This week I was reading, The Blue Zones of Happiness. It prompted me to reflect on what went into cultivating my own happiness over the past decade. I remember a time in my late twenties when I was really miserable. I woke up anxious every single day. My job was draining but I was too scared to quit. I was on a health-healing journey and felt disconnected from everyone. I had no time for rest, hobbies, or passion projects. There were so many things in my life that felt out of alignment.
Throughout this major transitional phase, there were a few life lessons. Yes, eating well, and taking vacations are helpful but I wanted to dig deeper. By looking under the hood, I figured out how to define happiness for myself. This included identifying stressors, both big and small.
As I look back, here is what I learned in cultivating happiness:
Lesson #1: Meaningful connections are powerful. When I overhauled my lifestyle to create a healthier, more peaceful existence, it clashed with all the activities I used to do with my circle of friends. I was choosing sleep over partying, mocktails over cocktails, and cooking at home instead of eating in restaurants. I wanted friendships with health-minded people so I finally made it a priority. Not surprising to learn that these health-minded friends were also some of my most supportive and inspiring as well. If you find yourself surrounded my people that don’t lift you up, try joining a book club, running group, BumbleBFF, etc.
Lesson #2: Work-life balance is important. I’ve learned to evaluate job opportunities based on compensation but also flexibility. More money doesn’t always mean greater happiness. I’ve been remote for the past 5 years and it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. Cutting out commutes adds significant time back to your calendar to do whatever you like. Also, no more poor-lit, cubicle spaces. I strategically placed my desk in front of a window so I can have the sun on my face while I work. It’s amazing what a little change to your environment can do for your daily well-being.
Celebrating small wins
Lesson 4: Embracing the process and savoring small wins makes for a happier life. As a very type A, goal-oriented person, it’s easy to get caught up in the end goal and not the little successes you have in between. I will be honest, this is something I’ve always struggled with but I’m getting better at it. I started creating mini-goals to keep myself in check.
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Lesson 3: Extreme budgeting deprives you of living. When it comes to money, I learned I feel happiest when I’m intentional with my money. I prefer quality over quantity and experiences over material things. Extreme budgets make me feel deprived so creating balance around money has made me happier overall. Side note, my favorite finance book of all time is, “Quit Like a Millionaire.”
Lesson 5: The digital world is draining. When I’m outdoors, I leave my phone elsewhere so I can enjoy nature. Also, I started disconnecting from work by 5:30 pm and from my personal phone at 7:30 pm every night. I leave my phone in another room to charge after hours and use that time to unwind uninterrupted. When it’s next to me, I am tempted. Taking digital breaks each night helps me to feel more rested and also to sleep better.
How to cultivate happiness
Everyone’s path to cultivating happiness is going to be different. For me having a supportive community, learning to celebrate progress, being intentional with spending, and disconnecting has led to a more meaningful and happier life. Sometimes we need to take stock of what our stressors are so we can make changes. It can be as simple as having an inspiring workspace or a walk in the park to improve your day-to-day.
How do you cultivate happiness in your life? Share in the comments below.