“But whatever his weight in pounds, shillings and ounces, he always seems bigger because of his bounces.” (Winnie-the-Pooh in The House at Pooh Corner).
15 bliss builders:
- Remember love
- Lighten up
- Play with kids
- Play like a kid
- Learn something new
- Get out in nature
- Help someone in a small way
- Smile at everyone you see today
- Do nothing for 15 minutes a day
- Pay a compliment to a total stranger
- Make time for your friends
- Watch a sunset or sunrise
- Travel to a new place
- Set a goal, big or small, and reach it!
When we think of living blissfully, we imagine ourselves living life to the fullest with great passion and exuberance. The very definition of bliss is “perfect happiness and great joy.” Bliss is an individual thing. What makes one person joyful is often very different than that of the next person. Psychologists have also found that each of us has an innate capacity for bliss. Apparently, some of us are the “Eeyores” of the world and some of us are the “Tiggers”.
In her book Exuberance, Harvard psychiatrist Kay Redfield Jamison describes joy and exuberance as “teeming in some and not to be caught sight of in others.” She adds, “for a few, exuberance is in the blood, an irrepressible life force. It may ebb and flow, but the underlying capacity for joy is as much a part of the person as having green eyes or a long waist.”
Regardless of where you fall on the continuum, we can all benefit from learning what zaps our joy and what brings passion into our lives. Let’s follow the roadmap below so that you can begin to live your life more blissfully.
“One joy shatters a thousand griefs.”- (Chinese Proverb)
The first part of your journey may be the most difficult as those furthest from joy are usually holding onto past hurts and grieving lost dreams.
While many people are dissatisfied with their lives, they continue to maintain the status quo rather than taking action to change things. They let their setbacks become their identity, meaning “this is my lot in life.”
The truth is, when you keep thinking about your past hurts such as a painful divorce or a lost opportunity, you are opening that old wound again and again. It’s time to quit mourning about something you can’t change. Ask yourself a tough question: “Do I really want to be happy or have I gotten comfortable with where I am in life?”
The road to greater joy involves making a commitment to finally let go of the past and move toward a new chapter in your life. Besides, you have to let go of shattered dreams in order to make room for new ones.
The next part of your journey involves slowing down to take notice of what lights you up. Make a list of the things that are most important to you, what you love, want to be, do or have. You can accomplish this by recalling your happiest moments. Where were you? What were you doing? What friends or family were with you during these times?
Ask yourself: what places, activities or challenges make me feel the most alive? Think about your current job. You should be enjoying what you do as it’s where you spend the majority of your waking hours. If you’re not enjoying your daily work life, you may have already discovered why your life is feeling unfulfilled or ‘blah’. Obviously, you may not be able to quit your job tomorrow, but you should consider taking classes in a field you enjoy while planning a long-term exit strategy.
Pay attention to the signs
Almost every study done on happiness states that being grateful for all you have right now, this very minute, is the single best way to improve your mood. In her book The Happiness Project Gretchen Rubin writes: “Focus on things that really matter. The single fact that you are even here, alive, on this planet is a divine miracle and you should not spend the time you have being miserable. Every moment you get is a gift so stop focusing on unhappy things and spend your moments on things that truly matter to your heart.”
You can begin by making a “gratitude list” of 25 things you are grateful for today. It may be your home, your health, the 15 minutes of quiet you have in the morning before your family wakes up, etc. Focusing on what you take for granted helps bring a more joyful outlook to your life.
Arrive at your destination
In recent years, psychologists have, taken up the study of positive emotions and have found that joy widens one’s view of the world, expands creativity and allows people to meet their fullest potential. As Dr. Jamison states, “Exuberance in life carries us places we would not otherwise go, across the savannah, to the moon, into the imagination.”
It’s time to renew your passion for life. Let go of those past hurts, pay attention to what fills your spirit while appreciating all that you have right now. This is the roadmap for bliss and it’s right there in front of you.
Diane Lykes is a Principal of Synergy Counseling Associates in Albany where she specializes in individual and couples counseling, educational training and clinical consultation. She can be reached at 466.3100 or [email protected].