Ten Simple Steps to Happiness

Ten Simple Steps to Happiness

I’m not sure what exactly prompted me to write this post. It’s not recipe related–although I have been thinking a lot about these things in regards to my career as a food blogger, an author, a recipe developer, and also as a vegan–so I think it applies. Really no matter who we are, we all get bogged down with the details of our daily grind, and sometimes it helps to just stop and look at the bigger picture. That is, I guess, the best explanation I’ve got for this post. That, and I’m damn thankful to be able to do what I love, and I wanted to take this opportunity to say “thank you” to all of you who are reading this (see #1 on the list below). I was in a much different spot in my life when I started this blog, and one of the things that I am so grateful for is how much I’ve learned since I began. I’ve learned a little about blogging and writing, but mostly I’ve learned about people and about human nature. Also, I’ve learned more about playing the game of life. One of the most important things I’ve gathered about playing this game is you have got to be a good sport. Play fair and have fun.

That’s really what it’s all about, right?

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of negative emotions pouring out of many people I know, both in my professional and personal life, IRL and on the internet, and it makes me want to reach out, give them a hug (or a <3), and say,  “it’s okay!”. But, then I thought about how I sometimes feel those ways too, and I thought about what always pulls me back up onto my feet. A gentle reminder is usually all it takes, and maybe some of you could use that too. And maybe, in a way, I’m reminding myself that we all deserve to be happy and that it’s really quite easy to achieve.

I’m not claiming to have everything figured out–not at all. Although, like many people, I have had a life which has dealt me numerous blows, and it has taught me a LOT: I survived a very unhealthy relationship that lasted the first 5 years of my impressionable young adulthood, I lost the most important role model in my world (my father) to diabetes when I was in my early twenties, I was a single working mother while attending college full-time, and I’ve had more than enough health problems along the way–more seeming to crop up each year thanks to celiac disease and the shitty aforementioned relationship. And, despite all that I’ve been through, I wake up smiling and happy (well, it’s masked by the morning grog pre-coffee, but trust me it’s there) every. single. day.

I wouldn’t say that I am a religious person. But, I have faced many occurrences where I have ultimately questioned my religion (or lack there-of), as I’m sure many of us do. While in college I enrolled in almost enough religion courses to qualify me as a religion minor, all in an attempt to figure out what this world was about. Did it help? Well, yes and no. You can’t exactly decode the meaning of life by enrolling in a handful of classes. Who knew? But I discovered a really fascinating way of approaching life through the study of Buddhism and Hinduism: simply to live compassionately. I tossed a lot of what I didn’t feel applied to me and kept that one notion. And, it really does go a long way.

That is why I’m vegan. I’m not in it for denser bones, healthier eyes, stronger muscles, or smoother digestion–although these things are very nice perks. I guess you could say I do it for my mental health. I do it because it makes me happy. I do it because I want to be a compassionate person, both to others and to myself. For me, veganism just fits right in with everything so very nicely.

Over the years I’ve honed what I learned in all my religion classes and fused it with some real life experiences to ultimately achieve the guidelines I try and follow every day. I think it’s worked out well for me so far. I love my life very much and am incredibly grateful for the abundance I have. But, I also take full responsibility for making my reality what it is, crediting all the many wonderful people who have shaped my life into what it has become. Like all of you…

Summed up, I would say that the concepts I outline below are fundamental in everything I do. I try and remember them even in the hardest of moments, and sometimes, it’s really tough to do… but it’s truly worth it if you can.

Ten Simple Steps to Happiness

1) Say thank you, and mean it. Seriously be thankful for what you have. It may not be much (or it may be a lot), but it’s yours. Family, friends, health, knowledge–those are what are important. If something comes up above and beyond that… lucky you. Be thankful.

2) Take change as an opportunity to act. Big things happen in life. Sometimes they are shitty. Don’t let these things become your identity. Or do. Make them yours; own them; live from them, and then only keep what you find valuable. Discard the rest. If you lose your job, don’t harp on how unfortunate the circumstances may be at the time, but take it as an opportunity to finally pursue that dream job you’ve always wanted, or maybe take a job that you never knew you’d enjoy. Or, view it as an opportunity to take a long needed break giving you time to rethink your future. A positive outlook is everything. For instance, when I was first diagnosed with celiac disease, I honestly believed (for a little while there) that my dreams of becoming a cookbook author were over… until I realized that I actually had a knack for gluten-free baking. Now I see it as nothing but a blessing.

