10 Steps Toward a Happier You

First, let me say that I'm not an expert on happiness. Nor am I a life coach, therapist, or mentor. What I am is someone who has struggled with depression, made worse with the onset of menopause, and someone who has had to take charge of my depression and learn ways to feel happy. With the help of years of reading and researching, an incredibly supportive husband, taking the advice from people who are experts, and trying different methods, happiness is now a daily part of my life and thoughts.

Put one foot in front of the other and step your way toward happiness:

1. Know Yourself: You can't be happy if you don't know who you are and what you want. Self-awareness is critical and can be a really tough thing to accept. You may not like everything you see, but self-awareness is the only way to appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of your own character. Until you come to terms with who you are you can't know what will make you happy. I recommend the Define my Day journal. I hated journaling until I found this and it's awesome at keeping everything in perspective. I don't have any affiliation with this company, I just absolutely love mine!

2. Accept the Imperfect: Most of us, especially Moms, like to make everything okay all the time. But it is okay if the dinner burns, or if you don't get around to dusting this week, or the flowers for your daughter's wedding are not the exact shade of purple you ordered. Recognize that in the big scheme of life, these things are trivial. You can always order a pizza or dust the coffee table tomorrow. As for your daughter's wedding, the success of her marriage isn't going to be affected one way or another if the flowers are lilac instead of lavender. Keep everything in perspective.

3. Invest Your Time and Energy, Don't Just Spend It: Don't drift through your day. Learn to recognize all the things that make you happy, even the tiniest moments of joy, and spend more time doing that, whatever that is. Lose yourself in something, and you'll find happiness there.

4. Don't chase impossible dreams: Set realistic objectives. I love to paint, but I was often jealous when I saw paintings from people who had real talent. I'm a reasonably good mimic, but I've had to come to terms with the fact that I don't have the innate ability or training to produce truly amazing, original artwork. For a long time, this really weighed my spirit down. Once I accepted it, I was able to enjoy the act of painting much more and feel a pride in my art that I didn't (or wouldn't) feel in the past.

5. Stop Standing in Your Own Way: Your life might actually be perfect already, and you're just not recognizing it. Your happiness is your own responsibility, and it's up to you to take a step back and ask yourself, "What does happiness look like to me?" I beg you, stop defining happiness by holding your life up and comparing it to someone else's. Create your definition of happiness and start doing something every day that takes you closer to it.

6. Be Okay With Being Unhappy Sometimes: Unhappiness is real and present in everyone's life, but it doesn't have to dominate it. We aren't meant to be happy all of the time. Once you realize that, you won't get bogged down in the feelings of unhappiness. Simply accept it as one emotion that will soon be replaced by another.

7. Celebrate All Success, No Matter How Small: Did you just make your first perfect soufflé? Finished that 1,500 piece jigsaw puzzle? Completed all your work this week before the deadlines? Take a moment and reflect on how good that feels! It's okay to feel proud of these accomplishments (even ones that might seem insignificant to others), and taking thirty seconds to feel good about what you've done can add up to minutes or hours of happiness each day.

8. Stop Worrying!: Think back. Did worrying ever solve the problem? Only action solved it, not the worrying about it. You always have choices, so take the actions you can, ask for help if you can't, or let it go if nothing can be done. It will sort itself out one way or the other. Good or bad. Even if it's terrible, at least now you've identified it and can take action.

9. Find Your Tribe: Invite people in to meet the real you. Even though I have well-developed social skills, I'm actually very introverted, and I've been lucky enough to find friends that recognize that and are okay with me going months at a time without wanting to socialize. They are my tribe. Your tribe will comprise of the people you choose to connect with. This may be your family, friends, or colleagues. Finding your tribe means finding the people you feel comfortable around, the people you can talk to about your daily triumphs and struggles, and they won't judge, shame, or mock you for it.

10. You're Not Responsible For Anyone Else's Happiness - including your spouse or your kids. They have to find their happiness just like you do. Support their happiness as best you can by loving and accepting them, but ultimately whether or not they are happy is not in your control. Work on you, and it will benefit everyone in your life.

Just as you can create your happiness, you can create your unhappiness too. Which one you choose is entirely up to you.

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