Most of our conversations, my brother never fails to ask me why I have my heart set on a life in the Mid-Atlantic region. The truth is, I do miss the South, especially the cooking and weather but life in Maryland has proven to be happy, especially with the current habits and passions I’ve picked up. I mean, we all have different explanations and definitions of what happiness is and what it means to each of us. No matter what challenges, crossroads, and lifestyle changes that come across in our lives, at the end of the day, our happiness is what truly matters most.
These habits of mine also act as anchor activities to keep me both happy and sane:
1. Practice self-love.
Self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth. When you stop thinking about how other people can make you happy and practice self-love, you will soon realize what it feels like to be happy alone and be able to learn to love and accept yourself from the inside out. For example, I’ve created a zone in the house called “No Judgement” on what is being said about yourself and on what you eat. This is my happy place where I connect with myself and let others inside my weird bubble.
2. Make time for silence.
Silence is a precious commodity nowadays—as is its bosom buddy, stillness. Not to boast, but I can go a whole weekend without uttering a single word to anyone. This experience taught me to make room for self-awareness and to be in control of my actions, rather than under their control. Being aware led to being in control. Since I’ve mastered this aspect, my next challenge will be to clear my mind in meditation. I hope to visit an Ashram one day, so I might as well try to get a jump start on this.
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”
― George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons
Reading takes you places, need I say more. Books are always there for you and never hurt you. As an adolescent, when I moved to a teeny tiny town, I would devour Roman and Greek Mythology after the other and ended up reading everything at least twice. I would then spend hours at my local library (Summer Reading Program), often sitting on the floor cocooned by the solace of new friends around me. I read my way through the children’s classics, then graduated to fiction histories and authors such as Phillipa Gregory, Tamora Pierce, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and afterwards to grittier books by e.g. Jhumpa Lahiri, Alexander Dumas and Margaret Atwood, as well as Jane Austen, Haruki Murakami and George R. R. Martin. In addition, there is a close thrift store that has an impressive book section, where books vary from $1-$3, which serves as therapeutic shopping for me. At this point in life, reading and shopping for good reads, still offers me an escape from reality and the opportunity to continue learning.
4. Writing about the good and bad in life.
The scientific research on the benefits of expressive writing is surprisingly vast. Studies have shown that writing about oneself and personal experiences can improve mood disorders, help reduce symptoms among cancer patients, improve a person’s health after a heart attack, reduce doctor visits and even boost memory. Every day we experience challenges great and small. Carve out one hour to analyze and synthesize the story of these difficulties in writing, giving yourself a blank page to explore how you feel about the hardships and what you hope to make of the situation. So let the words flow.
5. Volunteer. Help others.
Volunteering is the right thing to do — we all know that. And studies show that it boosts happiness; those who work to further causes they value tend to be happier and healthier, experience fewer aches and pains, and even live longer. Any activity is good activity. Recently, I volunteered with the DC Capitol Area Food Bank and enjoyed sorting canned goods, lifting boxes and socializing with other volunteers about our tasks. Startups like VolunteerMatch are letting you enjoy more of the give-back goodness without the pain of open-ended searches. This app is a life and time saver.