The Dalai Lama wrote that “Happiness is determined more by one’s state of mind than by external events.” Even during this time of so many conflicting reports of when this shelter-at-home, financial strain, will end? Even with so many people dying, alone in hospitals, and with no real cure for this pandemic, yet? We’re supposed to be happy? What, is it our birthright?

In the Toltec wisdom book The Mastery of Love, Don Miguel Ruiz seems to suggest that happiness is indeed our bequest, “That is the reason you are here: To play and have fun. We are born with the right to be happy, with the right to enjoy life.”

Have fun? Now? In the midst of hearing about family, friends, neighbors who are struggling so much with financial fears, symptoms of COVID-19 but not able to be tested for it, hearing kids screaming about not wanting to sit in on another online school class, and never a moment of privacy? We’re supposed to “have fun”? If that means create healthy times of delight, brightness, positivity, and gladness, then the answer is yes.

Even during this time of emotional inconvenience, with daily hurdles and continuing nuisances, it is certainly possible to create time for pleasurable laughter that is amusing and keeps us youthful. Purposeless, entertaining, pleasurable diversion is vital for healthy relationships, stress prevention, and successful problem solving. But the right mindset, healthy rational self-talk is the foundation upon which that can happen.

Oh, did I use terms like “inconvenience, hurdles, nuisances?” Of course, I did. That’s an example of positivity, seeing situations in bright, hopeful, optimistic ways. What words would you use to label this time? Horrible? Awful? Terrible? I’ll stick with mine.

Abraham Lincoln used to say: “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Try these beliefs for a week of mindset changing happiness and increased life satisfaction from Albert Ellis, Ph.D.:

  1. It’s definitely nice to have people’s love and approval, but even without it I can still accept and enjoy myself and be happy.
  2. Doing things well is satisfying, but it’s human to make mistakes. I can still be happy.
  3. People act the way they want, not the way I want. I can still be happy.

In her 2007 book, The How of Happiness, positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D. defines happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.” Are you seeing the good, the meaningful, the worthwhile in your days? Or are you choosing to use terms like “horrible, awful, terrible”?

The father of positive psychology, Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D. noted in his 2006 book, Learned Optimism, “Habits of thinking need not be forever. One of the most significant findings in psychology in the last twenty years is that individuals can choose the way they think.” Choose the way we think. The ROI on doing so will be far greater than you imagine and will determine how you emerge from this experience.

How can we create happiness during such a hassle filled time of life? There I go again with “hassle filled.” Yes, I choose to change the way I think. After all, Drs. Ellis and Seligman were teachers of mine, so it comes somewhat naturally.

Here are my top 10 favorite habits to create holistic happiness. I’ve put them in the form of questions for you to quickly assess yourself, and see what you can add to your daily life for greater joy:

1. Have you connected with yourself, to make yourself your priority? 

2. Is increasing happiness your focused goal?

3. Do you keep a happiness/gratitude/kindness notebook?

4. Do you fill your days fully engaged with things you enjoy (NOT that “MAKE” you happy)?

5. Do you awake with thoughts of what can go RIGHT instead of what can go wrong?

6. Do you understand that holistic happiness is an aligned state of mind, heart and soul and therefore…

7. Do you take care of your full body by getting restorative sleep, enough exercise and feed your body with proper nutrition?

8. Do you act kindly towards others (holistic happiness is a 360o experience – if others around you aren’t happy, chances are you will have a more difficult time feeling happiness yourself)

9. Do you train your mind to always see the good in people and circumstances, thinking less critically and more positively?

10. Do you hold the door open for others, smile at the first five people you see every day even virtually or on a walk around your neighborhood, let someone go first, smile and say “Thank you,” and build a mindset of gratitude?

Sure, you can create moments of gladness, pleasure, cheerfulness and bliss, even now. I never begin a new week without this optimistic, expectant thought…

“Have a good week, a healthy week, a week of peace, may gladness reign and joy increase.”