3) Have no expectations. I have, on countless occasions, turned a situation from good (or at least not bad) to horrible… because I had expectations about how the situation would turn out. This was dumb of me. We can never predict how a situation will turn out, whether it’s a job interview or a trip to the market. We are humans, not wizards with soothsaying abilities. Expectations only breed disappointment; chances are, whatever you’re dreaming up in your head is waaaaaay better (or worse!) than what’s going to actually happen. The best way to approach things is with an open mind. So roll with it. Sit back and enjoy the view. Whatever happens is gonna be fine. And remember, everything happens for a reason, even if you don’t quite understand it at the time.

4) Smile. Over my lifetime I’ve had a few friends that simply refused to smile and preferred to scowl at life, and they were some of the most miserable people I’ve ever encountered. Perfect strangers would actually walk up to them and ask “why so glum?”. Approaching both people and situations with a smile is perceived more positively by others than if you were to approach them sporting a frown. Imagine how it can change your attitude if you do this all the time? People will see you smiling, and maybe they’ll smile back at you. Before you know it, there will be happiness all around. Try it. It works.

5) Let the important people in your life know how much they mean to you. Hug the ones you love hard and often. If you can’t hug them, send a letter, a gift, a facebook message, whatever it takes. Never take for granted the impact those people have on your life. When they are gone, remember them fondly.

6) Don’t get bogged down with toxic emotions like jealousy, anger, fear and self-loathing. They all go hand in hand and are unnecessary, not to mention destructive. Everyone is on their own path trying to figure out their own lives, just like you and me. If they cross into your path, step aside and let them pass, or walk alongside them for awhile. And do so politely. Do not judge how heavy or how lightly they tread, but focus on your own pace and the direction you are heading–lest you trip along the way.

7) Love your body. It’s the only body you’ll ever have… follow the golden rule with it. Treat your body as you’d like it to be treated. Compassion, kindness, and tenderness are always encouraged. Treat your body with love, nourishing food, and regular exercise, and it will be much happier.

8) Help others. Reach out and volunteer at a homeless shelter (for humans or non-humans), offer to help an elderly person take their groceries to their car or home, send greeting cards to random strangers in nursing or children’s homes. Make someone smile today.

9) Surround yourself with positive people, and let the one’s who don’t bring you positive energy (and especially those with downright negative energy) fall to the wayside. Focus on the positive, and have compassion for those who focus on the negative. Be a role model when you are around negative people, but don’t try and be these peoples’ psychologists if they resist your influence, unless of course, that’s your profession…

Because, ultimately, to be happy, one must:

10) Be the change. We’ve heard it time and time again, because it’s true. If you want something to happen, make it happen on an individual scale. The world cannot make you happy or sad, only you can. If you want to be happy, it’s simple: make the commitment to be happy. See the glass half full, starting now. Life is pretty amazing, and yours is certainly worth celebrating.

Share with friends!

57 Responses to Ten Simple Steps to Happiness

  1. Julian says:

    Thank you for the post!!

  2. Julia says:

    I love this post soooo much! I am also vegan and gluten free (wheat allergy & gluten intolerance) and it was so depressing to find these things out. I also have problems with being self conscious but am slowly getting over it. Thanks for your inspiration! :)

  3. Cara says:

    This was a really lovely post to find today. Sometimes people need a reminder to keep an eye on the big picture rather than getting bogged down with daily details. I know I certainly needed this reminder!

  4. Lindsay says:

    Thank you for this… Truly what I was looking for tonight as I perused my fave food blogs. Thank you…

  5. Crystal from Hawaii says:

    You Have Jedi Mind Skills…..Its like you were reading my mind….Thank you for reminding me that change is good and that everythig will be ok!
    I REALLY needed these reminders. Thank you sooooo much..I LOVE your blog…Rock ON!!!!!!!

  6. Sara says:

    You have no idea how much I needed to read this post. THANK YOU. <3

  7. Thank you for posting this Allison, it’s wonderful. It’s really nice to be reminded of these things from time to time.

