Ah happiness – in our perpetually chaotic world, it seems more elusive each day.

Or does it?

Is happiness really all that complicated?

The answer is no, though we like to think its the most complicated thing a human can accomplish.

And there’s our first flaw – happiness is not an accomplishment. Happiness is a chosen mindset that’s always available.

The second flaw we often have with happiness is what we think happiness feels or looks like. Being happy doesn’t mean there are zero problems or struggles in your life. It doesn’t mean that you never argue or run low on money or make stupid decisions. Being happy means that no matter what is going on around you, you appreciate being alive in the present moment.

Sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

It is. It truly is. As someone who spent decades making it complicated, happiness is the simplest thing we can have that has the greatest impact on our daily lives.

If you’re still seeking the simplicity of happiness, there’s a 2-step foundation that helped me be happy on a daily basis. Yes, happiness is a mindset AND a practice – a daily practice that, once again, is rather simple.

1. Gratitude

It can be tough to feel grateful when things are going wrong. It can be tough to feel grateful when someone has hurt you. It can be tough to be grateful when you feel like the entire world is against you.

It can be tough, but not impossible – you simply need practice.

Practicing gratitude on a daily basis (particularly by taking 5 minutes to write down at least 3 things you’re grateful for) has scientifically-proven benefits on your mind + body.

Jim Kwik recently did a fantastic episode about the benefits of a daily gratitude practice on his podcast, Kwik Brain. As he mentions, a brief daily gratitude practice can improve your physical health, mental health, energy levels, sleep, self-esteem and oodles more.

Personally, I keep a notebook next to my bed + write down at least 3 things I’m grateful for before I go to bed. When I first started doing it over a year ago, I didn’t really believe that it would have much of an impact, but gratitude is like a muscle – the more you do it, the easier it is to do at any point in your day.

If you haven’t been intentionally grateful each day, why not try it?

You’ve got nothing to lose, except your negativity.

Or, as I say, you can’t get what you want unless you’re grateful for what you already have.

2. Kindness

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. – Dalai Lama

If you’re 30 or older, then you grew up in an era where kindness was a default. Being nice came first.

Somewhere along the way of developing advanced technologies that allow us to share our lives with the entire world, kindness became optional.

Maybe because we became so exposed to everyone else’s cultures, beliefs, + lifestyles that we felt not only fear of so many different things but also jealousy or greed – which means we forgot to be grateful *wink*

Until I was 9, I grew up in a small town in Indiana where kindness was still king. As I grew up (and the rest of the world changed rapidly), I moved to larger and larger cities. Over time, my desire to be kind was overshadowed by my fear of what would happen.

“What would they say? Would they curse at me? Would they attack me? Would they think I was insane? Maybe it’s just better to leave them alone. Yeah, it’s safer that way.”

It was safer, but not happiness-inducing.

I’m sure you’ve had a moment where someone held the door for you or helped you get something from a shelf or complimented something you were wearing. That’s kindness, and it can truly change your entire day.

Being an introvert, I’m in awe people who can make friends at the grocery store + is the first person to help a total stranger. I fear I’m interrupting their lives + being a nuisance, but he jumps right in to help.

That’s kindness. If there’s a way you can add ease to someone’s life, even if only for 60 seconds, do it.

May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears. – Nelson Mandela

It’s all about choice. In EVERY situation, we have the option of being helpful + kind or insulting + rude.

Yes, those are your only two options. Being passive aggressive has become the chic thing, but it’s just being an asshole. Let’s call a spade a spade, friends.

This is not about trying to change someone you do or don’t know. This is about being decent to your fellow humans.

Everyone you meet is fighting a difficult battle you know nothing about – whether it’s physical, mental, emotion, financial… doesn’t matter. We all struggle. We all love. We all fear.

Every day, every person you meet, you have the option to be kind.

The more you practice kindness (even as an introvert!), the easier it gets. Not everyone will respond positively, and that’s OK – you were kind. That’s better than being an asshole. 

This world doesn’t need more assholes. It needs more gratitude + kindness – for the spectacular miracle that we’re alive + we’re all in this together.

As Neil Pasricha says in his bestselling book, The Happiness Equation, focus on being happy first. From happiness, you can take the most effective action in any area of your life.

Sounds simple, because it is.

It’s the hardest simple thing you’ll ever do, every day.

P.S. This is written from the perspective of a person who lives in a first-world country. If you don’t have the basic necessities of life (food, water, shelter, safety, access to medical care), Gratitude + Kindness are not the ONLY things you’re in need of, but they are still vital.

Photo by Josh Boot on Unsplash

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