How to be happier in the New Year

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Can you recall the many New Year’s resolutions you have made through the years?  Lose weight. Exercise more. Spend less. Save more. Eat better. Learn something new. Travel more. Read more books. Spend more time with family. Start new project. Change project. Finish project. The list goes on. I bet you they all boil down to 1 of 2 things, or both. Be a better person. Be happier.

There’s something about happiness that I discover more and more as the years go by. It is not a destination. It is not a place to get to that requires pain, sacrifice or effort.  It is not something attained or achieved. (What if you regain the weight? What if you lose your money, job, house, spouse, partner, kids, health? Do you lose your happiness as well?)

Happiness is something that we create in the present moment. This puts our happiness squarely on us, not on someone or something external. It is something that we choose when we come from a place of personal empowerment, when we come from a place of trust. Trust that the Universe is so generous that it wants us to be happy now, without denying or delaying it for some future date. Trust that there is enough for everyone because grace is infinite and without limits, because God’s love itself is limitless. And trust that there is no fear of failure because the Universe is always on our side.

If happiness is not a destination, if it is not achieved by doing, are there things that we can do to empower ourselves to create joy in the present moment? Certainly. And here are some:

Less resolutions, more reflection

The reason why it is difficult to keep up with resolutions is because of the self-imposed pressure. Oh, God. It’s already (insert year). I’m turning (insert age). I haven’t done this and that. I’m running out of time. My family, friends and colleagues  already have this and that. If I don’t do it now, it will all be too late. What do I have to show?

Pressure comes from fear, guilt, lack and feelings of unworthiness. They are the worst motivators.  Ditch the belief that you are under an artificial time pressure (brought about by age, calendar years or clock time). Breathe. Empowering life transformations have their own timeline. And it is never too late.

Give yourself moments of gentle but honest self-reflection. Sit down, pause and answer important questions. What do I really want?

Follow that train of thought without personal judgment and without placing limitations upon yourself, then ponder further questions. What is no longer working in my life? What changes have I been putting off? What do I need to let go of? What is holding me back, and why? Are there small but positive changes that I can make towards what I want?

Empower your mind

Start your day with positive affirmations. The moment your eyes blink open in bed in the morning, notice your 1st thought. If it is something like, “Oh, God. Another day. I’m so fed up and exhausted. How am I going to get through this?”, then you seriously have to break this bad habit.

Your mind is your tool. Use it to your advantage. Your mind will constantly churn out thoughts anyway, might as well think good ones. Say, “This is going to be a good day. I receive all the support I need. I am safe. I am calm. I am creative. I am empowered. My endeavors are always successful. People are inherently good and kind. We all deserve good things, and there is more than enough for everyone.”

Whenever you get stressed, take a breath. Inhale. Exhale. Check in with your thoughts. If you are spiraling back into negative thinking, reverse it immediately. Think empowering thoughts. Post positive reminders where you can see them (your bathroom mirror, your cellphone wallpaper, your computer monitor, your office desk, your night stand).

End your day with gratitude. Make a mental review of the small and big things that you are grateful for. Soon, you will become the master of your mind, and you will see that, ultimately, your thoughts create your reality.

Clean up the contents of your life

When I say contents, I am referring to all the stuff that you fill up your life with.  The basics, but not limited to these – your social media feed, your possessions, your relationships. Why is it important to clean up these things? Your outer world is a manifestation of your inner self. If you see too much negativity, toxicity and clutter in your physical world, then that is the kind of energy you are attracting into your life.

How many things in your social media feed do you actually enjoy seeing, watching and reading? It is your choice if you wish to unfollow certain people if their posts do not add any positive value to your life. Instead follow people and pages that inspire you and give you delight. Think of your interests and follow them. Do you like art, architecture, animals, sports, food, fashion, health and wellness, travel, interior design, gardening, crafts, cars, music? Fill your news feed with things that make you happy. This is part of creating a new physical reality.

Sort out your closets, cabinets, desk and possessions. The stuff you no longer use or need, say thank you to them for having been part of your life. Now that you no longer need them, sell, donate or give them away to people who could actually use them.

