There are all sorts of orators, spiritual advisors and other experts with plenty of advice on how to be happy. I don’t purport to be an expert, but here are six of my favorite EXPRESS-ways to happiness that seem to resound with other women over 40:
Having some control over our time, so that there’s at least an hour that is ours to do with what we want. Per the above referenced studies and contrary to conventional wisdom spouted for centuries, a higher paycheck will not make you happy if you have little or no time left for something that gives you real pleasure. Whatever we do for a living, whether we work inside the home, parenting, running a business, taking care of family in some way, or work outside the home, one of the foremost ways that women over 40 define happiness is that one hour (or so) a day (for some it’s only an hour a week, and even more precious at that!), has to belong to them and them alone.
Physical activity of some kind is a must. For decades exercise has been hailed as not only a stress-reliever but a happiness boost. The endorphins created by exercise can be enough to motivate us to better productivity, a more healthy brain, and even joy.
Fit into your schedule some kind of exercise you enjoy and make sure that you push away from your desk and walk around instead of working through a high-fat lunch. There is an entire encyclopedic catalog of Zumba™ music on i-Tunes alone, but just find your own bliss and get moving!
Start your day with a comedy fix, or fit one in during the day. Yes, surfing the net for cat videos has given whole new meaning to wasting one’s life away, but women over 40 can be more creative than that! The benefits of fitting in something that genuinely makes you laugh at the beginning or end of the day, or whenever you need an energy boost, are so numerous there isn’t enough space to list them all. (My personal laugh-fests are The Today Show’s third hour, with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb; and anything Ellen DeGeneris says, does, wears or sings on her Ellen show – check your local listings.)
Moving away for even 30 minutes from a challenging task – business or otherwise – is actually your fastest route to an optimal solution and, we hope, a happier day. One of my favorite new discoveries is a consulting firm called The Energy Project, http://www.theenergyproject.com – chock-full of ideas for boosting physical, spiritual, mental and emotional energy. A New York Times article about the firm remained in the #1 spot on the “Most Emailed” List for almost a week! It makes me happy to try at least one new idea from that site on a daily basis.
Even Harvard Business School concurs that it’s not just about money when it comes to being happy. In a snippet from this month’s Inc. magazine* on what makes employees unhappy, Professor Teresa M. Amabile asserts [see citation below] that “…making progress on real work…” and “…Feeling like you are able to move forward on a daily basis engenders real joy.”
To Professor Amabile’s assertion, I would add that having an effective to-do list is essential. Plowing through a lot of unrelated tasks without some type of strategic approach to the desired outcome is not productive. In fact, it’s like project dandruff. Either bundle tasks by energy, purpose, or timeframe, or slam through inessential tasks as fast as possible. Having a set of 60-90-120 day goals – and revising them to accommodate the inevitable delays or deletions – is essential. Not only do I rely on such a list (I use a spreadsheet), but I’m adamant that it stay one page. It really forces me to focus on what’s essential and to get that done during the time of day when I have the most energy – physical, mental, spiritual or emotional.
Hah – there is no “7!” How about you just rest! Whether you have religious beliefs or not, try to set aside one day a week to do absolutely nothing but what makes you happy. Just as a book on the “art” of spontaneity would be completely superfluous, rest assured (literally) that you will be more refreshed, more productive, more ready than ever to tackle the things that make you unhappy once you’ve had a day or weekend to zone out and spend some time doing the things that you love doing. Consider it a gift – no Santa necessary.
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Sources and further reading:
3) *What Makes Employees Unhappy | Inc.com
4) The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work, by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer