Whenever you are in a funk and aren't sure what to do to pull yourself out of it, focus on three specific areas that will truly make a difference in your life. Gordon Livingston, M.D., speaks from lot of experience - both personally and professionally. He's one of my favorite authors.
Gordon says you only need three things to be happy.
1) Someone to love
2) Something to do
3) Something to look forward to
I'm not sure if he purposefully wrote someone to love first. I'd like to think he did. Relationships are the pillar of our existence. This can mean many things aside from romantic love.
Something to do covers work and hobbies and having a purpose in our life - being useful, productive and contributing to the world.
Something to look forward is essential to keep your eye on the future. It's probably easiest to start here. Plan a coffee date with friends or even just a visit to your local park to play on the swings. No one can be unhappy on a swing!
I started pondering all of this with the loss of DJ AM (Adam Goldstein). I admit I've never been to any of his parties or heard his mixing, but just being in Hollywood, it's always sad to lose someone so young in a tragic way. Upon his death I started reading more about him. He was very well-respected in the industry, not just as a DJ, but a human being too. In one of his interviews, he said something that I thought we could all benefit from that relates to being and staying happy. And notice he started with very small steps through his journey of addiction, 11 years of sobriety, and turning his life around to find joy in everyday life.
"In my recovery meetings, I was told the solution for low self-esteem was to do estimable acts. Whether it was letting someone over in traffic; calling a friend and saying, “How are you doing today?”; or something more serious, like feeding the homeless at a shelter, I made sure to do one selfless act per day. Then I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone about it. Little by little, I gained confidence in myself. I no longer needed a trophy girlfriend or drugs to feel good about myself."
I found two things remarkable with what DJ AM said. First, the act of doing one selfless deed a day without telling anyone is truly a sign of being selfless. Usually doing the selfless deed is rewarded with the admiration people bestow upon you when they hear of the good deed. In this case, doing the selfless act is the main focus, not the praise given.
Second, when he was down he usually focused on external objects to make himself happy which is what most people do. However, he learned when you are down, it's a more meaningful way to bring happiness to your own life by sharing a happy and giving moment with someone else. It's about the experience and its interactions of life that bring happiness, not the acquiring of objects.
Do one small thing every day and build upon it. Build relationships, start new ones, and seek out meaningful exchanges. And that's the key - look outward in your time of need and be a friend to someone else. You'll find that it will come back full circle before you know it.