Photo credit: Vaida Petereikiene
You know what the real enemy to happiness is? It’s not sadness, or failure or fear… its complacency. It’s becoming so comfortable with just being comfortable that we stop trying to make things better. We stop even trying to make things different. We go on and on, satisfied with being good enough, and we don’t realize that nothing is really all that good until we wake up one day and find ourselves miserable. Sometime before we reach that point, there are chances, windows that can be thrown open to let in some fresh air and sunlight. Changing your life doesn’t always mean turning your entire world upside down, sometimes it’s just about getting a new perspective on yourself, or the world around you.
Change your body
We spend our entire lives in the same skin. Isn’t that amazing? The one thing you truly carry with you from birth to death is your body. And our bodies can be the ultimate frenemy. They are there for us, they enable us to live and yet all the while they can be a source of resentment and struggle. But they are also something we can alter.
Our bodies will change on their own over the years, but there are plenty of developments along the way we can control. If a change of perspective is in order, why not start with your own reflection? Weight issues are battle for many of us; whether it’s losing or gaining pounds we spend far too much time agonizing over some notion of physical perfection. Or hell, screw perfection, even just something we can be proud of. Any of us can make healthier food choices and exercise a little bit more if we really want to change our bodies in that regard. And sometimes, weight loss, or gain, can be exactly the thing we need to turn our lives in a new direction. But that’s obvious. What about some of the less conspicuous options?
Look in the mirror, anything you see you can change. If you need to reinvigorate your life, maybe a cosmetic change is the way to go. I’m not talking plastic surgery, I suppose it’s an option, but again it’s obvious, and risky. I mean more like, tattoos, piercings, hair color types of changes. We tend to think of these things as rites of passage for the young. But a change in hair color can be an exciting new venture for anyone. I don’t just mean covering the grays either; I’m talking about going blonde for the first time in your life. And if age equals wisdom, is there any better time in life than mid-life to get that tattoo you’ve always thought about? You probably know yourself a lot better now than you did in your 20’s, and have a better idea of what kind of image would have sustainable significance. A belly button piercing seems like something for an 18 year old but certainly not a mother of 2, but… why not? Who cares if no one will see it but you? Whether it’s a tattoo or a navel ring, you will know and the knowledge that you did something so crazy will make you smile and it may make you wonder what other things you can do that you’ve never considered?
Change your view
My mom used to suggest when I had trouble sleeping that maybe I just needed a change of scenery, and somehow moving to the couch would always help. I doubt it was the scenery, but sometimes when we spend too long looking at the same things; they lose their meaning. That’s why sometimes the best thing you can do to change your perspective is to literally change what is right in front of you.
The way you change your surroundings can be quiet or dramatic. It can be as simple as re-arranging your furniture or as huge as buying a summer home in Cancun. Feng Shui isn’t for everybody, but a book will only cost about $10-$15 and if putting my headboard against a wall is supposed to help me sleep better, it’s worth a Saturday afternoon to give it a shot. It may work, it may not, but it’s fun to imagine that my day to day life could be affected by the placement of my bed. Ok ancient Asian arts aside, re-painting a living room, buying a new carpet, hanging new decorations or getting a new slip cover for an old couch can all drastically affect how you see your living environment. Sometimes just those changes will re-awaken us to the things we love about just being at home.
If fixing up the house isn’t going to cut it, you may have to travel around the world to find your answer. Or maybe just across town. Because the answer isn’t anywhere else, it’s in you; you just may need to go somewhere else to figure it out. The fact is nothing changes your perspective like a trip. It could be a day trip or a two-week excursion to your dream destination. Getting up, and out of your rut can be as easy as getting on a Greyhound. If you are looking for a real life-changing experience though, there’s nothing quite like experiencing a new culture for the first time. If you feel like maybe you need to be reminded of exactly how fortunate you are, try visiting a poorer country to see how the rest of the world lives away from Starbucks and Best Buy. When you see the places where children beg to braid hair to have money for food, believe me, your perspective gets a little electro-shock therapy. Suddenly your dead-end job and mediocre family car don’t seem so disappointing.
Change your resume
Speaking of jobs, the way we make our living is a major part of our identity, so if you really want to shake things up, a career change may be the answer. Granted, it’s not feasible for everyone to switch occupations. The job market isn’t exactly brimming with opportunities right now, and sometimes we can’t afford the financial sacrifices, so we have to make the best of what we have. But that’s ok. You don’t need to change jobs to change your resume. There are plenty of things we can add aside from a new title, or place of employment.
Improving yourself is always an option, but how you choose to do that is entirely up to you. I see the continuing education brochures for my local community colleges and high schools all the time. I browse through them, think “Hmm, that looks like fun” then they get lost with the junk mail and forgotten. But what if, just once, it wasn’t? Why not try that jewelry making seminar or that cooking class? The options are so endless everyone can learn a new skill that may change how we define ourselves. Some are just fun, like ball room dancing or synchronized swimming, but others like a course in real estate or tax law can be put to practical use. If a visiting a physical classroom is out of the question, online education is available 24/7 pretty much everywhere. Whether it’s getting a GED or learning Italian, it’s only as far away as your home computer.
When all else fails, a new perspective on the world isn’t just in undeveloped nations, it’s in every community in every country in the world. You have a local soup kitchen or shelter somewhere near your hometown, even if you don’t know about it. Charities all seem to come out of the woodwork at the holidays, but philanthropy is going on all year, all around you. All you have to do is look for it. Nothing will make you appreciate your own life like seeing what others live without. It will make you re-evaluate your priorities, and it’s something that can be done as a family. It may seem cruel to expose children to the more unfortunate side of the world, but the truth is it can also breed, grateful, sensitive and generous kids, who will grow into empathetic, giving adults. If you really want to love your existence again, imagine having a different one that is filled with the kinds of hardship that hundreds of thousands of people face every single day.
The power to change your life lies in you. But making the leap into something entirely new can be terrifying. So don’t force yourself to dive head first into the void. Try working up to it, you may find that a few small changes are all you need to re-invigorate your happiness. Or you may decide that you need whole-life makeover. And sometimes, you may discover that everything you need for happiness, you’ve had all along.
Janet is a writer for New Look Houston a Texas laser tattoo removal clinic. She is a blogger and freelance writer who loves to travel and re-decorate, although she’s not very good at the latter.