Things aren’t always easy my friends. There. I said it. A perfectly obvious statement that is never more defined as when you lose someone you love. As I’m experiencing the gift of life growing inside of me, I’m simultaneously dealing with the recent passing of my grandfather. A wonderful man who was dealt a lot of difficult cards, yet fought to stay in the game anyway. He kept a beaming smile on his face, and an incredible sense of humor in tact until the very end.
There’s often an inner struggle I face when situations like this occur–the desire to give proper respect to the darker moments in life on a site that’s all about lightness and food and spreading joy. So I’ve decided to combine the two. An upbeat heart-to-heart if you will–a recipe for a happy life.
When I spoke at my grandfather’s service on Tuesday, I mentioned how appreciative he always was. He was just happy to be alive, surrounded by loved ones, even in the simplest of situations. For someone who could’ve had much to complain about when it came to his ailments, he never once did. So often, because we’re simply human, we look at the downside of things. Maybe our iPhone isn’t working properly or we’re stuck in traffic. Frustrating, sure, but not catastrophic. It’s natural to feel aggravated now and then, but what my grandfather taught me throughout my life was to view the bigger picture. To have patience. He had so much patience. And to embrace the detours along the way.
Do you know what I did when I was waiting in a grocery line yesterday? I cracked into the chocolate covered almonds I was about to purchase, and suddenly no longer cared how quickly the others in front of me moved. I seized the moment and made it my own. I smiled at the person in front of me who was clearly having a difficult day. I spread the positivity, just like he would.
During this month of November so fittingly themed with gratitude, I feel this ‘recipe’ for happiness comes at the perfect time. Much like my recipe for a happy marriage, these are all my own thoughts that work for me. They are attitudes that I practice, and inspirations I’d like to embrace if I haven’t already. Perhaps you’ve heard it before and welcome a good reminder. Maybe it’s repetitive and therefore you’re interested in pushing it aside. Take what you like, leave what you don’t, and choose whatever path brings you to your own happiness:
1. Live each day to the fullest. But really do it. A planner like myself often has trouble living in the moment, but you’ll never get one like it again. So try your best to be present–whether it’s taking a break from texting to hug someone in front of you, or putting aside a to-do list to play with your dog. Prioritize. Take in the beauty around you. There’s so much to see if you just open your eyes to it.
2. Embrace joy. Welcome happiness and it will welcome you. Surround yourself with others who make you feel good. Do something that fulfills you. Choose a career that makes you feel creative, successful and strong. Follow your passion. Find a hobby that ignites a spark in you. Do something carefree and childlike. Take a deep breath. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Remember someone else is often having a worse day than you are. Give people some slack. Relish in the good. It’s okay to be happy.
3. Celebrate people while they are here. For my mother’s birthday many years ago, I asked all her close friends and family to write down reasons why they love her. I then compiled all these beautiful observations into a book for her to enjoy, and keep forever. For my bridal shower she did the same for me, and it was one of the best gifts I ever received. Think about it. How great is it to overhear someone say something kind about you, or to be complimented face-to-face? We’re often our own worst critic or enemy, not always realizing how much good we have to offer. Let those around you be your mirror, and be sure you do the same for them. But don’t wait until they’re gone to sing their praises. Tell them now.
4. Always say “I love you”. Maybe it’s a Jewish thing, maybe it’s just my family, but we say “I love you” all the time. Sure, it’s become a habit, “I’ll call you back on the other phone in just one millisecond, love you, bye,” but the meaning is still strong no matter how many times you hear it. And you can never hear it too much.
5. End on a good note. This falls under the category of not going to bed mad and always kissing goodnight. Try not to have open, unresolved issues. Stay true to yourself, but learn to choose your battles and let things go. Talk things out to be sure you’re heard, but agree to disagree if you have to. Step outside of your pride, and try to understand someone else’s perspective. Keep the peace whenever possible. It’s exhausting otherwise.
6. Choose quality over quantity. I always say, if someone doesn’t bring anything good to the table, stop inviting them to dinner. Accept change. Understand things aren’t always what they used to be, and it’s natural to grow apart. If someone feels toxic in your life, they probably are. Try to make things work, but if they interrupt your path to happiness, move forwards. Appreciate your times together, be grateful for the memories, and let them find a better fit. But always keep that peace.
7. Smile. It’s contagious. If you keep doing it, you’ll start to believe it yourself. If you flash those pearly whites at others, they’ll start to believe it too. You use less muscles than frowning, and it’s a universal way to communicate. How incredible. You have the ability to brighten someone’s day without using a single word. Try it. You’ll love it.
8. Do one good deed every day. In a world where we often can’t understand the tragic acts of others, let’s do our best to offer random acts of kindness. It might be as simple as holding the door for a stranger, treating the person behind you at Starbucks to their morning coffee, or letting a driver pass in front of you on the highway. Maybe it’s something a bit larger like sending an ‘I’m thinking of you’ card to a good friend or visiting a loved one. Whatever you do, be sure to take care of yourself too. Rest when possible. Treat yourself to something special. It’s the only way you’ll be strong enough to take care of others.
9. Do the best you can. There are many imperfections to perfectionism. Try your hardest. Give a great effort. Set realistic goals and expectations so you don’t sabotage your own success. Be proud when you achieve something and focus on what you did accomplish rather than what you didn’t. Ask for help–it’s a sign of strength, not weakness. Be honest with yourself and others. Strive for the best and accept sometimes that it’s enough. Remember we’re all only human. That means you too.
10. Live gratefully. Like I said in the beginning, life isn’t always easy. But if you’re lucky enough, the shining moments far outweigh the dark ones. Be thankful. It may not be all day every day–and that’s okay. In fact, it’s normal. If you need to feel a broken heart, a loss, a letdown, then feel it. Give yourself a moment to go there, but don’t stay there. Cry, scream, yell, talk it out, then take a deep breathe and continue forwards. Because every evening doesn’t have to end the way you started, and every day starts fresh again. The good news about a tough 24 hours? You never have to go back. So do your best to be grateful of the things that are working out. Write it down if you have to. Include everything: a roof over your head, a safe place to sleep, at least one person in your life you can fully trust, the ability to feel emotion, etc. For we only get one chance to be here. Let’s make it count. Just like my grandpa did.
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