Our desire for happiness, real authentic, consistent happiness is the one thing we all have in common. New clients come to me pursuing “success,” “better relationships,” “ways to make more money,” “more effective ways to lose weight,” etc. I always ask them why they want the things that they are pursing and the universal response is, “To be happier”. I then reply with, “Then why wouldn’t you ask me to teach you to be happier if that’s what you really want?”
The reason most people are in constant pursuit of happiness is because they are pursuing things that they “think” will make them happier, not true ways to increase life long happiness.
Here are some questions I ask my clients to ask themselves on a daily basis in the pursuit of happiness. I know they have found them useful, and hope you do too!
1) Am I expressing love to those I care about on a daily basis?
Expressing love through thoughtful little gestures is one of the most rewarding, fulfilling, happiness enhancers possible. Whether it’s putting a sweet note in your child or partners lunch, sending a friend a text that simply says, “I am grateful for you and your friendship,” or doing a task for your co-worker to ease their burden one day, you will not only make the day of someone your care about—you increase the happiness of your own day.
Once you embrace that principle, I promise you, your relationships will grow and so will your happiness quotient.
2) Am I making good choices with what I put into my body?
As an ex-fitness competitor and expert I cannot emphasize enough that what you put into your body is in direct proportion to your happiness! Say this over and over and over to yourself now.
If you are eating highly processed foods, high-sugar, chemical laden foods, you will feel lethargic, lack passion and certainly lack motivation. The media has conditioned us to look at calories and fat content as our metric, which helped raise awareness however, if you are eating 500 calories of “low fat” food that is processed and filled with sugar and chemicals, versus 500 calories of nutrient dense fresh foods, I assure you, you will have two very different energy outcomes. Additionally if you are eating healthy foods, but gorging them, you will also feel exhausted.
MAJOR LESSON HERE: Not all food gives you energy. Most of what the American diet consists of depletes you of your energy.
I am really passionate about raising peoples’ awareness in the connection of food and happiness, because of my own personal life-changing experience, that literally cut my sugar addiction almost immediately. Which in turn, increased my mental clarity, productivity, patience, and passion for everything! Before I tell you more about the discovery, I think it’s important to give you some background information first.
When I was a child, I was extremely active, so much that my nickname was “Cyclone,” amongst my extended family. I was very thin so I was allowed to have treats all the time. I was obsessed with sugar. I mean really obsessed. Even when I wasn’t allowed to have a treat I would sneak spoonfuls of sugar out of the sugar jar. I would climb up on the counter and find the Hawaiian Punch Mix or Ovaltine jars my mom “hid” and take spoonfuls out of there too. I had this unquenchable desire for sugar. This desire continued into my adulthood, but with more and more education, I would utilize my willpower to resist many of my urges and my ego (vanity) to stay active so that I would stay in shape. I honestly struggled with the “addiction” constantly. I believe that there was a subconscious component, which inspired my path into the fitness industry. So that I would HAVE TO stay in great shape out of a greater level of accountability, hoping that would someway control my sugar addiction. And I could inspire others too.
As a leader in the field and when competing I would impose strict diet regulations on myself and allow myself one “cheat day” per week. That was usually Sunday. Well, you know what happens when you diet right? You become even more fixated on having what you can’t have. I would obsessively think about all the sugary treats I was going to eat on Sunday. Birthday cake icing was my biggest obsession. I would think about what bakery’s made the best icing for my Sunday splurges. By Sunday evening I was exhausted, laying on the couch in a sugar coma. Come Monday I would wake up beyond exhausted and be completely lethargic all day. I would despise how I felt!
After I had my twin daughters, my sleep was obviously depleted immensely and my energy and mental clarity became more and more important to me—because I felt such lack of it. One day when my girls were in nursery school, there was a party during the day for a holiday. That morning I woke up with an exorbitant amount of energy. I had a to-do list that ran off the page and I was excited and determined to get everything done. I energetically tore through my morning and ran to school at lunchtime for the party. At the party I was presented with a cupcake, with my favorite type of buttercream icing on top. I never ate the bottom of the cupcake, or cake at all, just the icing. When I got back to my office, I dove back into my to-do list. About 20 minutes later the icing hit me. I felt exhausted!! I could have taken a nap on my desk. I noticed that my mood changed from happy to irritable. My passion for my goals that day went right out the window. I was so frustrated. I made a mental note as to what happened and in that moment I changed my relationship with birthday cake icing, and all foods in that moment. I realized, I didn’t have time to be tired!
Instead of looking at foods that aren’t good for you as something I “couldn’t have” (forbidden fruit syndrome) where you give your power away, I looked at is as something I no longer had time for.
I began to take a mental snapshot of how I felt after everything I ate. Instead of my food journal being a guilt-laden, will-power game, it instantly went to a place where I took my power back and chose foods (and portions) by what gave me energy and eliminated what didn’t. Please note: I didn’t commit to myself that I would never have birthday cake or (fill in the blank) food ever again because that becomes a scarcity mindset. Instead I worked from an abundant mindset of what fuels me to success. This realization changed my entire life and thousands of people who I have shared these strategies with. At this stage of my life I constantly crave nutrient rich foods that give me energy, mental clarity and drive my passions to a whole different level. When I choose to eat foods that I know aren’t energy enhancing it’s a conscious choice when productivity is not a necessity. But I can honestly say I don’t enjoy them much because of how I feel after. I love having lots of energy! And as mentioned earlier, my sugar addiction is completely gone. I could sit at a table filled with desserts and say no to all of them, or when I choose to indulge, it’s a small portion because it tastes too sweet to me now.
