me to DO SOMETHING—anything!—that can be deemed productive if I’m avoiding. That could mean doing the laundry and dishes, writing a new e-course or blog post. It’s almost impossible to feel poorly when you’re helping others so, as a last resort, there’s always volunteering to rake the neighbor’s yard or help someone carry her groceries.
Stay tuned to learn how you can develop your own pillars. In the meantime, do you have any questions about mine? Please let me know in the comments.