Monday, September 15, 2014

Why Staying Happy Needs Practice (and the 7 ways I try to keep my handle on happiness)

photography by chandana banerjee

There’s so much being written about happiness. From books to projects to blogs, the subject of happiness is buzzing around in sunshine yellow circles. With enough being said and researched about what happiness is and how to stay happy, I’m not going to try to analyze it further. I’m sure each of you has her own definition of happy.

But, being an inherently happy person (my mother still calls me her “sunshine girl”) as well as someone who gets bitten by the anxiety bug very quickly (we’re all a bundle of contradictions!), I’ve realized that staying happy (and this is different from ‘being happy’) needs a lot of work. It needs more than just the will to be happy. It’s more than getting wrapped in a haze of excitement and then tumbling town the scales just as quickly. It’s more than 7-hours of chatting and laughing (the parties in the services are for approx 7 hours). It’s more than a few hours of giddy joy or a shopping spree or a bushel of praise (though all of these contribute a little bit towards creating this mosaic of happiness).

Happiness, the one made with solid gold, the one made of sterner stuff, takes practice. It takes effort. It takes a lot of deep breaths and a lot of letting go. It takes self-nourishment and wisdom, heartbreak and love. It takes more than a few dinner parties and social media joy, more than a big bonus and a spectacular car/house/dress/gadget. It can take years and days before you start getting the hang of it.

I confess…this happiness that I’m talking about…the one that’s for the long haul…has taken me a lot of practice and heartbreak and self-care and meditation to finally start getting a hang of. This is what I’ve learnt (and I’m going to keep on learning) about staying steady on happiness, no matter what storms are swirling around, where we are, what people say to me and what my thoughts clamor to tell me.

1. Focus on the kindness. Wherever you might be – in a corporate office with a 14-hour job where you have to make it work with your colleagues or in the service set up where life can be intense in a good or bad way depending upon how your unit/regiment mates are, find and focus on the kindness.

2. Let go of annoyances. I must tell you, I can get very annoyed, very quickly. From conversations going down the road of inane to people talking in a not-so-pleasant way about another to someone trying to give me hours and hours of unwanted advice – all of this and more, strips me of my patience. But now, I take a deep breath and let these trivialities slide over me. Instead of head butting (I’m an Arian and so very like a ram), I go around it, avoiding what I don’t much enjoy.

3. Take a deep, deep breath. Ever since I went into labor 15-months ago, I’ve been doing a lot of this. A fantastic technique to cope with labor contractions, it serves me well even when I’m riding a rough spot.

4. Don’t throw the baby with the bathwater. I’ve been known to see everything in black or white (something that worries my mom even now). Whether it’s a life situation or a person, everything is good or bad. Or so it used to be. Which often made me lose my handle on happiness. But now, I accept that everything and I mean every single thing in life has shades of grey. There’ll be something that I may like and something that I may not. Like two sides of the same coin. As long as I know this and accept it, it’s easier to stay happy.

5. Find things to nurture happiness. Seek the gold in your days, in the people around you, in the place where you live. My days as a mother of a 15-month-old, military wife and a writer who works part-time are super packed. I know now what’s it like to be literally bone tired. But before I let the overwhelm build up, the exhaustion to catch up, for joy to slither into a puddle of ordinary, I try to do small things to nourish happiness. Read a few pages of a book when my son is napping or my husband is at home to look after him, go for a walk alone when I can, watch a movie at home with my husband, share a special meal with people we like spending our time with, focus on the good part of military life.

6. Keep your eyes on the goal, in this case, happiness. Like a person focused on a goal, I’ve trained my sights on joy. Of course, there are still days when I get annoyed at something or someone, when I let anxiety scuttle over me, when I worry about something that may or may not happen in the future. But now, I think about it for a little while and then ask myself what I need to do to shake this off and stay on the steady route of happiness.

7. Be grateful for what you have. Gratitude plays such a huge part in staying focused on joy. I’m always dashing of gratitude prayers for what I have (I wrote about it here). I also remind myself of our brush with heartbreak and the wound that’s still wide open inside me (you can read about it here). This makes me tenfold grateful for today. Somehow, heartbreak has that effect – it polishes the gleam of joy to such an intense and beautiful shade. It turns it into a pure, clear light that you walk through almost every day.

 This is how I’ve been practicing the art of staying steady on the route called joy. What about you?

Good Morning Monday + Happy New Week!

#joy #happiness #MondayBlogs #mondaymotivation #gratitude


  1. Fantastic tips! I am generally a very happy person, but anxiety can quickly take over. I think a lot of naturally happy people are like that...we are either one extreme or the other. It took me a long time to get over that and to find the balance, it is a struggle every time I feel anxiety coming on! But, as I get older it gets better! :) Great post!

  2. Kate - thank you! I'm so relieved to know another happy person who used to get anxious too. So, you know what I mean by all the work to stay happy.

  3. Great post.I too am working consciously on points number 1,2 ,4.Very nicely written.:-)


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