In our family … general happiness is a big deal.
I am lucky – we are a pretty silly, joyful bunch – I have very strong memories of my grandparents and parents goofing around, wearing wigs, dancing, blowing bubbles, having water fights and generally having a rare old time, whenever we got together or just at dinner time.
I also remember that during the hard times (and there were quite a few) my dad would remind us how the situation wasn’t permanent and things would get better – he also taught me to always be optimistic.
My Dad always used to see the positive in things and it is one thing about him that I am proud to have inherited. You can read more about my amazing dad here if you would like.
I try and do the same – not just because I would like my kids to have overriding nice memories of our life, but because I think it builds resilience, helps you to follow your passions and be successful.
I make sure my kids are well aware that happiness does not come from buying things, beauty, wealth or popularity. It comes from the big stuff like loving who you are with, making memories with them and leading a life you want to live.
Apparently according to the scientific research about happiness -just 10% of our happiness is due to our external circumstances.
I find that interesting ..
90% is based on our inner environment – of which 50% of our happiness level comes from our genes and 40% comes from intentional activities so you can train your brain.. making Happiness a Habit if you like.
So acknowledging that I realise my family are priviledged – none of us suffer from chronic mental illness or depression – we have a safe place to live and know about the basics of a healthy life aka eating well, exercising and getting good sleep. This is also not some sanctimonious shite either – no-one is perfect but if you just want to change your mindset a bit and need a few ideas of how I try and remain upbeat and pretty happy – here are 17 of my Happy Habits
17 Happy Habits of Mine
1. Feel & Express Gratitude
This is a well known one and one that I do every day both on my own when I get up and in my daily life. I try and express gratitude to family and friends for their love, support and just making my life a nice place to be. I teach my daughters to wake up feeling grateful for what we have and to express their thanks for simple things – making a beautiful dinner, sister doing her hair, helping tidying up etc. Now they have started to express gratitude off their own backs – spontaneously and it is pretty wonderful to witness.
We have a wee saying in our house – Gratitude not Attitude.
2. Unplug and Be Mindful
3. Be Kind, Generous & Compassionate
I do believe kindness is free – sprinkle that shit around like glitter – I think kindness, compassion, empathy and generosity all go together.
I really believe this and I witnessed my parents’ kindness and generosity as a kid – I try to be kind in all my interactions no matter how brief – they say that it is contagious.. it is also free .. like manners.
No one became poor from being kind.
In a study by scientists at the University of British Columbia, participants were given envelopes of either $5 or $20, and instructed to spend the money on themselves or on someone else. The result? Participants who blew the bills on others were happier than those who’d spent the cash treating themselves—regardless of the amount.
This is apparently due to the serotonin hormones that are produced when you do something for someone else – so reach out.
Everyone is going through something – it’s nice to just acknowledge their struggle and try and put yourself in their shoes. I also find it makes me thankful for my own situation -no matter how dire it might seem in your inward looking bubble.
Perspective is a wonderful thing.
4. Dance it Out
We dance a lot in our house – spontaneously – randomly – it is a family thing – my grandparents used to break out into a waltz right up into their 90s – it is a lasting memory of mine them dancing. My 71 yr old mother is an incredible dancer and favours South American vibes. I find it very healing. When Dad had his first stroke I took my Mum to Prince and we danced for a good 4 hours solid.
Family Friday Disco night and random nights in the kitchen are big in our house and we put on hip hop old school, big band Ella Fitzgerald or ballet – I never fail to feel joy and happiness after a good dance.
In studies done in Germany and at the Univesity of Derby, UK, dancing helped to reduce stress, lift spirits even lower levels of depression.
5. Enjoy the Little Things
I have often been told that I have child’s enthusiasm for things – I take it as a compliment and think that is because my parents and grandparents showed the same amount of interest and curiosity in a beautiful plant, delicate butterfly or going down a water slide as we did as kids. Even now – aged 45 I love the simple things in life – a spectacular sunrise or rainbow has me pull over the car and we all sit and watch. Sitting listening to the extraordinary birdlife around us here in Tropical Queensland or the smell of coffee (that I haven’t made) really brightens my day.
Just appreciating nature – art – literature – a good book – great food.
I once heard a great story of an optimistic old lady in her late 90s who after a prolonged bout of serious illness had become rather downhearted – when her daughter said ” how are you feeling ?” she said ” I was feeling as if I had had enough until today when I had the most amazingly delicious peach and I felt glad to be alive ! ” I love this.
I think this is also linked to living in the present – which again I have gotten better at since my dad got sick. When I asked a wise lovely friend of mine who has a child with chronic illness how she got through her tough times when it all seemed so devastating she said to me “ I think I just try and live in the present – and enjoy the moment as much as possible” I have been doing that more since then and it definitely makes for happier times. This also links into mindfulness (above) and not worrying of having anxiety for the future or things you cannot change. Acceptance of certain situations which I am always trying to be better at.
My favourite thing in the whole world is just spending a long weekend with friends and family talking, making food. laughing, having a swim, dancing, reading and sitting watching the stars. Perfect.
