Amongst the cat videos, instagram burgers, and arm chair politics of social media, I’ve increasingly seen a plethora of motivational quotes. Some from not so obvious sources. It strikes me that more and more people are searching for one basic thing – Happiness.
Personally I love a bit of Steve Jobs and my old man used to just say to me “Mark Twain” – Not so helpful when the internet wasn’t even invented, but I’m making up for it now. Anyway, what with great speeches, films etc, It seems that there’s not so much a bandwagon, but a hunger for this being fueled. You could say Happiness™ is trending. I am by far a candidate for life coaching, although recently some things I have long suspected have been right, almost – and I have also been inspired by things, events, even social media, to rethink that age old question. I used to think happiness would be Georgia Salpa and a Ferrari, and for a while that rock n rolla lifestyle was certainly enlightening, there was definitely no Rumi in my supercars back then. But then my world came epically crashing apart with a meltdown a few years ago. I used to be the guy that was so emotionally intelligent I was almost impenetrable, if I got upset my mates would just laugh and not take it seriously. There’s no violins out here, however my private but hardly secret battle with bipolar was exacerbated over the last twelve months. I have personally endured quite tragic turns. It made me realize that only in the face of adversity to we really know those close to us and indeed ourselves. Luckily I had help, good doctors and an excellent therapist, family, but most of all my friends. Old friends and amazingly relatively new friends. Whilst I have been on the path to proper rehabilitation, (and this is still a work in progress, but going well) I managed to remove my head from my arse and have been blown away by some of the wisdom of my friends. Some of these people have been through major adversity. My mum has battled Parkinson’s disease, yet she never complains – she even makes beautiful tiny teddy bears with her crippled hands. I’ve had friends with horrific cancer that bounced back, more than once. I’ve watched from afar as one friend nursed their girlfriend back from a brain injury, positively stating her updates as “Breathe and Trust” – her girlfriend’s tattoos. Then there’s mates that have battled drug problems or depression and still manage to give me sage advice. So, I guess the point is, my journey had made me self obsessed and myopic, I guess I felt the world owed me a living. But all I ever wanted to be was happy. I don’t know it all, and I am still learning, but I wanted to salute my friends and family, that actually have inspired me to be happy, again.
This is a basic list of thoughts of how I think you can help your own self, to be happy.
Hopefully you won’t need it – and it’s not something that will cure clinical depression.
But if just one of you is feeling just a bit down and this helps, then that would make me happy.
OK, Here we go, 12 rules for the everyday well-being seeker. These are not iron clad rules, they’re not about personal relationships (you’d be pretty fucked if you took my advice on that) neither is it about being “successful” (see my last point). It’s just some thoughts to make you smile.
1. It’s all about you.
Remember when you’re parents told you the world didn’t revolve around you? Well, now it does. You create your own universe that you inhabit, and view uniquely through your own eyes. Remember you are you, and everyone is equal in the grand scheme of things. Never let anyone make you feel unhappy. If this is something that goes on for a prolonged period of time – Remove yourself. You therefore define what makes you happy or not. Sometimes, being selfish is positive, if you’re applying it to your mental well-being. We are all a work in progress, but you need to understand yourself and be responsible for yourself, your thoughts and your actions. Know yourself first and be happy with yourself before you look too much into other people. Fit your own oxygen mask first, before attending to others.
2. Enjoy your self.
Learn to enjoy your own company, trust in yourself and believe in yourself. Listen to your head or your heart or whatever visceral clues work for you. Smile, it’s easier than frowning. Do things that make you laugh, watch youtube clips or old comedies. Laughing will release endorphins in your brain and make you actually feel happy. Laughing also increases the oxygen flow to vital organs – and it’s good for you!
3. Live in the now.
It’s good to have a plan, but in terms of happiness, worrying about past events or future events can be stressful and as pointless as each other. Yes, we can learn from our mistakes, but sometimes you have to move on. Concentrating the mind on the moment, and feeling clear will give you serenity.
Reach deep into yourself, be confident, and try not to let bad past experiences overshadow new nice ones. Appreciating the now, and taking life one day at a time, as far as your mind goes, will make you happier. If you keep re-reading the last chapters of a book, how will you ever get to the new chapter – write the next chapter for your self. One of my philosophical friends says “Just be, and the rest will follow”.
4. Ask yourself “What do I want to achieve?”
In the everyday world, sometimes we can go to extremes, where we set ourselves up to fail. Rather than set a mandate that is materialistically or reward driven, think about how you want to feel and why. Understand what happiness means to you, and it will become tangible and achievable, not elusive or changeable. Maybe you’ve got it already, you just didn’t realize.
5. Like the Murphy’s – don’t be bitter
This can be a hard one, particularly as not many of us are Buddhists. But I believe this is one of the most rewarding and liberating feelings or states – that will produce happiness.
Seeing the world for what it is, and not blaming others or the world or even yourself for things not working the way you wanted them to. Remember what was said in Rule 1, everyone has their own universe, reasons, fears, rational and irrational motives for doing what they do. My friend James, a personal trainer, talks about atoms and their interaction with each other. He describes positive interactions as “bouncing”. You’ll be a lot happier in life if you bounce off others rather than stick to them or get stuck by them. So, to be happy, keep bouncing. Or as I’d eloquently say shit happens, move on.
