How do you create happiness?

Happyteen I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness over the past few months.  What does it really look like?  Or feel like?  And how elusive is it really?  Is it a condition we have to find ourselves in thanks to circumstance or someone else or perhaps is it a condition we have to create? 

Ironically, about a month ago, Lewis Green challenged some of us to write a post about happiness.  He said:

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to write one post about happiness–what it means to you, your customers or your fellow workers in the context of business or to recommend a way or two people can be happier in their own lives. In either place–business or personal– how can we together make the world a better place to live and or work, while growing prosperity in however you choose to define prosperous?

You know how when you’re thinking about buying a certain kind of car, you see it on the road everywhere?  Of course, it’s not that there are suddenly more of them on the road, it’s just that you’re tuned into them.

As I pondered all things happiness, I noticed how many unhappy people there are.  Complaining, moping, blaming others, angry, road raging people.  Yuck.  All of them shaking their proverbial fist at someone or something — that which stole their happiness.

But then, my daughter caught my attention.  Despite her teenage status, she’s almost always happy.  And when she’s not, she’s able to right herself pretty quickly.  With Lewis’ challenge in the back of my head, I started to actively observe how she accomplished that.

With full acknowledgment that she’s developed this "tricks" and I am just the faithful reporter….here’s my contribution to Lewis’ efforts and the on-going discussion of happiness.

Have an escape plan:  When the day or someone has gotten the better of you — give yourself a break.  Peel away and sooth your soul with whatever helps you find balance.  Have a space that’s all yours….no one will interrupt or intrude.  Whether it’s your walk in closet, your car or an entire house, everyone needs their own space.

Crank the music:  Bach, Moody Blues or Fergie — whatever does the trick for you.  Let the music fill you up.  10 minutes with her iPod (and some very loud singing) and my daughter is ready to tackle with world. 

Have a safe haven:  Having one (or more) people that you can tell anything to…without having to ever worry that your words will be used against you or have judgment passed on them is a gift.  A gift, I suspect, most people don’t have.  Do you have someone like that?  Perhaps more important — are you someone like that for someone else?

Help someone else: My daughter takes an extra gym class. In this class, she helps mentally and physically handicapped kids enjoy gym.  They wouldn’t be able to take the class if it weren’t for some of their able-bodied classmates being willing to take this 2nd gym period as an elective.  I’m pretty sure she benefits as much, if not more, than the kids she helps.

Allow for plenty of alone time:  As time-starved adults, I suspect we’ve forgotten how much time (and the value of that time) we used to spend alone — thinking, reading, just being.  Don’t crowd your calendar and your life with so much that you can’t step away and just breathe.

Move it: Dance, run, jump on the bed (a very effective option), walk, play tennis, bike — but do something that gets your blood pumping.

Be grateful:  Truth is…for just about anyone reading this — you have a life that would be envied by most of the world.  No matter how much you are struggling or what you’re struggling with.  Say thank you as often as you can.  Keep a gratitude journal.  Count your blessings.

Laugh.  Every day: I think this is the one that means the most and costs the least.  Be silly, be stupid, be juvenile.  Remember how you used to laugh at the dumbest things when you were a kid?  And your parents would look at you like you were crazy? Who was happier back then?

As I conducted my little study and spent more time thinking about the whole notion of happiness — I re-discovered what I already knew.  It’s our responsibility.  If you want to be happy — then be happy.  Go out of your way to make sure you’re happy.

Which of course, is the answer to Lewis’ question too.  How can we make the world a better place to live and work?  By contributing a happy person to the mix.  Take responsibility for your own happiness.  Own it.  Hold yourself and no one else, accountable for it.

And then liberally mix that happy person (you) with the rest of the world.  It’s quite infectious.

How about it…what’s in your formula for being happy?