5 ways to be happy today

As is probably already clear, I can’t say enough good things about the 12-step spiritual program I embarked upon nearly a year ago. Mostly, I remain humbly impressed by the whole process because a year ago, I felt like the last person on the planet who could ever be happy or satisfied. I felt like I was standing on the outside looking in at everyone else who seemed to know how to live fully, while all I could manage was enthusiasm about a good dry white wine, pretty new shoes, and illicit sex.

This program emphasizes gratitude a lot. The daily regular kind. But “gratitude” is one of those words that puts people off (cranky sweary people like me) so let’s leave that aside for now.

Here is a list of 5 ways to sneak gratitude back into your life so you can experience a new kind of happy.

1. Appreciation for yourself – Take a few minutes today and look at yourself in the mirror. Quiet the makeover demons and the commentary and look at yourself with loving acceptance. Imagine you’re your own loving mother (pretend if you have to) and say this: “You are doing a good job. I love you.” Now don’t giggle or roll your eyes. If you can’t appreciate yourself.. if living in your own company is like living with a passive aggressive prize-fighter, is it any wonder you can’t find any peace and harmony?

2. Small is better
– It’s one thing to watch those commercials of starving children in Africa and be glad you have 2 cars and a nice suburban home. It’s quite another thing, and something much deeper and more satisfying to take time to appreciate your health, the sky, fresh air, running water and the like. In a time when many of us think nothing of fussy $5 coffee, it’s easy to forget, to be completely blind to the small miracles happening every day (“miracle” is another of those coffee-spitting eye-rolling words).

3. Practice, practice, practice makes imperfect – I don’t know about you, but if I have to see another perfect celebrity mom with sweet 6 pack abs frolicking on the beach in her bikini 2 seconds after giving birth, I’m going to spit. Physical perfection is no longer safely confined to teens and 20s, now even moms have to have it. Many of us fail to realize that we’re impacted by all this perfection-seeking, even though it’s shallow and silly. It’s like a funhouse mirror, unreal but strangely fascinating. As a closet perfectionist, I used to tell myself that it wasn’t worth even bothering to try new things unless I could be perfect at them. If you can let go of your unconscious striving for perfection and realize that Angelina Jolie is a freak of nature, life will get easier.

4. Something greater than you –
God is a tricky subject. Many people I know reject religion and spirituality with it, but by doing so they miss out on an important avenue for greater happiness. If we’re all there is, the pressure is on, baby, because it’s all on our shoulders. No divine help needed, thank you very much. I still don’t know exactly what God is, but I’ve come to accept that there is something out there (universal love, a force, other people) that is more powerful than I. And so sometimes for a few minutes a day, I feel like the mantle of responsibility is taken off of my shoulders and I can relax and breathe.

5. Prayer or wishes – Many of us get caught up in the concept of prayer as a formal, robe-wearing, knee-leaning activity. But prayer can be a wish blown into the universe. It can be as simple as “I wish to be more loving today” or “Whoever is in charge, would you please help me not to kill my husband for forgetting to empty the dishwasher” or “Please help me stop crying.” A wish whispered into the wind helps us feel less alone. And sometimes these things are answered.