As with all these thoughts, I’m talking about the everyday. There may be extreme reasons for you to dislike someone, you may have suffered abuse, violence, you may have been betrayed, disappointed or whatever your cardinal sin is. However, everyone has their reasons, and there’s two sides to every story. In the everyday, find it within you to understand, don’t hate anyone – it will only eat you up. Step forward, give others a chance and make it their problem if they can’t do the right thing.
6. Shut up, listen and learn
A massive note to self. Everyone else knows something you don’t. That’s the insight into their world. Nobody ever learned anything whilst talking – so listen to others with a view to understanding, not necessarily just thinking about making the next point. Try to keep things as a discussion, not an argument. Interpersonal relationships may be more complicated, but talking, listening and understanding is key. Talk in a way people will love to listen, and listen in a way people will love to talk. You’ll find most people inspire you, the same goes for music and films etc – if you really listen, you then hear the meaning. Watch a film more than once, and you might well get something different out of it. We don’t often get the chance to have the same conversations, however crucial – so listen!
7. Keep it simple
Happiness is often about enlightenment, which comes with the realization it’s the simple things in life that make the difference. As my little friend says “It’s all about the massively small things” If we appreciate the simple things, I think it’s easier to be an optimist. Those views are aligned somehow. Bob Marley said “You can get wet or feel the rain on your face”. An optimist will see value in simple things, first. I find comfort in treating my home like a hotel – clean, crisp sheets, towels and a great shower makes me happy. De-cluttering our home is easy. Imagine applying the same logic to your thoughts. Have a cup of tea and slow down. You’ll feel happier.
8. Be inspired
Dale Carnegie probably said “if you want to be interesting, be interested.” I believe the same goes for being inspirational. It starts with looking at the world in wonder. As a creative person, it’s easier to see the world as metaphor or allegory. But it really is all around us, you just have to stop and look. If you’re unhappy music that evokes memories can be sad, so don’t listen to it. Listen to something new or uplifting instead. Read a book, go for a walk (Anyone in London is always within an hour of a great park or space). There’s loads of stuff that’s free, so there’s no excuse. Look after someone’s kid, teach them to ride a bike, swim or to think for themselves. Anything that makes you look at the world through someone-else’s eyes will inspire both of you.
9. Everything in moderation
People with mental illnesses whether they realize or not, will often self medicate. medication can become addiction. Addictions can come in all shapes and sizes. It’s not healthy to rely on anything, whether it’s coffee or cocaine or needing to feel loved.
Get yourself into a positive routine. If you smoke and drink, then at least balance it with exercise. I’ve seen mates that have been shall we say very Rock n’ Roll, turn their life around with extreme exercise. Find what flicks your switch in a positive way, you’ll find the endorphins released will be amazing – and maybe make up for what you cut out or moderate.
10. Stop over-thinking
A seemingly 21st century affliction is the over thinking of things. I’ve been guilty of this, and it’s something that just creates stress in the long term. Stress, for me is worrying about something you have no control over – stupid. If you find yourself stressing, then consider home therapy or meditation. If you can do the lotus position, you probably won’t be reading this bit anyway – but you don’t have to do yoga or sit on a chez-lounge to have therapy. Find something that relaxes you that’s repetitive or requires very little concentration, like cooking or cleaning – that will allow you to meditate. Write a letter, poem, draw something, try water colours or paint the bathroom – that’s therapy.
11. Be generous
This isn’t about being first to the bar or buying everyone, everything. Yes, you may get a warm glow from giving a homeless person a coffee or for helping others, but never expect a reward. For some, it will never be enough, they won’t complain about it, but they might not appreciate it. Don’t worry. Always do things because you want to, and see what happens. True generosity is doing something good for someone that they may never know. Be generous with your time, thoughts, friends, ideas and love. You will be happier.
12. Honor your family and choose your friends wisely
So, by now you’re thinking in the now, exercising and meditating with pasta. Once you’ve worked on yourself, you can get more out of your relationships with others. Unless your Dad is Fred West then you should always honor your parents and love your siblings. Us English are pretty shit when it comes to family, we’re not as passionate as the Italians for example. But family is family, and as the Godfather said…well you know the rest.
True friends, will always be there. The number of friends you have depends on you, and there’s no cliches or formulas. Whatever works for you. I’ve got mates that are incapable of taking life seriously, which are excellent fun. Others are philosophical, emotionally intelligent, talented, hilariously funny, acerbic, attractive, intellectual and just bloody amazing.
They’re all reliable, and lots of them constantly inspire me. Friends should get you, support you, be there for you, forgive you, actually like you – but you need to give it back ten fold, when you need to. That way everyone moves forward, everyone’s happy.
Surround yourself with positive, brilliant people and pretty soon you will become one too.
So there you have it. I found this post cathartic and therapeutic, maybe making your own list will too. Remember, if you, or someone you know is actually depressed, anxious, or clinically ill as opposed to just a bit down – then make sure they go and see their GP, doctor. There is no shame in being depressed, and most of the time a doctor can help out quickly and easily. If this is the case, leave google alone and go straight to your doctor.
As someone on the internet sort of said “The key to happiness is not an issue, the door is always open”!