I love hearing my kids say after a really simple day of playing outside, having a picnic, going to GoMA, coming home on the citycat and scootering round the park at dusk to say ” That was the best day ever” .. melts me.
6. Have Ideas Above Your Station
This is a very Glaswegian way of expressing that concept of having big ideas and aiming high. In my work and life I always aim high – I was taught never to limit myself or my goals – my parents (and grandparents) always supported this and said you need to open your mind to bigger possibilities.
You might fail, so what – you get up and try again. Persistance and resilience.
This is also about pursuing things you really want to do in life. Bit by bit. I love what I do and I will keep pushing forward bit by bit to get STEELEMyStyle to the place I would like it to be. I do have a grand vision – some may say delusion but I will keep moving forward and upward because it makes me happy doing this.
This is not dreaming – that is just wishing – I tell my girls that dreaming and wishing won’t get them where they need to go or what they want to achieve. They need to be pro-active in doing what needs to be done to get there.
7. Eliminate the Negative From Your Life
When others are mean to my kids or myself I really try and not speak negatively about those people. It is hard sometimes, but I tell my children ” Happy people are not mean – they have to make you feel small because they are really sad inside.”
I do actively try to avoid drama or toxic people. Even if your ego or inner voice is wanting to engage in insecurity, jealousy, envy, resentment whatever..you can train your brain to be happy for other’s achievements and successes. It is more fun being a cheerleader and I enjoy it.
Of course, there are some people who are just not very nice or are “takers” as my dad used to say – the types that take advantage of people’s good nature whether in business or real life. If their behaviour is out of line – I don’t bitch or stew but I will let them know straight up – giving them the benefit of the doubt. Some people don’t realise their behaviour is out of line – no-one taught them how to behave with integrity and when someone tells them they apologise, realise and move to change it. But if they are abusive, refuse to accept it or see that they are out of line then I know they are not my type of person and I will distance myself from them immediately.
I avoid all female company that is based on bitching, two-faced behaviour & judgemental behaviour. I love being around great women, but if I meet someone like this or a group of women like this I just make a point of not spending time with them again. Gossip is part of this – I don’t listen to it – spread it – buy weekly mags or watch shows that engage in it.
It is a waste of time and steeped in shitty emotions. NO thanks.
I avoid negative people as much as I can – whether they be at work, school, life etc I deal with them when I have to, but I only choose to hang out and spend time with people I like that are all about the good stuff.
There are so many wonderfully inspiring people that I don’t have time to hang out with because life with kids is busy – why would I waste time with people who are bitter, twisted, spread negative vibes everywhere and don’t have my value system.
Frankly, I am too old for that shit.
8 Avoid worry & Look for solutions
I like how in Tropical Queensland they say “Too Easy” instead of “No Problems” because it has been proven that by changing your inner dialogue and seeing a problem as a challenge or obstacle that can be overcome or as an opportunity makes for a happier outcome.
I remember a friend Sandie gave me this chinese proverb 15 years ago when i started working for her that stated “If a problem can be solved there is no point in worrying. And if a problem cannot be solved, what is the use of worrying? ” I still have it above my desk.
I have always tried to do this at work and in my life and I try and teach my children to focus on a solution. For example, when we moved to Queensland 5 years ago purely to be around to help with my beloved parents’ illhealth I gave up my company that I had started to build and was thriving. We moved here with no job and Queensland is not where you move if most of your work comes from the Film, TV & Entertainment industries, which are primarily located in Sydney. But by employing the “it’s a new chapter, a new beginning – an adventure..” attitude we have carved out a great life here – I have added a new career to my arsenal of skills and our happy simple little life is one one that has a strong emphasis on family life as opposed to my children having to fit into the timetable of a harried Marketing & Comms Company Director with high profile clients and lots of interstate and overseas travel.
9. Get Frozen and Let it Go
Let go of the little things in everyday life that drive you nuts. Don’t waste your energy on them. I used to really find this hard – especially if it related to work issues. But once you have dealt with the really big stuff like illness, cancer and death I have found this much much easier to do – I find it much easier to let the day to day annoyances and irritations just disappear and I don’t start arguments with my husband about the small shit. It means nothing.
Good practice is to ask yourself whether this will be relevant tomorrow, in a month or even next year. I also help my daughters try to not sweat the small stuff.
I often launch into a tuneless rendition of “Let it Go” the Frozen song when someone is upset because someone else messed up their picture or didn’t give them the lego etc.
“Worry and anxiety are a misuse of imagination” I tell them – Dan Zadra’s words not mine.
In terms of not holding grudges it is trickier in that I don’t forgive and forget and pretend it didn’t happen. If someone I am not particularly close to takes advantage of my easy-going nature then I let it go and move on. I usually choose not to associate/work with with that person again but I do not waste any energy on going over that emotion or the negative emotions surrounding it.
If they are just a good person who makes a mistake then that is easy – I totally let it go and give people another chance – relationships are always in flux and by not holding grudges or resentment it allows things to blossom and move forward.
I also think this is the same for marriage – compromise is everything and I am lucky to have been in love with my husband for 22 years. We don’t always agree but we are open in communicating our feelings and move on with the unspoken rule that nothing from the past can ever be brought up in any future argument.
