The Power of Doing
The previous two posts in this series dealt with the power of thought and the power of belief in achieving happiness. 10 Ways to Act Yourself Happy introduces you to some of the most essential habits of action that can put a brighter polish to your happiness as you travel that road in this life.
You see, some people wait for happiness to drop on them like so much rain from the sky. They think they just need to be in the right place at the right time under the right cloud. And so they wait, wondering when the clouds will form, hoping it will soon start raining down the happiness they long for, frustrated that even when it comes, it’s only a light drizzle that doesn’t seem to ever last very long.
Others take specific action to create happiness, to draw it to them by doing those things that produce it. You can guess which one is more likely to live a happy life.
Happiness is an Action Verb
Inaction is one of the universal anti-principles to living – it produces apathy and boredom, laziness, anxiety, ill health and depression.
Happiness, on the other hand, requires action. We must do certain things. And as we do them consistently, over time, we reap the benefits of a happier life. Action takes effort. Doing requires determination and desire.
But doing can also lead to being.
10 Ways to Act Yourself Happy
1. Do what’s Important to You
What do you love? What inspires and motivates you? What are you passionate about? The more you fill your life with what’s important to you, the more happiness you will experience.
What is truly important is often sacrificed at the altar of the urgent or the unimportant. Other times, what’s important simply gets in the way of what’s most important.
So be sure to schedule time for your highest values – perhaps family, spirituality, health, friends – only then fill in the rest of life with what’s less important, but matters to you too.
2. Do Random Acts of Kindness.
Doing acts of service to others, whether large or small, has several benefits to our happiness. Have you ever experienced any of the following?
- It simply feels good to do good.
- Serving others adds a sense of meaning and significance to life. We feel like we matter, like we are leaving some corner of the world better because we lived in it.
- It gets us out of ourselves. It shifts our focuses from “me” to “you,” from inward-looking to outward-looking. It’s the principle that if you focus on a toothache, it’s going to hurt more. But when you lift others, you lift yourself as well.
3. Do things that Matter
Whether engaged in acts of service or building up a company that provides value, or raising your children with love and joy and character, a life of meaning and purpose is a happier life than the alternative.
So what are you waiting for?
Go write a book or start a blog. Save the whales or build inner-city basketball courts. Get into politics, seek religion, work on a cure for cancer, donate to a cure for cancer, do volunteer work, start a thank-you letter writing campaign, get a teaching credential, become a foster parent or a Big Brother, enlist, repair a relationship, raise kids of character, clean the beach, recycle, become an entrepreneur, become a philanthropist.
Keep in mind that what matters to one may not matter to another. But to grow happiness, you have to do things that matter to you.
4. Do Now. Don’t Procrastinate. Act Decisively.
My dad once sent me the following little rhyme. I memorized it some 25 years ago and it has stuck with me ever since. It goes like this:
Procrastination’s a funny thing.
It only brings me sorrow.
But I can change at any time.
I think I will … tomorrow!
The more we procrastinate needed change, the more the pain produced by not changing compromises our happiness. The more we procrastinate a great idea, the development of a desired trait or talent or habit or quality of happiness, and further we push off onto the fading horizon the joy that such fulfillment would have produced.
5. Do What’s Right
There will be more on this in the last post of this series, but bottom line is that integrity to high values and the growth such integrity requires of us, makes us feel better about who we are and the kind of person we are becoming. It is difficult to be very happy if you can’t look the mirror straight in the eyes and like the person staring back at you.
6. Do. Act. Move.
Study after study has demonstrated the link between activity and happiness. We were meant for action. People with sedentary lifestyles where sitting is the predominate “activity” every day, die earlier and are more prone to depression than those with active lifestyles.
So get up. Move. Pick up a ball and dribble it. Drop and pound out 5 or 10 or 50 pushups. Walk. Run. Climb. Hike. Ride. Kick. Tumble. Get up and go. You will be happier for doing it.
7. Do Until You Are
I’ve shared elsewhere that I was a shy kid. I didn’t want to be, so acted as if I wasn’t. Inside, I was still that shy kid, but I forced myself to be social and extroverted … until I was. There’s still a closet introvert lurking inside, but I’m also very comfortable speaking in front of large crowds, socializing with others and otherwise engaged in very extroverted activities.
Doing until you are (or acting as if you already were) means to act out the behaviors that those with the qualities you desire have. So if, for example, happy people smile a lot and you want to be happy (and studies bear this out), then smile a lot.
8. Do the Work of Building Strong Relationships.
We are social beings. And as has been famously said before, when on death’s doorstep, no one will regret the extra time they failed to spend at the office. But they just may regret the relationship they didn’t heal. So why wait until death comes knocking?
Start now. Build that strained relationship with mom or dad or with your spouse or children. Become a better friend or neighbor. Develop the qualities and priorities and behaviors of someone who values the relationships in their lives. Treat others as though this day would be your last encounter with them. Love them. Cherish them. Forgive them.
And reap the rewards of a happier relationship and a happier life.
9. Do Seek Professional Help … as needed
Sometimes the only way out of a deep hole is when someone else lets down a little rope. If you struggle with thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself or others, get professional help … today. If you are battling other serious psychological difficulties, keep coming here, but don’t substitute it for a competent mental health care professional.
10. Do Things Outside your Comfort Zone.
It is so easy to get comfortable with the way things have always run. We usually fight change because most of us fear it. If the familiar is comfortable, the unfamiliar is equally uncomfortable. And most of us try very hard to avoid discomfort.
But ruts and monotony and eternal patterns of sameness rarely produce increased levels of happiness.
So change things up. Learn something new every day. Take a class in public speaking. Go back and get a college degree (or another one). Learn to speed read. Strike up a conversation on an elevator. Take the next step toward developing a new habit or breaking an old one.
As you push against the comfort zones of your life, picking up new skills, improving old ones, the sense that life is more than the mundane, that there is a bit of adventure in the living of it, can make you a happier person.
Please visit the other posts in this series for more on becoming happy!
1. 10 Ways to Think Yourself Happy (the power of thought)
2. 10 Ways to Believe Yourself Happy (the power of belief)
3. 10 Ways to Act Yourself Happy (the power of doing)
4. 10 Ways to Live Yourself Happy (the power of character)
So, if you want to be happier, stop procrastinating and start doing good to others. Make life count by doing things that matter and mean something to you. Build the relationships in your life and push yourself to grow and learn and overcome. And seek professional help as needed. And always return here to M2bH to learn more on our shared quest for joy and meaning and happiness.
So, what do you think?
- What other essential actions/behaviors to happiness have I left out?
- Have you had success – or failure – with any of the actions listed above?
- Do you agree or disagree with any of them?
- I would truly LOVE to hear from you!
- Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.