The pursuit of happiness is one of those golden, age-old things, but for most of us, it's easier said than done. When we're dealing with daily tornadoes of work and math homework and spilled coffee and nosebleeds, it's easy to push all that happiness stuff off until tomorrow. Which, you know, usually means we're pushing it off forever.
But that's not doing your brain, your body, or your community any good, according to Deborah Heisz, editorial director of Live Happy magazine and author of Live Happy: Ten Practices for Choosing Joy. Heisz has made it her mission to make happiness (and the psychology behind it) easier and more applicable to everyday lives.
A mom of three, Heisz has found that what she calls "happy acts" are the key to creating peace in her own life, but she finds joy in everything she can.
"I happen to have the best two 'jobs' in the world," she says. "First, building Live Happy and helping our readers and followers build happier lives. Second, being a mom to three amazing children ... they are a constant source of wonder in my life."
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But finding joy in other things is just a matter of where to look. Here are tips she applies to her own life and shares with her readers:
- Foster positive relationships. "Spend time with people and cultivate positive relationships by sharing genuine compliments and engage in honest conversation," she recommends. "Remember that listening is one of the greatest gifts you can give to another person."
- Take care of your own health. "Get enough sleep, eat right, move around several times during the day," Heisz recommends. "Everyone thinks of these things as necessary for physical health, and they are, but they are also necessary to maximize your own well-being."
- Practice gratitude. "For me, simply reminding myself of all that is good in my life is usually enough to pull me out of a funk," Heisz says."That said, remembering that being happy isn't having one perfect day after another is important. All of us have legitimate challenges and losses in our lives. It is okay to feel sad or angry or helpless -- for a while."
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- Think in terms of engagement, not "balance." For Heisz, that means keeping a schedule and sticking to it. "If my calendar says go for a run, I don't have any guilt about going for a run because I have it planned," she explains.
- Engage with something you love that's NOT work or family. "I have the best job in the world and the best family, but you can burn out even if it is a good thing or something you enjoy," she says. "Personally, I fish, I run, and I read (I also watch too much TV -- but that is another story). We all need to shift gears."
- Teach these values through demonstration. "One of the compliments I frequently get is that my children are very polite," Heisz says. "The reason they are polite is that we say 'please' and 'thank you' at home to each other. Every day. Every time. In other words, we model the behavior we expect. And remarkably -- it works."
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- Don't reserve love for people you know personally. Heisz says that out of all the research she worked with for Live Happy: Ten Practices for Choosing Joy, Barbara Fredrickson's research from Love 2.0 stuck out the most. "In general, it really conveyed to me the idea that every human interaction we have on a daily basis can be positive or negative -- and the positive ones are the ones that contain love," she says.
- Share happiness. "They don't have to be big things," Heisz says. "Share a smile. Buy a cup of coffee for a stranger. Open a door. Thank your spouse for picking up their socks. Thank your children for clearing their plate. Send a thank-you note. All these things are easy to do, and if more of us simply do them, the world will be a happier place."
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