*Features adult language and themes.*
“Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realize they were big things.”
– Kurt Vonnegut
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This is the fourth feature in our monthly series from self-help guru Kurt Sampson.
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I have said many times in this series that the path to happiness becomes easier the further you travel along it. It’s not always that simple. In fact now is a very tricky time.
You will be feeling great, things are turning around for you. You’re beginning to see the world anew. Now is the time that dangers lurk on the side of your path and try to lure you away. You might leave the road, get turned around and be lost. You will have to retrace your steps and rejoin the path further back.
How can you prepare yourself to resist these temptations? The truth is simple.
We will always be presented with challenges in life. There will always be negative situations. Finding true happiness doesn’t banish the perils that occur in our everyday lives. Finding true happiness means we are prepared to face anything that comes our way.
We must all learn to find our inner courage. We are all the hero of our own story. This means we have to be brave, just like our favourite heroes in fiction. Depending on your life you may not be confronted by evil masterminds, or lumps of kryptonite, but that doesn’t mean you are any less of a hero than superman.
We all have our own battles to fight. They may seem insignificant compared to other peoples problems, but to us they are worse than anything a super villain could dream up. We have to use all of the courage and perseverance we can muster to fight past them and live another day.
The definition of bravery is to carry on and fight despite the fear you feel.
The best way to prepare yourself for your daily battles is to learn how to deal with negativity.
It’s impossible to live your life in a state of perpetual bliss. Life is a roller coaster of ups and downs. The bad times help to define the good times. Without the bad times it’s impossible to recognise when you are happy. So how can you take the edge off of the negativity?
You must find a way to find the positives in every negative. To do this you must truly learn how to enjoy your good times. Try to make the most of your happiness. Enjoy and savour all of your positive experiences so when the bad times come along you can process them and still spot the upside.
If you can do this you can call yourself an optimist. With a positive approach to any challenge life can present, you will be well armed to ignore the things that try their hardest to tempt you away from your true path.
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Do you work to live or live to work? Either way, what you do for a living is a big part of your life. The stress and pressures of work usually stay with you once you’re clocked out and can easily affect your life outside the job.
Can you live up to what is expected of you in your job? If expectations are constantly high, and you can never live up to them, your self-worth could plummet.
Do you get recognition for a job well done? Do you get rewards for exceptional performance?
Do you work on your own, independent and isolated? This can be a pro or a con depending on your personality. If you work within a team, do you get on with your colleagues? Being part of a team can help you relate to others better, a skill that is easily transferable in the wider world.
Do you think you can grow in your job? Are there opportunities for advancement? Or are you just working out of necessity?
Exercises: To feel like a success at work you have to clearly define your goals. You may never be able to work your way to the top, not everyone can be a high flier. The secret to being happy at work is to be a success on your own terms.
Are you just putting the hours in to pay the bills? Do you have a real passion for your job? Are you content to stay working in your comfort zone or do you yearn for a challenge?
It’s easy to feel like you aren’t in control of your career, but you have to remind yourself that you are. You decide what you do for a living. You have the power to get a better job if you want one.
Careers are personal endeavours. Only you can assess how to approach it. If you have strengthened your life foundations, you will be well equipped to make the right decisions.
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A happy life is all about balance. If you work hard you deserve to play harder. It’s important to make time in your life for activities that are fun for the sake of it.
Studies have shown that an immersive hobby, like reading or self-initiated learning, can act as a kind of meditation and be an excellent stress reliever.
Other leisure activities can have excellent health benefits as well as being fun, like walking, jogging, working out at the gym or organised sports.
Most hobby and leisure activities help to develop skills, or express creativity and provide a sense of achievement.
A hobby can have a positive impact on other facets of your life. You might learn new skills that can be transferred and applied to your job. Or even become a totally new career You might be able to get paid for doing something you love.
On the other hand, creative hobbies can be a release if you find yourself trapped in an unfulfilling vocation.
Everything you do in your spare time should relieve stress and promote happiness.
All the things you do for leisure should enrich you in some way, help you improve physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally.
Exercises: If you don’t have any hobbies try to think of the things you enjoy and attach a leisure activity to it. If you like art, try drawing or painting. If you like sport, join a team or start playing. Finding a hobby is the easiest thing in the world, you just have to let yourself do something you enjoy.
It’s all too easy to deprive yourself of enjoyment or say you don’t have time for a hobby. I say that’s rubbish. Think through an average day in your life, write down your activities. I’m willing to bet that you can carve out 30 minutes or an hour to dedicate to an activity you will enjoy. Perhaps you could watch less TV? Get up earlier in the morning, or go to bed later? The bottom line is you are making time for yourself, time that is vital to your self-improvement.
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Home & Environment
Your home is a refuge from the rest of your life. It is your safe harbour in a storm. You live there with the people you love, or maybe you are alone?
It’s proven that people who live in messy or cluttered homes experience more stress.
Your neighbours are also an important part of your life. You may not know your neighbours well, but you are all part of the same community. Do you try to be neighbourly, or are you only on nodding terms with the other people that live around you? You’d be surprised how far a smile goes to break the ice.
If you live alone your community could be your only outlet for human contact. Do you participate in community activities?
It is said that your home is a reflection on yourself. If it isn’t the safe harbour it should be, it can affect how you feel.
Exercises: Start with the place you spend a large part of your time. Your home should be a refuge from the negative parts of your life. Take some time to turn it into a place of peace and tranquility. De-clutter your home, keep it tidy and organised. Create a sanctuary of safety. This is your real world happy place.
Make efforts to reach out to your neighbours. Knowing your neighbours can make you feel safer, just by knowing that there are others around you that will notice if something seems amiss. It can also give you easy options for social activities. Get involved with community issues and events. At the very least take a few minutes out of your day to chat with neighbours when you see them in passing.
Take pride in your home and the people that make up your immediate community. After a long stressful day returning home will feel great.
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If you are lured away from your path, it doesn’t matter. The blocks across the road will make you stronger as you will have to figure out a way around them. This might mean you have to go backwards to find a new route forward. Perhaps you will be strong enough to climb over them, or even burst right through.
As long as you never give up; never stop trying to improve yourself, you will not fail. You only fail if you stop trying.
To give up on yourself is to give up on life. As long as you find the courage and strength inside you each day to battle on you will never lose your way.
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Top 3 happiness tips for April
1. Re-arrange your furniture.
This sounds like a strange one, but it really works. Whether you believe in Feng Shui, or not, it is a great exercise. Take a day to sort out your most intimate environment. Throw out anything that clutters your home and re-arrange the furniture. You will feel invigorated. It’s also a small change that might make larger changes, further on down the road, seem more achievable.
2. Do something creative.
You might consider yourself a creative vacuum, but that’s nonsense. You can give anything a try. Success doesn’t matter when enjoyment is the only goal. Try painting, writing or pottery.
Do anything you want. It’s your life, make the most of your free time.
3. Never make comparisons.
Never compare yourself to others. Do you sometimes feel that everyone around you is happy and their life is better than yours? This can bring you down and make you feel bad.
Comparing yourself to others is useless, and it can only be a negative influence. You have no way of knowing how happy others are. People have become very adept at acting as if they have everything and that their lives are superior to yours. They do it to try and validate themselves and raise their own self-esteem.
There is only one person that controls your destiny. You. Don’t let others detract from the good progress you are making on your journey.
Many thanks for reading. The story updates every Monday & Thursday. If you have any feedback or thoughts, feel free to comment below.