“I was so happy when I was younger.” Who do you think said that to me recently?  An elderly friend? A person facing a 40th birthday and pondering mid-life?  Nope. It was a 13-year-old and my heart nearly broke. The world is her oyster, even if she can’t see it. Her life is truly a blank canvas at this point, waiting for her to design it. But if at age 13 she thinks her best years are behind her, it’s time to help her create dreams, change negative thought patterns, and put into perspective the world’s expectations of her.

I completely believe that we are meant to be happy and that we have a high level of control over whether we are or not. That doesn’t mean I’m constantly sunshine and butterflies because contrast (my word for problems) happens but when it does, how we respond and how we frame it has everything to do with what happens next.

Happiness at any age requires us to focus on what makes us feel good. I’m not saying we can forego things that need to be done and I’d never advise my clients to tell their parents that they can’t take out the trash or make their beds because that doesn’t bring them joy! However, there are things we can do (and things we can stop doing!) to make our lives easier at any age.  Here they are, in no particular order:

  • When you’re feeling sad, don’t listen to sad music or watch heartbreaking content online or on Netflix. You get more of what you think about! Find something that lifts you up, makes you laugh, or shows you the good in the world.
  • When you’re feeling uncomfortable in your body, nourish it with something healthy and go for a walk. As a recovering stress eater, I fully understand the instinct to stuff your face with Oreos but I can tell you, you’ll feel even worse after. Eat an apple, thank nature for providing such delicious gifts, and move your body.  You’ll feel better!
  • If you get a bad grade (or bad performance review) remember that it isn’t indicative of your worth as a human being – it’s a snapshot of your performance in a blip of time and is often subjective. See what you can do to improve and decide if you even want to. You’re not always required to be perfect or the best. Sometimes “good enough” is good enough!
  • If there are people in your life who really drag you down with their negativity, it’s your responsibility to either figure out a way to handle them that doesn’t affect your vibe or kindly move on from them. It’s not your job to make them happy – in fact, you can’t. Happiness really is an inside job.
  • Stop bombarding yourself with constant information. It doesn’t matter if you’re reading, watching, or listening. Even good news and funny things can be overwhelming and add to anxiety!  Our brains were not meant to be constantly stimulated and I’m fairly sure this is causing anxiety in everyone. Go for a walk without headphones. Sit in silence and breathe, meditate, or pray for a few minutes every morning. Just stop the firehose of information. Your brain deserves a rest.

To paraphrase one of my favorite mentors, Abraham Hicks:  we are born happy and joyful until we start doing the things that make us unhappy.  You have the power to live more peacefully today. How will you respond?