As someone who has been trying to make a living out of coaching people about happiness, I spend an inordinate amount of time working on and reading about complex frameworks and theories and research outcomes about how to maximize one’s happiness at home, at the workplace, while you talk to Dave, the annoying accountant.
The complexity, however, can be exhausting. Sometimes what true happiness needs is simple, impeccable personal strategies that one can implement (mostly) from the comfort of your couch. So, here is a list of 3 simple happiness hacks, 3 simple steps distilled from extensive personal experience and experiments, that cut through the jargon give you some quick fix, easily applicable strategies to get you started on your happiness quest.
Step 1: Be Lazy. Procrastinate (…Your Stress)
I know procrastinators always earn a bad rep. If you procrastinate, you don’t achieve what you set out to…yada yada…
Well, hear me out. Procrastination has its uses. Trust me it does. Sometimes the best way to deal with stress is to be too lazy to be stressed. It isn’t complicated. It is just a mind game. Feeling too stressed? How about you put it off until tomorrow? Or at least until after a refreshing nap? Or a good lunch? Or idle chit chat?
When life hits you with a shitstorm, sometimes the best way out is to lay down and let it pass.
As a life long consummate procrastinator, I can assure you that putting off things is an art. Putting off stress is an ever more complicated art that needs to be finely honed. But with enough sloth and persistent laziness, anybody can do it. And it is totally worth it. Because when life hits you with a shitstorm, sometimes the best way out is to lay down and let it pass. And the best way to do that is to be too lazy to bother finding a way through. So, if you really and truly want to be happy, you will have to learn to be too lazy to be stressed. Procrastinate. Sometimes, that is your shortest long cut to happiness.
Step 2: Be A (Temporary) Fool. Stop Thinking
Once you master the art of procrastinating stress, you arrive at step number 2. Mastering the art of not thinking.
A meditation teacher recently told me, “Brain is the seat of all trouble. If everyone could just stop thinking, life could be so much easier, simpler, happier”
Reductive as that may sound, this individual had a point. In the end, more than half of our troubles, our stress, our perceived issues are there because we think they are. We think and overthink and over analyze and go round and round in our head until everything becomes overwhelming that we either break down or shut down. The result is a persistent state of worry and unhappiness about things we have half-imagined and mostly have no control over. Whatever is the cause of your stress, you only have two options. You can either do something about it or not. If you have the former option, great! Stop thinking and do whatever it is that you can do. And if you are stuck with latter, well, then thinking about it is not going to help you anyway.
Be economic with your thoughts, be comfortable with an empty brain, be comfortable with being and feeling like a fool.
Bottom line, too much thinking is not helping. Cut down on your thoughts. Be a miser when it comes to spending your thoughts over things. Meditate, if that is your thing because reducing your thoughts is kind of the whole point of meditation. Or find something else that will allow you to not think for at least a certain period of time during the day. Be economic with your thoughts, be comfortable with an empty brain, be comfortable with being and feeling like a fool. Give it a try. It is liberating. And one of the easiest ways to start being happy.
Step 3: Let it go
The steps above are a lead up to this most important step, the ultimate happiness hack, the only one you will ever need once you really and truly master it.
Let it go. Because if you really want to start being happy, you have to stop holding on to all the crap that life keeps piling up around you. Guilt, embarrassment, blame, hurt, caustic people, negative thoughts are just some of the things in the long long list of things that you have to let go. And much as it sounds like boilerplate advice from every self-help article/book/TED Talk ever, unfortunately, it is also a step that you don’t get to skip. Not if you are truly committed to the cause of finding happiness.
So, be like Elsa. Or not. She was too stressed anyway. But the advice still holds. Learn to let go. Live in the moment. Breathe. Live good times. Hold on during the bad phases.
Allow yourself to just move with the flow of life.
Because happiness rarely means getting what you want. More often than not, it is just a realization of the value of what you have. But in order to know that, you have to first let go off everything that is clouding your vision and blurring your blessings.
Ultimately, being happy isn’t a magical state that is designed to last forever. Being happy does not mean an absolute absence of crappy in all forms and versions. It just means you have mastered the art of dealing with the crap and bouncing back. Everything and everyone that happen to you is bound to come with their own baggage and leave their own mark. The trick is to know when the baggage becomes redundant and just let it go. It isn’t as simple as it sounds, but it is worth the effort.
And in case letting go seems like a tall order, here is a starting point for you. Begin at the beginning of this list. Procrastinate your stress. Remember you don’t have to deal with everything right now. Take a moment. Breathe. Stop thinking. Let it go.
Because once you cut off the complexities, being happy can be that simple. If only you are willing to give it a try.