When I hear someone say that they are totally happy with their life (which is about as rare as seeing a leprechaun talking to a fairy while riding a unicorn), I feel a mix of emotions. Amazement that they have reached a level of self-actualization that most people don’t, joy that they have found happiness, and let’s face it, a little bit of envy. I’m not going to lie – I have a slight urge to do something to wipe that blissful smile off their happy face. Instead, I do what any smart researcher would do: find out exactly what they did to get to that point of utter joy and contentment. Part of my curiosity is also a matter of self-interest though. I want to be one of those people who have a sudden spiritual epiphany, or meet a guru who changes their life beyond measure…but that’s for another post.
I took a look at the data from our Coping & Stress Management Skills Test to better understand the little things that content people do to, well, stay content. Here’s what I discovered:
- They are eager learners.
When faced with a problem, they don’t sit idly by and hope it blows over. They seek out information to better understand the problem and find a solution.
- They have someone to confide in.
Others may not be able to solve our problems, but there’s something cathartic about sharing our troubles with another person – the burden suddenly doesn’t seem so heavy or the problem so overwhelming. Using others as sounding boards not only makes us feel better, it can also help us find a solution.
- They take time to relax.
If you’re one of those people who says “Once (fill in the blank) is done, then I’ll relax,” put that notion aside. The best time to relax is when you don’t have time to – that’s when you need it most.
- They are goal oriented.
There’s nothing more demoralizing than being stuck in a rut. Having a goal gives our life purpose and meaning, even if it’s something as simple as cleaning out the garage, starting a garden, or collecting stamps.
- They distract themselves with things they enjoy when life gets difficult.
This isn’t an excuse to ignore an issue but rather, a temporary reprieve to clear your head. An idle mind can be a dangerous place! I’ve always found that no matter how unhappy I am, I still manage to find joy, if not distraction, in books, TV comedies, or playing with animals.
- They find peace in nature.
Outdoor activities not only provide a well-needed diversion, they also allow you to appreciate the wonder of nature. Kind of hard to worry when you’re gazing at the majesty of a mountain, the sun glistening on a lake, or a field of flowers.
- They find reasons to laugh.
Laughter is an amazing stress reliever. It also boosts your immune system, helps you relax, improves blood flow, and even helps balance sugar levels.
- They recognize how lucky they are compared to others.
Rather than wasting time envying other people’s successes, why not look at your life from a different perspective? What do you have that others would envy about you? For example, your health may not be at its best, but do you have family and friends that love you? A job, home, car, or loving pet?
- They are willing to accept help from others.
I’m one of those people who refuse to ask for help – and yet, I don’t feel any stronger, prouder, happier, or more enlightened. Playing the victim or the martyr is really, really tiring. If you need to lean on someone, don’t see it as a weakness: it takes a lot of courage to admit you need a helping hand.
I leave you with a wonderfully inspiring quote from a very wise 8-year-old on how to deal with life’s difficulties:
Sometimes, you just need to take a nap and get over it.