3) Am I challenging myself to grow by exploring new passions and hobbies?
Stagnation, complacency and routine are all happiness zappers. Feeling alive comes along with growing, evolving, transforming, exploring and challenging your fears.
I believe, much of “depression comes from people losing themselves, giving up on their dreams and feeling hopeless of something more or better for their lives. But we all have the power to make choices everyday, in many ways. If your life has become stagnated, it is up to you to make choices (immediately) to change that.
My good friend LuAnn Cahn had this same experience happen to her. She felt bored, unfulfilled and complacent and didn’t know how to change it, but she knew she had to in order to embrace happiness. So, what did she do? She choose to challenge herself EVERYDAY for one year to do something that she had never done before, silly things and scary things, things that made her uncomfortable—everyday! Through out that year, LuAnn grew exponentially! Her growth opened up opportunities for her she never even thought about, but seized, so much that she just launched a book about it this year called, I Dare Me. So, if you are feeling stuck and complacent in your life, I dare you to read it and apply the principles to re-ignite fire in your life to flourish and grow!
4) Am I committed to not allowing others expectations/judgments of me drain my energy?
Here is probably the biggest “happiness tip” I am going to give you today. IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU! Anything that anyone does to you, is NOT about you, it is about the other person/people and where THEY are. Period. How you handle that tip will change your stress level, your mental distractions, eliminate the drainers, and free up your energy, instantly!! Now, I mentioned this is probably the biggest happiness tip, but it is probably the hardest for people to understand and implement into their lives, because the majority of us have been conditioned to kick, scream and complain when someone does something ‘to” them. But once we realize that we are responsible for our perception of what someone is doing “to” us, we become more effective in relationships when we become more empathetic of accepting where that other person is coming from. Now, before I go further, I am NOT suggesting anyone stays in relationships or around people that are abusive. As a matter of fact I usually suggest most people remove themselves from those types of circumstances.
Here is an example so you hopefully understand and can quiet the ego and see from a healthier, more grounded perspective. If someone cheats on you, it has nothing to do with you. It is about the other person and their own inner unhappiness. It’s about their own “stuff.” Yes, it hurts and the betrayal of trust is a painful thing but the truth is, it is still about them. Were there dynamics in your relationship that you contributed to that could have created more open communication or a greater sense of intimacy? There may have been, but I firmly believe when people cheat and do other harmful things to others because of their own “stuff,” its due to things they need to deal with. It doesn’t make it right, it just brings a new sense of awareness to the situation.
You then get choices in the role you play in your own life from it. For example: You can reflect on how you were showing up in the relationship (without blame to the other person) and decide if there are things you would like to improve about yourself. You can decide if the relationship is worth staying in or not. You can choose to try to gain a sense of where the other person’s unhappiness is truly coming from and maybe even help them heal. These choices are in your power.
I chose a pretty passionate fueled topic as an example on purpose, to hopefully drive home a point. These types of circumstances come up in small doses every day, in all of our relationships.
The bottom line no one can do anything to you. Nothing has meaning until you give it meaning. You choose what that meaning is and then hold your power for how you want to handle it. While cheating and stealing are big examples I am sure there are dozens of these examples that come up in your life everyday, wasting massive amounts of energy, time and productivity because that’s what you choose when you participate from a place of ego versus a place of emotional intelligence.
5) Am I going out of my way to be kind to strangers?
We are ALL connected. There is one principle that is shared throughout all religions and spiritual beliefs, regardless of how it is stated, which is, “Do unto others as you would have done to you.” I believe if everyone lived by that one key principal, if nothing else, we would instantly increase peace and happiness all over the world. This theory includes strangers.
For example, do you enjoy when you are walking into a store and some kind stranger holds the door open for you? Or when the cashier is extremely friendly and compliments you? Or if an unfortunate situation occurred and you didn’t have anyone around, wouldn’t you be so touched by the blessing of the complete strangers that came to your assistance?
Every morning when I go to my local coffee shop to get my coffee, there are several homeless people standing outside hoping that customers come out with extra change in their hands to share with them. While I know I can’t give to every homeless person I see, I know that when my daughters and I walk by and smile and say “Hello,” that makes a difference in that person’s day. They feel seen. They feel acknowledged. They feel human. Isn’t that fundamentally what we all want? To be seen? Acknowledged? Appreciated? I believe so. So, as the great Neale Donald Walsch always says, “Whatever you want for yourself, give to someone else first.”
There are four major pillars in our lives in which we find balance or lack thereof in our lives. We draw happiness from these four aspects because if one is off balance, it affects our intrinsic happiness, which is also or our state of peace. The four pillars are: Personal Development, Health and Wellness, Relationships and Business/Career/Finances. Constantly be aware of how you are showing up in these four areas of your life and how you are nourishing all four. It is your choice to be happy, or not. Creating mindful habits clears the path to your happiness.
Top media mogul and business expert Jen Groover has been tagged by Success Magazine as a “One-Woman Brand” and “Creativity and Innovation Guru” and as a leading “Serial Entrepreneur” by Entrepreneur Magazine. She has gone from guest hosting spots on QVC to linking deals with some of the industry’s biggest heavyweights. Jen is a top business and lifestyle contributor and content creator for major networks, such as ABC, CBS, CNBC, NBC, Fox News, Fox Business News, and The CW. You can also connect with Jen on Facebook and Twitter.
Image courtesy of fortune cookie.