16 Ways to Rediscover What Makes You Happy

AutumnLet’s be honest here. Life is hectic, frantic, and confusing. Sometimes it seems that all we’re doing is moving from one obligatory activity (ugh folding laundry) to another…(folding MORE laundry).

And when BLTs (Big Life Things) happen or are in the process of happening like, getting married, moving to a new home, getting in shape, deciding to become a reclusive basket weaver, there’s a tendency to lose bits of yourself along the way.

You don’t mean to, you’re just too busy to be YOU.

And once things calm down you’re kinda left sitting there going…okay now, what do I want to do? And very often it feels like there’s no answer, or it’s the same answer that got you through the rough spots (mine has always been: Glass of wine, couch, Hulu plus binge fest until I pass out on the couch). But while that easy answer may give you some instant gratification and an excuse to blow throw all the seasons of Doctor Who in a single sitting, you feel dissatisfied. Why? because easy is not enough for ANYONE.

You may think, “Oh nay nay, Rez, I am TOTALLY down for doing something EASY for a change.  Life is hard enough. I don’t need your silly advice. I’m just going to go pour myself another cup of Chardonnay and rewatch the Weeping Angels episode to prove it.” And if you truly think that is enough for you, I’ll never know if you stop reading and go do just that (and I’d be happy to think you’ve found what makes you happy without even needing to read my blog BRAVO!)

But I think most of us deep down, don’t to spend our lives working every day, and our nights simply curled up in front of the TV, watching other people’s adventures unfold before us with a sigh and sip, and a sip and sigh.

Deep down, we’re hungry for more.

Because we were made for more! We were made for discovery, we were made for adventure, we were made to thrive not just survive. But life being what it is we often sacrifice who we are and the things that make us happy because we have to, we have responsibilities and needs that must be met, and that’s okay. In fact, often things like becoming a parent, or moving into a new home give us new opportunities for happiness. But like any new undertaking, sometimes those things, while fulfilling, can still be overwhelming.  It’s always good to have some things you do for yourself, and no one else.

Why? Because it allows us to not become resentful of our other blessings. A new home, a new child, a good job, wealth, possessions, are all wonderful things. But it’s so easy to become short-sighted, the home you bought because you loved it now is a burden, your child the constant focus of your worry instead of marveling at them, your job becomes a chore, and there never seems to be enough money or things to satisfy you.

Suddenly we’re unhappy and constantly busy, and that feeling of excitement becomes regret, and soon regret slides into resentfulness and ingratitude.

It happens to all of us at some point. And it’s where I personally was at until I decided to put the brakes on and do some honest thinking about my perspective.

But where to begin? How do you reignite that hunger for personal discovery? After much thought, this is what I’ve come up with, the first few are kinda airy fairy basic steps, and then there are more concrete suggestions of things to DO a little further down:

1.) Start Small– Happiness is not a thing, it’s a habit. If you’re wrapped up in your life problems to the point where you find it hard to jump right into sustained happiness it’s okay. Start with being happy about something (anything) for just a few minutes, an hour, a day, and before you know it you’ll be able to find happiness nearly everywhere!

2.) Be Honest– Denial is the worst thing you can do to yourself when you’re trying to find or rediscover new avenues of happiness.  You’re doing this for yourself so there’s no audience, no expectation other than figuring yourself out, so don’t stress, and don’t deny that there’s a problem. If you’re feeling unhappy then it’s time for a reality check. Embrace it, it’s a great opportunity to start fresh.

3.) Make Time– I know my worst excuse for NOT delving into self-reflection is, “I just don’t have time”. It’s deceptive because it feels okay to hide behind productivity for a while but in reality it’s only exacerbating the problem. If you want to find what makes you happy you need to make some time to do it. Even if it’s just thinking about it right before you go to sleep. Keep a little notepad nearby and jot down your musings.

Just a pic from one of my many walks to the local reservoir
Just a pic from one of my many walks to the local reservoir

4.) Take a Walk– Never underestimate the power of a stroll outdoors. It clears the head, it helps you disconnect from whatever problems or concerns are plaguing you and you get some exercise which will increase endorphin which will help with those happy feelings!

5.) List It Out– Sit down and make a list of all of your interests. Even ones you think you might like to learn more about  in the future, or ones you used to be into that you’ve fallen away from (except bad habits of course!). This exercise will give you a foundation of where to start exploring so don’t be afraid to get silly or dream big. If you want to learn interpretive dance, go for it, you want to become an expert picking up things with your toes…more power to you! Let yourself dream a bit!

