In a stressful time of year, tips to help hold on to happiness.
What is happiness? It’s the eternal question, and one that’s stumped scholars, spiritual leaders, psychologists, artists and more, for eons. But in our modern times, an equally common question may be, “How do I find happiness?”—or perhaps even, “Why can’t I be happy?” Because in a culture that inundates us with information and claims to celebrate connectivity, it’s often difficult to find joy.
Of course, for many, “being happy” isn’t just a matter of choosing to smile or looking on the bright side. Major life events, mental illness, past trauma and an ingrained negative attitude (whether genetic or learned behavior) are all factors in blocking bliss, and ones that typically require professional consult. For the rest of us, though, just plain old life—including world events, work and family stress, and the feelings of anxiety and loneliness sometimes triggered by the holidays—can be stumbling blocks.
“We all come into this world with a life force that drives us to live freely, be ready to love and to create—whether we call it our soul, chi, prana or our authentic self,” says Sarah Vulgamore, director of spiritual wellness at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, MA. “But things happen that make it hard to remember the value of our soul. Our psyche holds onto stories–especially stories of wounds that haven’t healed—and when we cannot remember our own goodness, it can be very difficult to stay positive and see the goodness around us.”
We asked Vulgamore for few tips on how to start on a path to joy.
PLAY Have fun and play like you used to do when you were little. Whether this means running around outside, hopping on the next swing you see or trying one of the now-popular adult coloring books, take a moment or two to be a kid again.
GET CREATIVE Return to a form of self-expression you used to enjoy or learn something new. But be mindful not to judge your creativity with a critical eye—value the expression itself.
CHOOSE BEAUTY Make it a point to put on music that makes you dance, read inspirational poetry, go to a museum, take in a play or walk in nature. Don’t save those things for vacations or the weekend—make beauty a part of your daily routine.
TELL STORIES Whether you feel your unhappiness is due to past wounds that have not healed, or are generally feeling overwhelmed, talk it out. Consider finding someone to talk with who isn’t in your life—someone for whom you don’t have to play a role. Though it does feel good to talk to our hairdresser, professional listeners—such as a counselor or spiritual director—can help you find a path to transformation in a really productive way.
RECOGNIZE There is No “Perfect” Practice awareness of the fact that there is no such thing as “perfect positivity.” The minute you give in to an ideal, you limit your ability to be positive. Expectations have a way of throwing us out of balance with what is true. There is always a balance of light and dark in the universe. Nature shows us that all the time.