We struggle with war, poverty, global warming, rising crime rates, and a barrage of news, hardly any of it good. We hear of people getting sick, getting divorced, or dying. Celebrities have fabulous lives, but you don't, and the "if only's" threaten to win the day: "My life would be sweet if only I were richer, more famous, thinner, younger, older, had a better job, lived in a different city..." But happiness is all around you. And it doesn't care how much money you have or the circumstances of your life. Click through this gallery of tips on how to look on the bright side and find the happiness in front of you.
When Off to Bed, Forget the Fight
Maya Angelou's brother gave her a painting with the instruction to hang it so that it was the last thing she and her husband saw before going to bed at night. So if they were in the middle of an argument, they could look at the painting and say, "Oh, stop. Whatever it was, whatever you said, forget it," and go to bed with a twinkle in their eyes.
Create a Love List
If I'm feeling low, one of the best ways I know to perk up is to make a love list. It's simple, just a list of every single person I love. Then I follow it up with another list of all the people I know who love me. I can stash it in a pocket to take with me on a tough day, or just keep it in mind as I get on with my life.
Find Lost Friends
I recently took some time to follow up on the impulse I get every week or so to seek out people that I've lost touch with over the years. I don't know what we did before the Internet. It took only a little time to shoot a few quick emails around the country, and within 24 hours I had baby pictures, recent histories, and writing clips. But the interesting thing was that all three people I got in touch with had been thinking about contacting me a couple of days before getting my email. It was as if I had sent out a psychic detective to people I once had a very close connection with, and before I got around to following up, half the work had already been done. So the next time you think, "Hey, I wonder what ever happened to So-and-So," you might surprise them by tracking down their email address and telling them you got their psychic message.
I know, I know, your mother was right when she told you not to gossip, but what about a new take on it? Why not get together and have a feel good gossip party, where the "omigosh" is not so much about scandal, but about celebration of the great things in your friends' lives?
Find Your Own Fountain of Youth
If you want to keep a spring in your step and a twinkle in your eye, all the while keeping senior moments and other more serious memory lapses at bay, one of the best things to do is to change your routine. Drive a different route to work, switch your right and left hands for everyday activities, eat dessert first, and wear your pajamas to work. Wait, no, that last one will get your family giving you worried looks for sure?
Did anyone ever tell you the glass is half full? Somebody told me once it depends whether you're pouring or drinking. Seriously, though, if you can figure out how to get optimistic and stay that way, you're home free. I'm not saying your problems are over, but simply looking at the world through rose-colored specs means that half your problems will look like exciting challenges, and the other half you'll probably realize aren't problems at all, just facts of life.
Go Out Dancing
Salsa. Two-stepping. Line and square dancing. Hippityhop, as my grandmother likes to say. Even if you're way past that college/post-college phase of going out clubbing to drink too much and hook up with hotties, you can still have a blast going out with your best friends for a night on the town. Loud music + exercise + adrenaline + mild social anxiety = guaranteed mood elevation.
Go to the Playground
I love to watch kids on the playground screaming with laughter about the silliest things. Completely invested in make-believe worlds, totally in their bodies, and overflowing with sensory awareness--that's the way to live
Wish Upon a Star
The best time to see shooting stars that I know of is the Perseid meteor shower, which happens sometime during the second week of August. At its peak, on a moonless night away from city lights, you can see one to two shooting stars every minute. Imagine all those wishes coming true.
Create Your Own Soundtrack
In high school my friends and I used to sit for hours making mixed tapes for each other. Now it can all be done with a couple of mouse clicks, but the impulse is still great--to share the soundtrack of your life with someone you love. As you play it, it becomes shared background music for both your lives.