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Practical Happiness: A Goal for 2013

By Philip Humbert

For the past few years, there have been dozens of books, seminars and websites dedicated to the topic of happiness. The research suggests "happiness" is a rather elusive thing. At the level of scientific research and psychology, it seems most people have a "set point" for happiness and things that can be measured by science don't respond very well to simple interventions. In many ways, promising folks that they can dramatically increase their happiness by reading a book or following a program is not usually true.

But there is good news! My experience and my reading suggest that while it may be difficult to increase your over-all level of "happiness," being HAPPY is pretty easy! Who would have thought that little distinction could be so important!?

I've joked for years that I may not know much about living a "great life," but I do know some things about having a "great day!" And I've always figured that if I have several thousand great DAYS in a row, one after another, that may be pretty darn close to living a great life. Something like that seems to go on with happiness, too. Being happy for 10,000 days in a row seems pretty darn close to being a happy person and living a happy life!

Helping someone find joy and satisfaction, and feel happy at the end of the day turns out to be pretty simple. I think we can actually do that in a pretty significant way! Here are some suggestions:

To prepare, list 20 things that make you happy. Don't stop until you have at least 20 specific items! List all the things that make you giggle, smile, chuckle, celebrate or feel good. List the things that make you proud, relaxed, satisfied, or confirm that you are loved by others. Don't stop until you have a list of 20 things that make you happy! You'll need that list! Then...

  1. Do five of those things every single day. Give a hug. Get a hug. Kiss a child, read a book, play a practical joke, or sing in the shower. Eat a cookie, exercise or meditate. Whatever makes you happy, do five of them every day. Without fail. Sure, it takes some discipline, but you're worth it!
  2. Be productive every day. Do some actual work — not just "effort" or "trying" or that "busy" stuff. Do some productive, meaningful work every day. Get things done. If it's related to your career and makes you money, great! If it's cleaning the house or watching your daughter's soccer game, fantastic! Do something productive, important, and meaningful. Make a difference. Every day.
  3. Do a good deed. Give someone a hand, or make a phone call. Send a thoughtful card or an encouraging email. Help an old lady cross the street or help a child with their homework. Give of yourself in a way that makes the world a better place for someone else.
  4. Laugh out loud. Life's a crazy, ridiculous affair and there is certainly much to laugh about. If nothing else, just look in the mirror! Tell a joke or hear one. And don't just chuckle politely. Be insane! Be daring and actually laugh. Put your whole body into it. If you need help with this, get a puppy, or a kitten — or be with a child! Laugh out loud! I think you'll enjoy it.
  5. Be grateful. Everyday, write a few entries in your gratitude journal. Before bed, take a moment to notice what went right, what you're grateful for, the good luck or blessing or joy that touched you during the day. Write it down in a notebook so you can keep track. Master the "attitude of gratitude." You'll be happy you did.

Whatever goals you have already set for 2013, add one more: "I will be measurably and demonstrably happy on a minimum of 364 days in 2013." (Give yourself some slack — allow one day to be cranky, if you wish.) I can't make any promises about that elusive thing called "happiness," but if you make it a goal and take the steps to be happy for 364 days in 2013, I think you'll like the results.

Happy New Year everyone!

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