Kal posted a link to a great article about 10 things you can do to make yourself happier:
(it's not very long, but well worth the read.)
So I read it before I went on my walk today and it got me thinking about the things that I do that myself happier. Some of them are on the list of the article, but not all of them.
1) EXERCISE. Technically, I do this for two primary reasons--one to help my body recover from my hip injury etc. and become stronger, fitter, and in less pain, so that I can regain my life, and two, as a form of stress relief. Also, I have a streak going right now and I'm stubborn so I don't want to give it up. The fact that it lets me eat a more comfortable (for me) diet while still (at least theoretically, grrr) losing weight (comfortable for me is at about 1500 calories; I can go down to 1400 but I start to feel like I'm depriving myself, and less than 1400 and I get irritable, shaky, and otherwise non-functional. Besides, it's hard to eat every 3-4 hours and feel remotely satisfied with what I ate and still eat under 1400 calories. At least for me). I also exercise--at least some of the time because it's fun, and fencing has the added benefit of being social. But I'd say that stress relief, rather than necessarily happiness, is my primary motivator. Still, it's really hard to be happy when you're so stressed you're making yourself sick. Even better, fencing and some of the other activities I do are pure fun. It's easy to be happy when you get to play once and awhile.
2) GET OUTSIDE. I like to be outdoors. In fact, given my choice and cooperative weather, I prefer to exercise outdoors. Sun, trees, water, and mountains in my terrain all make me feel very energized and happy... sadly mountains are somewhat (okay, extremely) lacking in my Michigan landscape, and while I love the ocean--I've rarely felt as alive as I have by the sea--that's also pretty lacking as well. But this is Michigan, a state filled with many lakes, including some really big ones *grin* and a great many rivers. I am extremely lucky in that I managed to find an apartment right on one of those lakes, and I love to go for a walk down by the shore. Sun is often somewhat lacking in Michigan, but when it's sunny like it is today, it's glorious out. My parents joke that I'm solar powered, and there's some truth to that--I feel so much more alive after my walk in the sun today. Pity I also burn if I look at the sun wrong, so maybe it's a good thing I don't live in a warmer, sunnier state.
3) STRONG SOCIAL SUPPORT NETWORKS. In my case both friends and family. I am very lucky in both. So many people I know, particularly living in urban areas, are so isolated... separated from their families by job and without a good way to meet and socialize with people. Most of my friends are either people I've known since high school (or longer) or people I met through the SCA. Some of these people are *very* good friends. I know that people on sparks have commented that I'm a very good friend because I've helped bail my friends out when they needed help, such as when a friend of mine found herself having to move on VERY little notice. But the thing is, I know that these people would do the same for me. They've helped me before. They'll help me again. Same with my family. I haven't had the chance to spend much time with them because of school, but I still try to stay connected because they matter to me and vice versa, and even though we don't get together as often as we'd like, we make those times count. And even though I don't see my friends in person much, and they are leaving me alone because they know I have no time, they always take time to talk to me when I call, at least a little while, send me quick supportive texts when they can tell I need it, or quick hugs at a fencing practice etc. I didn't used to be a hugging kind of person but there are times when hugs from a good friend are just what a person needs. And lucky me, my husband gives great hugs *grin*
4) GET ENOUGH SLEEP. Seriously, the number one thing I can do to manage my stress is get enough sleep--as soon as I start becoming sleep deprived, my stress levels go through the roof and my mood plummets. Sadly, sleep doesn't always come easily to me even when I try to make sure I get enough, and this semester I just haven't been getting enough sleep. While the amount of sleep everyone needs varies, I typically need somewhere between 8-9. This semester hasn't been as bad as it could be--I've been averaging closer to 7--but it's just not enough and it's wearing me down, and I can tell.
5) MUSIC. (Here's where I diverge from their list). Music is essential to me--I can't imagine a life without music. I listen to music while I read, while I exercise, while I work. I have music that makes me feel excited and music that makes me relax. Music is intimately connected to my mood, so when I'm feeling down I turn to music that makes me happy. Lately I've been listening to a lot of video game soundtracks (Numerous Final Fantasy and Zelda, mostly, but also DragonAge and a couple of others) because the music makes me happy.
6) BE CREATIVE. Kal posted in the Azure newsletter about feeding not just our bodies but our souls, and I think that this is so very important but it's something we often forget. What feeds our souls varies from person for person. Music, as mentioned, is one of mine (and I miss--deeply--making music. I use to play instruments and even sing in choirs, though I'm not a great singer, but music takes practice and practice takes time). Creative outlets are definitely another one. This could be writing fiction... I so miss writing fiction, it's ridiculous (I have worked on some fiction in grad school, which helps, but I just haven't been able to recently... even if I had the mental focus and energy to work on both, my hands won't let me). Instead I tell stories to myself in my head. I love making things--need to make things. I have a lot of craft hobbies--I bead, knit, weave, and do kumihimo, primarily (I also dabble in embroidery, spinning, working with wire, and a couple of other things I'm currently blanking on). I love playing with colors and textures, and the focus and repetitive movements are the closest I come to a truly meditative state (I don't sit still well. I just don't. And my brain is even more restless than my hands). I haven't done much crafting lately--I don't have the time and my hands/wrists/forearms are paying for all the time spent on the computer--and that's hard on me. I miss it, badly.
7) READ. I don't just enjoy reading, I *need* to read; this is even more critical to feeding my soul than being creative. It's my way to wind down at the end of the day. I often read during meals, too, if I'm eating alone (bad Zanna, I know, from a mindful eating perspective, but it's a way for me to stop working while I eat without resenting the time spent fueling up). Even in grad school, I read an average of one book every 2-3 days or so.... mostly very light, humorous, feel good fiction these days, admittedly. I don't have the head-space after I'm done with school to read much that requires thinking, and I can't handle the additional stress of a stressful book (so no suspense thrillers, horror, etc.). On vacations, I often read more, which is one of the reasons we broke down and bought kindles (we took literally a suitcase of books--a small carry on suitcase, true, but it was still 50 lbs of books. I know, because we weighed it to make sure it wasn't too heavy. Have I mentioned that my husband is a reader as well?)
8) EAT REGULARLY. This one may be strange, but I tend to forget to eat. You'd think I wouldn't be overweight since I'm prone to skipping meals if I'm not careful, but it doesn't work that way. For one thing, it means that when I do remember to eat I'm starving which means a weakness to bad (but quick) food choices, eating too quickly, and ultimately too much, but I'm also more tired, more stressed, impatient, and frankly downright irritable when I don't eat regularly. Seriously irritable. To the point that I was on a trip with my mom (years ago now--I was 18) when every time I'd get crabby she'd threaten to feed me. So if I want to be happy, I need to eat meals or snacks about every 3-4 hours.