How many times have you said to yourself “When I lose the weight, then I will be happy” or “Once I have a better job, then I can breathe”? We have a tendency to put off happiness, justifying to ourselves why we don’t deserve it now. The risk of doing this is that there will likely always be something standing in your way. Maybe once you achieve your career goals, your available free-time will decrease leaving you waiting once again for the next big change before you can finally be happy. But what if we stop running on the hamster wheel for a moment and just acknowledge where we are right now? How often do you miss the opportunity to enjoy the present because you are already looking to the next thing? If we look too far ahead, we miss what is right in front of us.

If you want to be happy today, regardless of your current circumstances, follow the list below:

1. Make a Gratitude List

  • Make a list of things that you are grateful for that already exist in your life. This can be a written list or a mental one. Try paying attention to your 5 senses. Appreciate for a bit what you can smell, taste, feel, see, and hear right now. If one or more of these senses are challenged, find appreciation for the enhancement of those that are working for you.
  • The mere fact that you woke up this morning is quite an accomplishment. Find gratitude for your bodily functions that work without effort or thought. What have you accomplished today? In the last 6 months? In life?

2. Create a plan for What You Hope for in the Future

  • Don’t let this list overwhelm you. Rather, use it as a guide to get where you are going.
  • Jot down the steps needed to get there and make it a goal to take one step in a practical, timely manner, not necessarily today, but soon. Give yourself credit for just making this list as you are one step closer to your goals than you were before you did so.

3. Give Yourself Credit for What You Have Already Achieved

  • We often discount how far we have come when looking at the long road ahead. Picture yourself hiking up a mountain and taking a rest at the halfway point. You have two ways to look at, by focusing on the journey you still have or giving yourself acknowledgment for how far you have come. Sometimes the first step is the biggest one. Don’t forget to honor the work it took for you to take it.
  • Make a list of the positive changes you have made in your life, the things that make you happy today, and compare who you are now to who you were in the past, focusing on the positive. Perspective is everything. Is the glass half full or half empty? Watch your patterns and notice how you tend to look at things. Could you see it differently with a fresh, more positive focus?

4. Don’t Lose Sight of Your Foundation: Improving Life is Like Building a House

  • I often find it helpful to look at life like building a house. To build a home that will last, you first need to even out the existing surface. Remove uneven land, make sure the ground beneath is strong, and lay a sturdy foundation. Then comes the rest: building the structure itself. How can we expect ourselves to change overnight, when it took us however many years to become who we are? First we need to clear the past patterns, beliefs, and ideas that don’t suit us. This takes time, but is worth the effort.
  • Acknowledge the work you have already put in. Maybe you have spent time journaling, seeing a therapist, reading self-help books, etc. All of the pieces come together to make the whole, so pat yourself on the back for the parts you have already achieved.

5. Let Go of Expectations

  • As I have discussed further in a previous blog post stop “shoulding” on yourself. Let go of who you “Should” be, what you “should” do and how you “should” feel and let things just be. Challenge yourself to observe with an objective view and just notice the language in which you speak to yourself.
  • Don’t beat yourself up for not being in the place that you had expected yourself to be. Be gentle, easy does it. Treat yourself more like you would treat your good friend or loved one, with less criticism and more love.

6. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others, The Grass is Not Greener

  • Too often we look to how others are doing to form a basis to judge ourselves off of. We forget the beauty in being unique. We tend to judge a book by its cover, expecting that others have it better than us, making us feel less than or worse off.
  • Remember that the grass really is never greener somewhere else. Everyone has “stuff.” There will always be someone who has it better than you, but there is also always someone who has it worse then you. If we focus more on what we have than at what we lack, the world becomes brighter.

7. Take at Least 5 Minutes Every Day to be Present

  • Give yourself time to feel the now. It is so easy to look forward to the next thing, or disregard your feelings. But it is actually more productive if we allow ourselves to actually feel our feelings rather than fight them or judge them. The sooner we allow ourselves to feel our true emotions, the sooner we can move through them if they are uncomfortable.
  • Mindfulness has become the new wave of self-help and for good reason. Focus on the room you are in right now. Notice the smell, the sounds, what you see, what you feel both physically and emotionally, and what you may taste. Let yourself really be in the space you are in.

If all else fails focus on your breath and notice how when you breathe in your belly rises and when you breathe out your belly falls. Allow yourself to just be in your body. No judgement if even for a moment. Feel alive. Be present. Breathe.