The last 200 meters were the hardest. The soil was loose so if I took one step, I slid half a step back. It was freezing cold and I could hardly move my fingers. The wind was strong and did not make things easier. I was exhausted. It was a lot harder to breathe at this altitude but I was almost there. I knew that if I kept putting one foot in front of the other, I was going to reach it. The top of the volcano.
Suddenly I could see the top. I made it. There was no one there yet and for a while I was alone on the top with a billion stars above me and magnificent views. On the horizon was a small stripe of orange light, announcing the new day. It felt special. After a while, more people arrived and together we watched a magical sunrise. On the way down the sun was shining on my face. Could life be any better? I felt the happiest person alive.
Climbing that volcano is one of the hardest things I have ever done but standing on that top watching the sunrise, was one of the best moments of my life. That moment I experienced a feeling of true happiness which is unforgettable.
I use this experience as a metaphor. In order to be happy, you have to make an effort. I had to climb that volcano first before I could see the sunrise from the top. And that is how it works in life, you need to create your own happiness. No one else is going to do it for you and it does not come for free. You need to work for it. Make the right decisions and make the right changes. You have to figure out what works for you and what not.
Since the day I promised myself a life of happiness, I have learned a lot. I have experienced and discovered. Things have changed and my life is different now. I found out ways to create happiness and made them a part of my everyday life. They work, they make me feel good. Happy! I am not saying they are universal rules but they work for me and maybe they can work for you too. There is no harm in trying. Here is my list.
1. Get enough sleep
Yes, you can probably survive on six hours of sleep a night but the mornings are much nicer when you have had eight. When I have had too little sleep, my head feels like it is filled with cotton wool instead of brains. I do not like that. I prefer my brains. When you have had a good night sleep, you feel rested. You will have a lot more energy to face life and to enjoy it.
2. Eat healthy
Nowadays, we are used to eat a lot of redundant crap. Eating is not about getting the right nutrition anymore, eating is about…I do not even know what it is about. A lot of things we consider as food does not provide the energy we need. Worse, lots of it is sucking energy because our bodies are not equipped to process it well.
Stop eating fat and sugary snacks regularly, your body does not need them. It is only companies that make you think so. Eat a varied diet. When you make up your menu, think about what your body needs. Protein, minerals, vitamins and carbohydrates, create a good balance. Buy fresh products that you can recognize, no powders and little porcessed food. Last but not least, do not skip breakfast! It is a very important meal so allow yourself the time for it.
Just like we eat a lot of crap, we think a lot of crap too. Repeating thoughts, unnecessary thoughts, it is a lot of blabla. All those thoughts are blocking out a lot of happiness. Would it not be nice to shut up our minds from time to time? No wait, why not every day for at least a couple of minutes? You can practice this by meditation. Try it, you will see it will improve your life. You will feel much better, sharper and aware.
4. Be grateful
If you are not grateful for the things you have in life, enough will never be enough. You will never be satisfied and you will always be on an exhausting quest for more. Life is flashing by when you are not grateful, combined with a feeling of numbness. Before you know it, you will be old, greedy and disappointed. Practice to be grateful, enjoy the things you have and learn to appreciate your life. Discover the peace of gratitude.
You need to move your body. That is why we got it in the first place. Your body is a big part of who you are. We do not want to neglect that part, do we? You are capable of great things and it will be a waste not to explore your capabilities. And besides, exercising makes you fit. Energy creates energy. If your stamina increases, so does your quality of life. Do you know that jogging raises your level of endorphins? That is the stuff that makes you happy!
Leave your comfort zone and see the world. It puts things in perspective. It is really healthy to see what is on the other side of the hill once in a while. It shows you that there are more ways to live a life. You do not have to live the same life as your neighbors.
Also, it makes your world a bigger place and it learns you how to deal with unfamiliar situations. Traveling makes you a flexible, knowledgeable, open-minded and strong person. And if you find yourself in an unhappy situation, you can always escape it for a moment by closing your eyes and traveling back to the places in your memory.
7. Challenge yourself
What happens if you never challenge yourself? Life will become a dull routine and you will become too scared to leave your comfort zone. Days will be the same and the world small. You might not even realize it but you will become unhappy. At least not as happy as you can be. You need to push yourself out of your routine sometimes to grow as a person. Reach your next level, discover new things, make dreams come true! Feel alive! The harder the challenge, the sweeter the victory.
8. Read and learn
No, not the newspaper but things that are actually useful to you. Read books about subjects you like, subjects you are interested in so you can improve your knowledge. Maybe you become an expert in an area and you can start making money with something you like. And it is fun to learn! It is good to practice your brain. Just like your body, your brain also needs exercise. We do not want a lazy brain right? Oh and having knowledge also makes you an interesting conversation partner. What about fiction? Well, read an hour of fiction before you go to sleep and you will sleep much better.
9. Create routines in life
When you create routines in your life, you create an organized life. An organized life means no chaos, a clear mind and more space for other things. With consciously chosen routines, you are living life instead of life is living you. You are in charge. Besides that, you teach yourself to do the things you actually want to do. With routines you will become a much better goal achiever and achieving goals will make you proud…and happy.
10. Break routines in life
Ok, I just said it is good to create routines but also so you can break them. A too organized life is dull. You need to jump out of the box sometimes. It is exciting! Go crazy when you need it. Leave your daily tasks for what they are and have fun. Press that reset button whenever you feel it is right.
11. Focus on things you want to exist in your life
Our complicated mind works simple. Actually very black and white. It is this or it is that. When you give space to one thought, there is no room for another one at that moment. You do realize that you are in charge of your own thoughts right? Good! If not, practice meditation. This means that only the things we pay attention to, will exist in our lives. So if I focus on the things I like, life will obviously be much better. Although there will always be impulses from outside you cannot totally control, it will make a huge difference if you only try to make space in your mind for the things you like.
12. Try to ignore negative things
Of course, it will always suck when you get into an accident or when a loved one dies. You cannot get around it, you have to deal with it. But I am sure we have all created some negative things in our lives which does not necessarily have to be there. Addictions, fears, bad habits, wrong friends, things that are standing in the way of our own happiness. It is good to have a good and honest look at our lives once in a while and to write down all the things we do not like. All the things that prevent us from being a better and happier person. Write them down and forget about them. Keep trying this every day until they are gone.
13. Practice your skills
If you like to be better at something, you have to practice. It is not rocket science, it is just how it works. Becoming better in something you are passionate about is very positive. When you practice, your connection with your passion will grow stronger. Your skills will improve and that will make you feel better as a person. Confident! Maybe you can start entertaining people with your skills, maybe you can start helping people. Maybe you can even start making money with your passion. I do not know, I am just saying it can happen. Maybe you come to the conclusion that you do not like it after all. Good, you can start doing something else! A side effect is when you practice something, you give it space in your life because you are focused on it. There we have point 11 again.
14. Forgive yourself and others
No one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. You cannot change the past but you can control your future. Do not dwell on things, forgive yourself and others and move on. There is no need to let guild or anger stand in the way of your happiness.
15. Live NOW
There is nothing wrong with thinking about good memories from the past, or making plans for the future but you should not forget about the present. Be present and live now. Be conscious about where you are, about what you do and how you feel. Do not time travel to much with your mind but instead, enjoy the moment.
One more thing about that journey to the top of the volcano. The fact that I had to make an effort to reach the top was far from a negative experience. I enjoyed it! Perhaps the journey itself was the actual highlight. The trail was rough but it took me through a beautiful landscape. There were many ascents and descents during the way but they were just a part of the journey. They brought me to my goal. I guess in life it is quite the same.
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