10. Hug it Out
I read that Neuroeconomist Paul Zak, recommended at least eight hugs a day to be happier and enjoy better relationships and according to Psychotherapist Virginia Satir we need 4 hugs a day for survival, 8 hugs a day for maintenance and 12 hugs a day for growth. Hugging produces oxytocin a hormone release in response to touching.
Obviously I have watched those weird Louis Theroux and Dawn Porter “Hug Weekends” with horror – I would never ever go to a hug school, but in our house we all make sure we give each other 3 hugs a day = 12 whoohoo !
Also my daughters (9 and 5) are getting to the age where there are sometimes disagreements…. so instead of getting involved in the drama of it all, separating people and sending people to rooms I have now changed tactics and will sometimes say – ok “Hug it Out” – this has been working well. Also when my 7 yr old is speaking in that rather rude tone (that drives me mental) after school instead of getting cross I now say – Are you ok ? Have a drink – some food and lastly do you need a hug ? The answer to the latter is always YES.
This has led to a happier household.
11. Enjoy Other’s Successes and Praise others
I really love when good people are soaring – I do not need it to be my successes at all – call it living vicariously – I don’t care but whenever someone I know and like is doing well I love being their cheerleader. It makes me happy. In fact, even when i don’t particularly like someone and they are doing well, I appreciate people who are good at what they do, have integrity and am happy for them and their achievements.
I try and make sure my children feel that way too about their friends’ successes.
Be a cheerleader for others. If feels great.
12. Take Responsibility and Be Honest
Don’t blame anyone else for how your life is. That is what I try and do and what I teach my girls. Own up and take the blame when you make a mistake – never blame others and use that experience to change your behaviour for the better.
This bleeds into not lying or being duplicitous – we praise honest and integrity in our house – everytime – in work and home. If I work with someone who turns out to not have much integrity I will avoid that person – no matter how lucrative it may be for me workwise.
This is also about being honest about who you are, not who you think you should be.
13. Hang out With Great people & Maintain those Friendships
I really like all my friends- old and new. I have a handful of friends from school, university and BA – (Before Australia) whom I love from afar. The friends we made when we arrived in Australia back in 1996 immediately made me feel like I had found home – people that were cut from the same bit of cloth as me.
Those years in Sydney are some of the happiest of my life. When we moved to Brisbane we were devastated about leaving those friends, but we have been blessed with an incredible small group of married friends who welcomed us into their group and I cherish their support and friendship. Since then, I have met beautiful women through work, school and beyond and do try to make the most of those people as much as is feasible with the daily busy schedules we all have.
Whenever I hang out with my friends even for a short period of time I feel immensely happy, energised and inspired.
We talk about the real shit and laugh – sometimes we just hang out together , drinking tea, reading magazines, watching the waves, around a fire together – just being in each other’s company .
14 Practice Self Love
This sounds weird but I will explain.
I make a point of feeling happy and content with who I am , what I look like and my little achievements – the daily successes. When I had two small ones under 4 and was breast-feeding etc I used to high five myself if I managed to have a shower.
As well as being about appearance in that I am happy with how I look as a 45 year old Mama of 2 who has a well-lived face- full of laughter and experiences.
I talk about this in detail in this blog post but it is about appreciating who I am, and stopping to congratulate myself as opposed to looking to others for approval or validation or praise. I love that saying “Walk around the house like a Fucking Champion” – I do that a lot which usually ends up being a dance session.
15. Be Silly – Laugh a Lot
Humour is a big thing in our house – when I met my husband the fact that he is kind, smart and makes me laugh was the trifecta of true love for me.
I love a good laugh and do so a lot – sometimes I even watch comedies when things are tough.
Seriously – a wee dose of 30 Rock, Ab Fab and Scottish comedy Still Game have got me through real hardship.
Also I was taught not to take myself too seriously – my parents never did. Being able to laugh at yourself and be silly is something I love in people.
Most of our family and friends are able to be really really silly – and I encourage it in my children.
16 Wear What Makes You Happy
I wear what I want when i want – clothes that make me feel good and happy on a daily basis – no matter where I am going.
I like helping others to do the same. Click here if you need help
I show them what looks good on them and how to express their love of monochrome, sparkle, colour, pattern or sleek black in the best possible way.
Some people say to me – I am going to come to you when i lose 5 or 10 kilos and I say to them – do it now – embrace and love who you are now – look in the mirror and feel happy with yourself now and it will push you forward to achieve that goal because you are already in the right mindset.
17. Listen to Your Happy Music
Music is extremely powerful. I remember when my dad had his strokes one of the things we loved was having a music therapist come once a week who played music from his younger days and to see Dad’s very evident enjoyment was really heartening.
Apparently researchers from The Group Health Institute found patients who simply listened to 5-10 songs that made them happy had the same decreased anxiety symptons as those that got 10 hr long massages.
For more surprising health benefits of listening to music – read
Here is my Happy Song –
Mine is a tie between
Roy Ayers Everybody Loves the Sunshine
Jill Scott Long Walk
What are your “happy” songs ?
In fact what are your Happy Habits ? – let me know on FB, IG or email me