by Sara Avant Stover
We women have it all wrong. Happiness doesn’t live in a new hairstyle, handbag, or husband. True contentment waits in the most unlikely of places—right inside of you. That’s right: You alone must become the steward of your own happiness. Your deepest bliss is neither a miracle nor a far off milestone, but rather participation in every moment of every day. At first that doesn’t seem sexy, true, or possible, but how many handbags, hairstyles, and husbands do we have to go through to realize that nothing outside of ourselves can bring happiness? Here are five tried-and-true (and surprisingly simple) ways to start treating your own happiness as your most sacred daily duty.
1. Be Selfish.
Every morning when you wake up ask yourself, “What can I do just for me today?” As women we’re virtuosic “givers,” but happiness requires us to also strengthen our receiving muscles. Start by putting yourself first. Throughout the day ask, “What would bring harmony and balance now?” or “What do I really need in this moment?” Then respond accordingly. Take a bubble bath. Eat a big bowl of oatmeal. Get a pedicure. Go for a walk in the sun. Find ways to nurture yourself and you’ll have so much more to give others.
2. Play with Dirt.
As women we are intricately linked to the cycles and rhythms of the Earth. The more we recognize and synch up with these, the healthier and happier we become. Before you hole yourself up in an air-conditioned office or go for a run on the first day of your menstrual cycle, do yourself a favor. Notice what’s happening inside of you. Notice what’s happening outside of you. Then feel into how you can reconcile the two. Rest and be quiet on the new moon; and dance and throw a dinner party for your girlfriends on the full moon. Eat salads in the summer and hearty stews in the winter; be kind to your body when you’re menstruating, and push its edges when you’re feeling frisky and active.
3. Let Love Trump All.
I’ve had times in my life where my heart hurts so much that it literally feels like it’s breaking; and I know you’ve had these moments, too. They usually come in the midst of great loss (a death, break-up, big life change, or watching a loved one suffer), or when you witness something magical and precious (a child being born or a beautiful rainbow). These are important moments to stay present for. These are the moments in which your heart can truly open and you can taste who you truly are—beyond emotions, thoughts, and circumstances. Breathe deeply into your heart and feel your feet on the ground. Stay present to the moment and what it brings, even if it’s colored with the pain of sorrow. Sadness often opens the door into compassion and love–first for yourself, and then for others. This is a beautiful and wondrous thing. Even when it hurts, open yourself to the truth of each moment.
4. Dance, Sister, Dance!
As women we’re wired to experience and express pleasure; and the more we consciously create circumstances for bliss and delight regularly, the healthier and happier we will become. Dance is without a doubt one of the best way to do this. Don’t let a day go by without dancing—even if it’s just swinging your hips as you wash the dishes or snaking your shoulders while driving your car. Sometimes do it fully by going out for a night of dancing with your lover or girlfriends or taking a Nia, Salsa, or Tango class. Dissolve into the ecstasy of rhythm and movement and enjoy how it lights you up from deep inside.
5. Fake It ‘til You Make It!
When you’re in a funk, if all else fails resist your resistance. Smiling (even a simple “Buddha smile”) can elicit the secretion of feel good hormones in your body. Don a toothy grin while you take a shower. Answer the phone with a more enthusiastic “Hello!” than you’re used to. Watch a slapstick comedy when all you feel like doing is complaining and crawling into a dark hole. Wear a really sexy matching bra and panty set when you’re tired and bloated. Cultivate the skill of laughing at yourself and not taking life so seriously!
Remember that at the end of the day, the person most responsible for your happiness isn’t your boss, your husband, your children, or your family. It’s you.
Sara Avant Stover is the author of The Way of the Happy Women: Living the Best Year of Your Life (New World Library) and a teacher and mentor to women around the world on wellness, spirituality and lifestyle. Steward of her own bliss, she’s truly happy some days and fakes it ‘til she makes it on others. Visit her online at www.SaraAvant.com.