The Habits of Happy People, Part 6 of 8

meditation

In the Magnificat, Mary sings, “My soul doth magnify the Lord. My spirit leaps for joy in Him.”

Habit #5: Self-care

Habit #5 is all about the care of the body and soul. This habit encapsulates anything that we do to care for ourselves: from exercise, sleep, hydration and diet, to spiritual practices, prayer and meditation, and moments of solitude to think and regroup.

As printed above, Mary sings in the Magnificat, “My spirit leaps for joy.” Mary’s words seem to speak to the finding that 47% of people who attend regular religious services describe themselves as “very happy,” even joyful.

Many aspects of spiritual practices are in line with the happiness habits, including volunteering and giving to charity, forgiving others, being grateful, connecting with one’s meaning in life and finding the sacred in everyday life.

Another aspect of self-care that we might not think about even though it is right there in the word, self-care, is how we treat ourselves. Are we hard on ourselves? Do we blame ourselves? Are we our own worst critic?

Something that therapists sometimes recommend is to treat ourselves and talk to ourselves like we would talk to a dear friend. We must treat ourselves with care and compassion, not with criticism and judgment. We must treat ourselves like someone who deserves to be happy, and act like a happy person even if we don’t believe that we are a happy person.

Act like a happy person. We can smile even if we don’t always feel like it. Smiling – even fake smiling – actually produces a momentary pleasant sensation in us that can induce us to be happier.

Here is a question to ponder: Is it our joy that makes us smile, or is it our smile that makes us joyful? Think about that for a minute. This is one of those chicken-and-the-egg questions. Which comes first: a smile or the feeling of joy? Research shows that a smile can encourage happiness.

Here is something to try at home to illustrate this point. Take a drinking straw. First, hold it between the lips with the straw sticking forward. Holding it like this mimics a frown because the same muscles are used. Then, hold it between the teeth with the straw going sideways. This movement mimics a smile. If done right, holding the straw gripped in the teeth should feel better, even just a tad bit better.

Let’s use that mental image of the straw held in our teeth — the silliness of that visual — to remind us to smile more and to act like a happy person.

To read the other blogs in this series:
Part 1 http://wp.me/p2SXH1-4h
Part 2 http://wp.me/p2SXH1-4j
Part 3 http://wp.me/p2SXH1-4r
Part 4 http://wp.me/p2SXH1-5J
Part 5 http://wp.me/p2SXH1-5W
Part 7 http://wp.me/p2SXH1-6J
Part 8 http://wp.me/p2SXH1-6T