When you clear your life of clutter, you cut off chords of attachment and fear. You are actually making room for new blessings to come into your life. You are declaring to the Universe that you trust in its infinite grace so much that you are willing to let go of things you no longer need.

Contents also extend to the people in your life. Are there people who have become too toxic, needy or negative? Are there people who weigh you down and prevent you from soaring gloriously in the journey of your life? Are there people whose values have simply gone off in a different direction from yours? The kind of people you want in your life right now is your choice. If you choose to let some relationships fade away, send gratitude to these people for having been part of your life. There is a time, place and reason for everything and everyone. Then trust that the Universe will bring new people into your life, people whose vibe resonates with yours, and people who will support your new journey.

Click the link to go to Part 2, Taking charge of your own happiness

 

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The Pleasures of a Table for One

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Savoring a cocktail in solitude. (Photo by Paul Henson)

It doesn’t matter if you’re single, married, with partner, with family or with lots of friends. Dining out alone is something good to do once in a while. Think about it as taking yourself out on a date. You’re not there to please another person – you’re doing it for yourself. If you take the extra mile to show your spouse/partner/date/friend a great time, don’t you deserve to treat you and yourself alone to something special every now and then?

But why is the prospect of dining out alone terrifying? Just the thought of it gives some people cold sweats and palpitations. Most would shun the idea. Mabuti pang mag-take out na lang kaysa kumain mag-isa (better to just grab food to go than eat out alone.) Too embarrassing, they’d say.

You walk up to the waiter to ask for a table for one, and you get a quizzical look. And when you’re finally shown to your table, you feel as if all eyes are on you. And you’re imagining what people are thinking: Poor thing. All alone. No one to share a meal with.

Guess what. They’re not thinking that. You are.

That’s you thinking you’re not special. That’s you thinking you don’t deserve good things by your lonesome. That’s you being afraid to be alone with your thoughts. Well, if you can’t enjoy being by yourself, you won’t be any good in the company of someone else.

There are many benefits to enjoying a lovely meal by yourself. For one, service is faster. The servers are more attentive to you, and when the chef is finished preparing your food, it gets to your table in a flash even before you’re halfway through your cocktail. There’s no need to time the food service, unlike when you’re in a group.

Dining by yourself also gives you the opportunity to disconnect, to be off the grid, even just for an hour or so. It’s a great time to set aside your mobile device and just revel in the bliss of having this personal time and space. You can let your thoughts wander. You can enjoy your food and wine as leisurely as you want. You can even have dessert and espresso. Go ahead… No one can stop you.

Being alone encourages you to be centered, to be in the zone. You set aside distractions and you become one with the moment. This is something that’s so difficult to do in our hyper-connected and multi-tasking world. When you’re free from all the noise, you notice things that you take for granted.

The flavors of the food become more pronounced. You appreciate the delicate balance of sweetness and acidity of the balsamic vinegar, the earthy quality of the truffle oil, the lovely combination of bittersweet chocolate with mint.

It’s a good time as any to people watch when you’re dining alone, but discreetly, I should say. You notice the nuances of relationships. Those two are just on the awkward getting-to-know-you stage, those two are intoxicated with their blossoming romance, those two have been married for 20 years. Those two dudes are best friends, but those two are secret lovers, for sure. That table is celebrating a birthday, that table is having a baby shower.

You also notice that not everyone in that restaurant is automatically happy just because they’re with someone. It can be a big family, a group of friends, a couple, but they’re not talking. Their eyes are transfixed on their smartphones, fiddling away aimlessly. Or their eyes are just wandering with a blank, expressionless look.

Perhaps the best part of having time for yourself in a restaurant setting is the gift of being able to love yourself. There’s no need to feel guilty or insecure. You deserve to treat yourself because you’re special, and because you are your own best friend.

In that brief period of solitude, you can come face to face with your innermost thoughts and be as light and as whimsical as you want, or as introspective as you wish. And by the time you ask for your cheque, you will realize that dining alone is not so bad after all. It’s actually good, and is something you should have started doing sooner.

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(Follow the author on twitter.com/Paulhenson or Instagram @heaveninawildflower)