Are you happy?
Are you pursuing a goal that you believe will make you happy once you achieve it? Maybe you have thought "once I receive that promotion, lose weight, find a great partner - then I will be happy!" Only to get the promotion, lose the weight, find the partner - and still find happiness has eluded you. Happiness is a shape-shifting emotional state that can change – well, in the time it takes you to read this.
While achieving a specific goal can temporarily make us feel happy, it doesn't necessarily mean that we'll have a happier life. We can successfully achieve every goal on our checklist only to discover we’re still not in that elusive place called “a happy life”. So, we find ourselves in constant pursuit of "the next": the next 30-day challenge, the next diet, the next relationship, the next rung on the career ladder.
Want to know which folks are most likely to describe their lives are “very happy”? Surprise – it’s often the folks we might think of as having boring lives. They are actually pretty darn happy!
Although epic adventures, dangerous exploits, and frequent plot twists make for awesome movies, they don’t translate so well in real life.
What does translate well in real life is following an established routine. A happy life is a process, not a single action. And, the foundation of that process is establishing a routine.
Having a routine, and sticking to it, is the difference between "trying" and "doing". Instead of "trying" to work out more, spend more time with friends, or get more sleep - you actually do these things because they are baked into your schedule.
Ready to start upping your happiness quotient? Let's go!
A routine doesn’t have to be the same boring activities repeated day after day. A routine simply ensures that you have time to consistently perform essential tasks and still enjoy pleasurable activities. A successful routine is a mix of
- activities that we enjoy doing because they bring us physical/emotional pleasure
- activities that we may not enjoy but are essential to the smooth running of our lives.
IT STARTS WITH A LIST
Make a list of everything that has to be done to ensure the smooth running of your life. For most of us, this is going to be a long list filled with tedious tasks such as laundry, bill paying, cleaning, grocery shopping, and car maintenance. These are the necessary, but tedious “little things” that, if not done on a consistent basis can quickly pile up and make life feel overwhelming.
Having a single block of time set aside on a daily, weekly or monthly basis when you attend to these routine tasks is a huge stress reliever and can lower anxiety.
Evaluate what tasks you can consolidate, outsource or minimize.
Look at your list to see which tasks you can combine into a single weekly or monthly block.
For example, if you are spending an hour each night preparing lunches for the next day, you can turn this into a once a week meal prep. Instead of a long weekly grocery shopping trip, explore alternatives such as buying in bulk, food delivery services or check out your local grocery stores to see which ones offer on-line shopping.
Other time savers you can build into your routine include automatic monthly bill pay and using weekly laundry drop off services (which are surprisingly affordable). Don’t be afraid of “outsourcing”. Whether it’s yard maintenance, house cleaning or even dog walking - there is no prize at the end of “I did it myself!”. If you can fit it into your budget, you can find a service to free a little, or a lot, of your time.
The goal is to keep your life running smoothly without spending every day in a scramble just trying to get “stuff done”.
ARE YOU CHEATING YOURSELF?
What do you enjoy doing? Yep...now add those to the list. Even if it’s an activity you haven’t done in a while, write it down.
Does your list include a dozen or more activities that you don't do on a daily/weekly/monthly basis? You might be surprised at how many of these pleasurable pursuits you haven’t “found time to do” recently.
This is the time to change that.
The time you save in getting the "have to's" done is more time you have to make "want to's" a part of your routine. Select as many of these activities as possible to do daily, weekly and monthly as part of your routine. Doing things that we enjoy on a regular basis are as essential to a happy life. Whatever your idea of "fun" is - schedule a regular dose of it!
Your routine should include little bright spots of activities that you not only enjoy doing - but that you look forward to doing on a regular basis.
Life can be messy and unpredictable. Sometimes the best things in our lives are events that we didn't see coming.
Having a routine doesn't mean being inflexible. It means choosing to organize your life in a way where you "get stuff done" without unnecessary stress and have fun along the way.
There are times when even the most carefully crafted schedule gets thrown off track temporarily - and times when our life changes in such a way that we have to sit down and create a whole new routine to accommodate permanent life changes.
But, there are two parts of our routine that are absolutely essential to good physical and mental health. Before changing our routine in a way that results in less sleep and/or exercise we need to stop and remember why those activities should be prioritized:
getting adequate quality sleep
A productive day and positive mood begins by getting a quality night's sleep.
There is literally no substitute for consistently getting in your zzzzz's. If you are dealing with insomnia or want some tips on getting your sleep habits in sync, check out this post on getting better sleep.
engaging in daily exercise
Even if you can't be consistent with the time, a minimum of 30 mins. daily exercise is key to keeping your stress levels down, increasing physical and mental energy, reducing anxiety, boosting your overall health and contributing to a positive mood.
Whether it's morning yoga, a lunchtime walk or an after-work gym session - we've gotta move that body!
We may not be “happy” all the time…but having a “happier life” is very much within our reach.
And it starts with making a place for it on our daily schedule.