  8. Anna maria says:

    Fab I really needed to read something positive like this, may be now I can pick my self back up.. Thank you so very much.x

  9. I too am a new reader, and now I know that I will now be a forever reader. This was a really genuine beautiful post :)

  10. alma says:

    It’s 1:20 am. I’m feeling pretty anxious, wishing I was done with this chapter in my life and on to the next. I take a break and think, hmm, manifestvegan, that’ll cheer me up. Your post jumped out at me. I read it. I am feeling better. Thank you Allyson, for taking the time to articulate the goodness and positivity we are all capable of. I need to adopt your top 10, make them mine.

  11. Thank you for sharing : )

  12. linda says:

    A friend sent this to me. What a wonderful gift! Thank you so much for your kind words. Sometimes its all we need to find our way~through and to another adventure in life.

  13. valerie s. says:

    Love this. Thank you, and I mean it!

  14. [...] 10 Simple Steps to Happiness [...]

  15. Really, really beautiful post and just what I needed right now. Thank you.

  16. My favorite quote ever is by Thich Nhat Hanh: Inhale calm, exhale smile. Love it cause it works! Great list and thanks for sharing.

  17. Vegyogini says:

    Beautifully said, Allyson! <3

  18. So glad you posted these simple steps to happiness. Thanks for sharing!

  19. jaime K says:

    One of my favorite posts of yours, or really any blog.
    This is the sort of thing we can all come back to again and again. It takes a strong and brave person to learn these lessons, and a kind one to make themselves vulnerable to share with others.

    What a gift it is to know you. <3

    • allyson says:

      well my goodness, Jaime, that is quite the compliment! thank you. Your writing always inspires me… so I have you to thank for much of this post. It’s a true gift to know you as well. <3 <3

  20. Liza says:

    Thank you for this and for always rocking, you are so awesome, I miss your smiling face !

  21. Cathy says:

    Allyson,
    That was awesome! You never cease to amaze me. Thanks for being the wonderful person you are and sharing your insight. I am so blessed to have you in my life as are all your readers. :) <3 m

  22. thank you for this beautiful post! Glad Becky posted it on fbook… otherwise I might have missed it! I love your outlook on 10 simple but important and pretty dang thorough steps. :)

  23. Guadalupe says:

    oh wow! that was so AMAZING a very beautiful post, i mean today in life the human being is so complicated and we are catched for the news technologies and consumerism, and that´s sad, because we lost the real meaning of the life and the true conection with the nature, because we are part of that. You have written 10 beautifuls tips. Be happy is about to feel the diferents forces of the world, the diferents feelings of the people, and the most important be in peace.
    Regard From Argentina. I´m allways reading this blog :)

    • allyson says:

      oh, that’s so true, Guadalupe! the media and buzz of consumerism can really disrupt our thoughts in non-productive ways. Thank you so much for reading… I’m very glad you left such a thoughtful comment. <3

  24. Laurel says:

    Thank you. You always bring me a smile and the feeling of having been freshly and thoroughly hugged. Some days happiness is a bit more elusive than others. I found it today in your post and I’m grateful.

  25. I love this post :) I’m so glad you shared it, because if we all think about it a bit more, we can find happiness in our lives – as they are. We’re led to believe that we have to ‘get’ happiness, but I think it’s more about the internal process of figuring out how to be happy as you are. Then no matter what happens on the outside, you’ve already gotten the important stuff. Plus, do you notice that when you’re happier and more peaceful the good stuff just has a way of finding you?? I always notice that. And when I’m feeling down, or in a bad mood, the bad stuff jumps out at me more.

    Anyway – love it :)

    • allyson says:

      so so true, Heather. Now I am recall about the time I realized I didn’t have to”get” happiness from some external source… what a strange (and liberating) moment that was!

  26. veganzeus says:

    I was so touched by this post! No matter how hard we try each day to be the people we know we should be-it always helps to have that gentle, loving encouragement that makes us want to try harder!

    I am so excited about your new cookbook! As a vegan who is also gluten free-this will be a great help!

