Can you be happy, or at least joyful, no matter what's going on in your life? I believe you can. And no, I certainly don't feel joyous all of the time. Yes, I've had my share of challenges, as most people do.
However, during one of the toughest times in my life, when I woke up to being the single, broke and unemployed mom to two girls, then 4 and 7, I managed to find ways to lift my spirits—even if it was barely enough to get me through the day. Over time, these practices have helped me overcome depression and defeatist thoughts and have kept me going, despite the inevitable hurdles we all face at certain times.
Shared from my own experience and that of other positive women I know, here are seven habits of happy women.
1. Happy women find "me time" regularly, no matter what. It doesn't have to be a whole lot of time, especially if you have young kids. It can be 10 minutes for a coffee alone before the family wakes up, 15 minutes taking a bubble bath, five minutes lying on your bed listening to a short guided meditation to relax. The point is carving out small pockets of time where it's all about you and your thoughts and feelings. It usually takes some effort to create these moments, but if you do it regularly, you won't find yourself running on empty all the time.
2. Happy women have a creative outlet. Whether it's knitting, drawing, crafting, writing or baking, when you're nurturing your creative side, you tend to feel better about yourself and about life. Regularly engaging in an activity that allows you to feel in-the-flow is relaxing and uplifting. If you're not quite sure of what your creative inclinations are, try several and then stick with the one that you most enjoy.
3. Happy women learn from their mistakes. Instead of beating ourselves up over every single thing we ever did wrong and feel bitter about, learning from our mistakes helps us raise our self-esteem and advance our personal growth. Not only that, we'll also be modeling a positive attitude for our children. It will help them understand that oftentimes making mistakes is a surefire way of learning.
4. Happy women practice gratitude. This helped me so much at a very difficult point in my life that I'm taking it up again. An easy but effective way to remind ourselves of the things in life we can be grateful for is to write them down every day, in the morning and at night. Write down three things that make you feel grateful. When life is not going as expected, focusing on the small things can help you make it through the day. A stranger's kindness, your baby's smile, a call from a friend … nothing is too small.
5. Happy women engage in sports. You don't have to be a jock and join an adult league, simply engage in some kind of physical activity. Sports tend to be easier to stick to because unlike workouts, they don't feel like hard work. Whether it's ice skating, dancing tango or playing volleyball, sports help our brain release endorphins, which help improve our moods. If you hate to hit the gym or aren't the team sports type, yoga and mat pilates are other options you can try at home.
6. Happy women keep a journal. Journaling daily, weekly or even monthly can help you sort out your feelings. It forces you to stop and assess what's really going on in your life and how you're feeling about it. Julia Cameron, the author of "The Artist's Way" is an advocate of what she calls "morning pages." These are three pages written first thing in the morning, without thinking. Possibly before even drinking your first cup of morning coffee. Her rationale is that this helps declutter the mind, as you are transposing your mind clutter on to the paper.
7. Happy women meditate. There are as many ways to meditate. Find out what works for you. Don't let the word "meditation" scare you. You don't have to do it for hours on end. Five to 10 minutes in the morning and/or at night will help you focus and stay focused. The key is to do it regularly. Even if all you do is sit quietly and listen to Gregorian chants or focus on an object or sound, it will help quiet your mind. There are tons of short guided meditations available on YouTube or you can download an app on your phone (like the Calm app).