Exhausted by the self-help craze twenty-two years ago, the Secret Society of Happy People decided to step back and recognize that even as life challenges us, happiness happens. The group decided pursuing happiness can be an intentional practice.
Now August is celebrated as Happiness Happens month. Expressing happiness as a personal practice can be daunting, so here are five activities to help encourage authentic happiness to happen in our lives this August and beyond.
Quality Time in Solitude
Alone time provides the space to recharge our batteries and reflect on our lives. Practicing intentional solitude can encourage empathy, creativity, and productivity.
When was the last time you were able to spend some time alone with your thoughts, a book, listening to music or people-watching? Observing people can be a source of endless entertainment accessible to all of us at any time. Sitting down with ourselves and reading a book for pleasure for an afternoon can change your mood and lighten perspective. Gardening or allowing yourself time to binge-watch a show you love is equally nourishing activities that can make you connect to your special happy place.
Alone is not lonely; learning to embrace the difference is a key element to building a lifetime practice of unconditional self-love.
Image-RhythmTherapy Creative Arts Salon
Episode 3 of Lizzo’s reality show Watch Out for the Big Grrrls is titled “Curves and Confidence.” Lizzo’s dancers encounter their first conscious dance class led by sensual body movement expert Rashida KhanBey Miller. The class was a sensual embodiment experience that allowed the Big Grrrls to connect to moving their bodies without judgment outside the constrictions of choreography or the gaze of an audience.
With joy-filled tears in my eyes, I witnessed the ladies’ relationship to movement in their bodies transform after the experience. I’ve been a conscious dance facilitator leading my RhythmTherapy Creative Arts Salons for over 14 years. I’m grateful to Lizzo for sharing conscious dance with the world on her Emmy-nominated series to normalize this movement style to Black women.
As a Black woman, to dance outside the limitations of someone else’s choreography is an expression of freedom that I don’t get to experience in this body in most situations. Leading conscious dance classes, particularly the past two years during the pandemic, I’ve witnessed thousands of people experiencing full body autonomy for the first time.
But you don’t have to go to anybody’s class to experience consciously loving your body unconditionally and expressing yourself without judgment. Connecting to joy through dance is as easy as popping in your favorite song and dancing like nobody’s watching. Guess what, nine times out of ten, nobody cares if you dance in your happy place; in fact, your ability to connect to your happy place just might be contagious.
Good food is glorious, especially when made with loved ones. When non-essential workers were working from home, lots of folks felt the need to hone their culinary talents by preparing meals made from scratch. From complicated processes like baking the perfect loaf of sourdough bread from homemade starters to putting together prepared meal kits, home cooking became cool again.
As soon as pandemic restrictions lifted, the majority of us hung up our aprons and ran back to restaurants without looking back. But there’s something special about food made at home with love.
One of the most valuable gifts we can share with young people is the ability to cook. Chefs like the author of Black Panther: The Official Wakanda Cookbook, Nyanyika Banda, are using their culinary talents to craft cookbooks based on films and TV shows. Kids of all ages enjoy cooking together and sitting down as a family to enjoy the fruit of their labor.
Cooking is universal, and if you’re single and fabulous, you’re not left behind. There’s nothing like taking the time to cook something you love for yourself and then enjoying a meal cooked with your own hands. Bring a smile to your face by cooking something yummy to make your tummy smile.
Spending Time in Nature
I recently interviewed writer Baratunde Thurston about his PBS series America Outdoors. One of the most valuable gifts his mother passed on to him was a love of nature. Even though Thurston grew up in Washington DC, his mother would round up Baratunde and his friends from the neighborhood, pack their station wagon, and take the boys out to a national park to camp, hike, and spend time exploring creation. Thurston recounted how other parents in the neighborhood were grateful to his mom for making the outdoors an adventure for his friends in the neighborhood.
We also talked about the stigma the outdoors holds for so many Black Americans. Thurston noted, ”I’ve gotten more sensitive to the complex Black history associated with the outdoors. Because of my mom, I didn’t grow up with a fear of the outdoors. I didn’t grow up with a traumatized relative, who was like, ‘We were forced to work in the outdoors, forget the outdoors. I’m staying up in this air conditioning.’”
It’s easy to feel FOMO about going out in nature if you’re not used to being an outdoors person. Doing the work to find ways to embrace easing into nature in ways that feel right to you is worth it. GirlTrek is a Black women’s health movement that makes the outdoors accessible, affordable, and less intimidating. You don’t need any special equipment, and if you don’t have the resources to get yourselves out on the trail, you can strap on your sneakers, go outside, and take a walk for thirty minutes near your house while listening to one of GirlTrek’s Black empowerment themed podcasts. Or, you can find a crew you vibe with and walk together in community or on the trail.
Whether you’re happy going in the wilderness for a hike or your vibe feels alive taking walks in your neighborhood after dinner with friends or family, spending time in nature is sure to raise your happiness vibration.
If you read the Black Girl Nerds article “Set Goals Not Resolutions for 2022,” and you achieved or are on your way to achieving your goals, take time to celebrate. Whether your goal was personal, professional, or financial, recognizing the work it takes to complete a task successfully is vital to your personal practice of happiness. Knowing you “did good” is particularly sweet when a challenge is difficult to achieve. Celebrating victories is one of the sweetest parts of life. How can you not be happy after completing a task challenging you to grow?
I love this quote by Father Alfred D. Souza, “Happiness is a journey, not a destination.” When we think of happiness as a practice rather than a goal, we allow ourselves to witness life in real time. Difficult times are sure to arise, but recognizing August as Happiness Happens month is a reminder to take time to recognize, nurture, create, and appreciate when happiness happens all year long.
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Jeanine is a Writer, Actor, member SAG/AFTRA, AEA, Podcast host, Producer, CEO VisAbleBlackWoman Productions, Certified Health Coach and Conscious Dance facilitator. Jeanine's mission, centering Black women's stories to preserve our legacies.