Some years ago, our household went through a very dark and gloomy time. Miss C was suffering from severe, daily migraines, and probably as the result of feeling sick all of the time, plunged into a period of deep depression. Not surprisingly, it's really hard to be centered and happy when one's child is sick and miserable. During that time, I struggled a lot to avoid sliding into the black hole with her, and one of the things I did was read some books about happiness. Gretchen Ruben's book The Happiness Project was just out then, and I started following her website and others of a similar vein.
And during that time, I started some things that have worked really well for me... And have helped our family, too. They are not new or original, but I thought I'd share them here because, well, it's always good to remember that happiness is a matter of outlook, really.
1. Keep a gratitude journal. Every day, make a list of 5 things you're grateful for. Oprah is right. This is a lovely thing.
2. Consciously notice nice moments. Make it a point to recognize one thing that brings you pleasure. The graceful slope of that hill in the distance. The song you like, playing when you walk into the coffee shop. That patch of sunlight on the corner of the couch. And you know, the more you notice, the more you notice.
3. At the end of the day, write down 3 good things that happened or you noticed. We do this at the dinner table every night, share our 3 good things. It started out feeling corny and forced but now it's automatic and it's often hard to stop at just three. We have learned a lot about each other, too, discovering what each other's daily good things are.
4. Here's one I've never read in any book but I think it's really useful: in the evening, write down (or share) one thing you're looking forward to tomorrow. You could do this in those moments before you fall asleep, just thinking about what you are looking forward to in the next day. Again, it can be small. That first cup of coffee early in the morning. Using your favorite pen at work. Getting to listen to NPR in the car on your way somewhere. If you can't think of anything you're looking forward to, then plan something-- a quick phone call to a friend, a mid-afternoon trip to Starbucks for a latter, etc.
If you have any rituals or "tricks" for being mindfully happy, I'd love to know what they are!