“Are you always so happy?” a half-asleep coworker asked me one morning as I was laughing in the break room with another colleague.
Um, how should I answer that?
Yes, I’m an optimist. I laugh a lot. My glass is half full. People ask me this question from time to time, but secretly, I find it a little insulting. Of course I’m not always happy. But I don’t want to infect the world with a miserable attitude either.
It’s always bothered me that some people consider positivity naive. This couldn’t be more wrong. Choosing happiness is one of the greatest signs of wisdom. It’s much harder to be light than to be heavy. Look around you. How many people are negative and cynical? It takes a lot of inner work and energy to be cheerful and positive, so most people choose not to do it.
But when did it become OK for everyone to be so negative all. the. freaking. time? It’s not fun or pleasant or sexy. Negativity repels people. And these days it seems as if finding an upbeat soul is more rare than ever. Which is why it is so awesome if you decide to stand out and be one! Here are the tricks I use that make me feel happier than almost everyone else I meet.
1. I forgive—and forget.
I took a workout class the other day and the instructor told us to imagine we were punching someone with the weights we were holding. I couldn’t think of a single person I wanted to punch! How awesome is that? Don’t get me wrong. I have an ex-husband. I have former friends who’ve let me down. I’ve worked for bosses I’ve hated. But I refuse to let them take up any headspace now!
2. I follow my dreams.
This is probably my biggest reason for being happy. I believe in risk over regret. I do work that I love on my terms and am OK with not fulfilling a conventional path even if other people don’t understand it.
3. I don’t expect perfection.
Couldn’t we all just be a little nicer to ourselves? Why do we all have this expectation that we have to do everything perfectly—whether it’s eating healthy all the time or making sure there are zero spelling mistakes in our personal blog posts?
I was eating brunch with a friend recently who was dying to start blogging but her perfectionism had become an excuse. It prevented her from even beginning a blog. She said, “You know what’s helping me push through my block? Reading your blog posts every week—even with the occasional spelling mistake in them. You just do it!” Well, it’s true! I forgive myself when I make mistakes. Because being human is awesome. Heck—your screwups may even inspire others!
The only certainty in this world is uncertainty.
4. I don’t fear change.
The only certainty in this world is uncertainty. Life is a constant cycle of change, and there are no exceptions. Accepting change is critical to finding peace.
5. I don’t compare myself to others.
Comparison is the thief of joy. What does it matter to you what other people are doing? I just try to focus on my own sh*t.
6. I (try to!) talk to myself kindly.
I have affirmations that I use regularly that help with this. If I am tired or hungover or ate too much or spent too much I’ll still say, “You’re doing good, girl—don’t worry.”
7. I stay busy.
I write pretty much daily and ensure I am always working on multiple projects that inspire and challenge me. Aside from my valued downtime, I’m a very busy person. This leaves little opportunity for rumination and overthinking.
8. I say no.
This enables me to do more of what I want to do. Bachelorette party in Las Vegas? Sorry, I have other commitments. Baby shower in Long Island? Would love to but will be mailing my gift instead. Interested in running a marathon with a close friend? I’d rather smoke crack. Saying no gives me time and energy for the things that make me happy.
Words have a very important impact on our mood, our confidence, and how others perceive us.
9. I focus on what I want.
If you do just one thing differently, switch up the words you use. Words matter and have a very important impact on our mood, our confidence, and how others perceive us. Instead of saying, “I don’t want this belly fat,” say, “I want to feel sexy in my new one-piece!” Instead of saying, “I don’t want to be late,” say, “I want to be relaxed and on time.” You get the idea. Always think and visualize what you want. The shift is remarkable.
10. I ask for what I want.
This is a superpower. Whether it’s a better table at a restaurant or the rates for different freelance projects, asking for what I want ensures I feel assertive and free. Silencing your desires is like taking a weakening drug. Honor yourself by asking for what you want—and deserve.
11. I remind myself how far I have come.
If someone told me I would have the life that I have at 32 when I was 25, I would’ve been very happy. I am sure a lot of you would feel the same way about where you are in your life. I remind myself regularly that while I’ll always be working towards something new, I’m still doing well in the present moment.
12. I consume uplifting content every single day (no exceptions).
Self-help books, educational podcasts, inspirational blog posts—how does anyone live without this stuff?!? If I miss a single day I notice it. This helps me live in the present moment, seize my personal power, and not take things so personally. External inspiration also massively feeds internal inspiration. Ready to get started? Here’s my guide to the self-help aisle.
13. I give myself permission to be happy.
One of my favorite books is Bronnie Ware’s international bestseller The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. Ware was a hospice nurse for several years and cared for patients in the last few weeks of their lives. According to her book, one of the most common deathbed regrets was, “I wish I let myself be happier.” Ware says, “Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice.”
It sure is.
Susie Moore is Greatist’s life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets column!