  27. What an incredible post. I’m so glad you shared. <3

  28. Emma says:

    This is EXACTLY what I needed to hear right now. I’ve got a good smile stuck on my face and I can feel that sense of power inside me again.
    It’s easy to forget that we are in the driving seat sometimes and that although we can’t control what happens to us we can control how we deal with what comes our way. I’m going to bookmark this and read it whenever I need a reminder. Thank you :D

  29. This is really, really wonderful. So beautifully written and it struck such a chord with me. It is so much easier to get bogged down in negativity, waiting for another day to appreciate the good things. Thanks for the timely reminder to be appreciative of and positive about life. And thank you for your work and positive attitude. <3

    • allyson says:

      aw, thank you! it is incredibly easy to get bogged down… and change is inevitable, so even if you have that awareness, it is always potentially fleeting. sometimes lists help with that. :)

  30. Morgan says:

    This was such a beautifully written post Allison! I loved it! I am like you, I do love all of the health perks of a vegan diet, but, for me I can’t explain it except that it really is a more “spiritual” way of eating for me. Mainly because I feel that I am exercising respect for the earth, and other beings around me. It just makes me feel lighter and happier.
    Just a cool story that has left a lingering impact on me. While I was in Italy a few years ago on vacation, there was a man who worked in the hotel we were staying at who served at the brunch. His family was in another country and he was woking his job in Italy and mailing all of his money back to his family who needed it. He had been away from them for 5 years. He said that his hope was to earn enough money that he could return home and he and his wife could start a family. While we were there, he went above and beyond and to great lengths to have food waiting for me that I had very briefly asked him about. I knew that they had fresh orange juice, so I asked him if they offered carrot juice. He said they make it but watered way down and miedx with stuff. He said, for me, he will make a big fresh 100% carrot juice only (and still raw) every morning while I was there. He would leave plates full of fresh fruit out also with some toast. He even went so far as to completely decorate our table in tons of flower petals, and give my husband and I some of the fruit from his country that his family would mail him so we could try it. Our table was the ONLY one with flowers all over it, fresh carrot juice, fruit his family sent him that had nothing to do with the hotel brunch. I couldn’t figure out what was driving him to do all of this. Now I have to add that I was about 7 months pregnant at the time with my son Ezra. On the last day of our stay, he also had two childrens color books out for us to take home to America to our two older children. We asked him on the last day why he had been so generous, and he said, that in his religion which was Buddhism, they believed that “doing good for others” would ultimatley reap happiness for themselves. And they believed particularly in showing extreme love and care towards pregnant women. He said that he and his wife longed for a family so so badly, and that if you do good for another expecting Mother, that the karma will come back around, and that he truly hoped to have those blessings of children for his family. I was just stunned by all of this and had never had anything happen like this before, but it was such a learning moment for me. You reap what you sow. Treat others exactly how you want to be treated. What goes around comes around….
    Needless to say, he got some pretty good tips from my Hubby and my Father (who were both there each morning). I only hope to someday have aquired just some of that mans graciousness and happiness that he had.
    Anyways, great post! Loved it and its so nice in a world of negativity to read something positive and uplifting. And p.s. CONGRATULATIONS on your new book! I’m so happy for you! So exciting! Let me know when its out to buy and I will let my readers know all about it! :D

    • allyson says:

      wow, that story is incredibly touching; how fortunate for you to experience that, Morgan! <3 thank you for sharing.

      also, thank you for your kind words about my book; you’re such a sweetheart! <3 <3 <3

  31. Emily says:

    This is a beautiful list!

  32. Kristina says:

    hallelujah!

    I love your This Is Why I’m Vegan, not for stronger bones, etcetera.

    thank you Allyson, for giving me a smile today, for putting a spring in my step, for making me remember to stop and smell the flowers. <3

    • allyson says:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed this post, Kristina. :) thank you so much for reading.
      I should have added a #11) stop and smell the flowers!

  33. Lauren says:

    That post was beautifully written! Thank you for reminding that change, however small or large can be positive if you want it to be. My day is a little bit brighter because of your post; thank you!! :)

  34. Christy says:

    Lovely post! Always good to be reminded :)

  35. What a wonderful post! I am a new reader and reading this really made my day. I will definitely be pinning it for future reminders on how to have a positive outlook and live compassionately!