6.) Start a Blog– Because er…that’s what I’m doing (ya caught me!) But seriously, blogging is a great way to dedicate some time specifically to what you like to do. In a sense, it gives you an excuse to do some research about topics that interest you and to share that knowledge with others. And you get to meet people, network, and maybe if you’re really good at it, transform something that makes you happy into something that makes you happy AND money. Can’t argue with that!

Jim Carrey hammin it up!
Jim Carrey hammin it up!

7.) Do Something Random– I love the movie Yes Man (with Jim Carrey and Zooey Deschanel) because it perfectly captures that spirit of TRY anything. Learning Korean, playing guitar, zip lining, jogging photography, you never know what seemingly random thing might become meaningful. And if it’s totally weird and you never do it again, I guarantee you’ll get a great story to laugh about!

8.) Utilize Local Opportunities– Often local businesses, or municipal meetings, or events are great ways to experience something new (sometimes for free or for less than taking a formal class). As someone who is into the outdoors and traveling I don’t really have the cash to constantly pay big money to atten specialized classes, BUT I did find out that many outdoors stores like L.L. Bean, R.E.I and others offer hiking outings, outdoors classes, and other things for a greatly reduced price or some of them (like my outdoors knot tying class) was totally free. Investigate your local offerings you never know what you might find.

9.) Take (or Teach) a Class– If you want to learn something new (or refresh your memory on something you used to do more regularly) and have the resources, why not invest in a class or series of classes. It’ll get you out, socializing and if you already have something you’re good at, you could even teach a class yourself for a little extra income. Teaching or transferring information is one of the best ways to feel fulfilled because not only are you acquiring a skill, you are also able to share it with others.

10.) Get Creative– If you’ve never experimented with being artistic before take some time to do that. Whether it’s through painting, or sculpting, writing, or crafting use your hands for something other than changing channels. There’s a great amount of personal pride that comes from creative expression, even if you don’t like how it turns out,  creative activity alone is often very theraputic and fun.

11.) Reconnect With Your Past– You know the old saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Well, I firmly believe that it’s true about people too. While overcoming faults and bad habits can really be accomplished, sometimes we like who we were better than who we are. If you loved reading and now you realize you haven’t been doing so, pick up a book and read a little. If you used to love baking but have fallen out of the habit of doing it, sign up for a bake sale so you feel obligated to do it just once. Sometimes a little jump start and a little reconnecting with the things that made us happy in the past can help us rediscover who we want to be and to continue to move towards it.

12.) Get Spiritual– There is a lot of research about how being religious  increases both happiness, and inner peace. There are plenty of first hand accounts of people finding direction through prayer, and attending religious services. If you maybe have fallen away from practicing your faith, or don’t currently have one, consider learning more about one, just don’t join any strange cults.  I am a little biased but I love Roman Catholicism. If you haven’t considered it or want to rekindle your interest in it let me know!

13.) Serve Others– Find a cause, or a service organization and give back to your community. It’s extraordinarily humbling to become keenly aware that there are other people whose problems are most definitely worse than yours. Additionally, it’s very fulfilling to see that your actions are having a positive impact on the lives of strangers.

14.) Train for A Race– Last year I ran my first 5k. I never thought I’d ever make it to 1K but there I was at the finish line. Feeling like that guy from Chariots of Fire. Becoming more physically active is exhilarating, challenging and rewarding. Plus fitting into your bathing suit a bit better will definitely boost increase your happiness.

Me...erm..doing the awkward tourist thing rather well
Me…doing the awkward tourist thing rather well

15.) See the World– If you’re feeling trapped by your obligations, and you’re looking for a fresh perspective travel is the answer if you can swing it. See some place, new, experience a new culture, even if it just means a day trip somewhere. Taking the time to experience new places and new people can ironically allow us to have greater insight into ourselves and our needs and desires.

16.) Don’t Give Up– Rediscovering your happiness takes time. It can be painful when you have to come to grips with where you’re at versus where you want to be, but like any exercise the more you do it and the more you stick to it the better off you’ll be long term.  Just remember taking care of YOU adequately will mean you’ll be able to take better care of others.

Anyone else have any ways to rediscover what inspires you and makes you happy? Share in the comments!

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