When I find myself indulging in a personal pity-fest – complaining about relationships, the weather, food choices, deadlines, diets, Facebook waffle, holiday choices – the collective cry is usually ‘First world problem!…Reality check sister!’

When did we start losing appreciation for what we do have rather than what we don’t?

Life isn’t necessarily as complicated and messy as we tend to make out. And really – how very lucky are we compared to so many in this world? Sometimes it simply comes down to how we choose to live our lives. How we choose to nurture our personal happiness.

In need of a gentle nudge to re-engage in the beauty of simply being alive? Well I went exploring and gathered a whole bunch of wonderful suggestions for you. Here’s my top 20…

1) Smile:  Follow crazily funny web sites like @pugsofinstagram and laugh a little at those goofy wee dogs. Follow comedians on Twitter, an amusing Facebook feed…anything guaranteed to give you a daily giggle. I can’t resist people lip syncing Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake it Up’. And seriously…how can you not smile at a giggling baby? Heck! While you’re smiling, why not…

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2) Laugh: Loudly and genuinely. Give your friends, partner, colleagues the pleasure of appreciating their humor. Indulge in comedy. I still roar with laughter at ‘Ferris Bueler’s Day Off’ and ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’ regardless of how many viewings. Seek out comedic programs just for the giggle. Give those bursts of joy all you have for they are infectious.

3) Take ‘me’ time Whenever life gets too overwhelming, go to your personal happy place and give yourself permission to relax and reconnect with your psyche. Breathe. Deeply. Meditate if that’s your gig. Journal, daydream, lose yourself in the moment. Chances are things won’t seem nearly so challenging afterward.

4) Get creative: Set aside time for hobbies, for the little things you enjoy. One friend loves to sketch, another enjoys adult coloring books, another composing the perfect Instagram shot. I love to write. And I love to create dishes for my man, my friends, Romans, countrymen. The smiles on their faces makes the effort so worth while. What’s your bliss? Find it and indulge.

5) Make a difference: Make a difference with your work, with your smile, with your talents, or with your heart. It’s nice to write a personal charter of what you stand for, the way you’d like to be perceived, the legacy you’d like to leave….then set about honoring your statements. I love the concept of ‘pay it forward’. A kind word or gesture, popping a few coffers in a street person’s cup, sponsoring a kid, donating to a worthy cause. Little acts of kindness have potential to create a societal ripple effect, a wave, a tsunami.

6) Have an open mind:  Let the walls of your brain expand to the existence of new ideas. Listen, question, fully engage, ponder, be open to altering existing notions and conditioning. Challenge your thinking.

7) Learn:  Retain a hunger for knowledge. Let life teach you and understand that there will never be a day that you don’t need to continue to learn. LinkedIn ‘Pulse’ global thought leader feeds, TED talks, autobiographies, a language, check out the curricula on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS), so much to absorb, so little time!

Antony Morato by Denis Kolomeytsef (500px.com)8) Play:  Gather friends and play Wii, download HeadsUp app and play good old charades. Create fun quizzes, cricket in the back yard, frisbee in the park, whatever. Play with your pets. Play with your family. Play.

9) Do things that scare you:  Step outside the comfort zone and do at least one thing that scares you this year. A Skydive on your bucket list? Book it. Fulfill a dare, join a friend, scream together, take a walk on the wild side, punch the air with exhilaration at having conquered something once so daunting. Then sign up for the next.

10) Exercise forgiveness:  Wave goodbye to past grievances, embrace folk for what they are, who knows what sad things happened in their pasts that informed who they are today? It is so easy to judge or be angry with others without taking into consideration why people behave or feel the way they do. Could it be they’re simply wired differently?

11) Suspend judgement:  Avoid passing judgements. The condemnation of others never leaves a pleasant taste or make you feel better either. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and actually try to understand the perspective of others. Recognize that no man or woman carries the same burden as any other. Just like forgiving, suspending judgement frees up energy better spent elsewhere.

Maternity Lesson - Melissa Green Photography12) Love your loved ones:  Take a moment to really look at them. The way they light up. Appreciate them and allow them to captivate you. Touch. Cuddle. Hug. Be the last to let go. Kiss. Ease into their presence with your whole body and forget everything else. Feel and physically exist with others. A male friend of mine fresh in love recently declared ‘My girl rocks!’ God I love being in her space’ That’s what we’re talking about!

Audrey Hepburn - Jazz Hands (audreyhepburn.com)13) Sing:  Sing along to your favourite songs. Who cares if you’re out of tune? Or muddle the words? Or break a cool dance move in the moment. My late husband waved his butt and sang along to Dolly Pardon’s ‘Joelene’ at full volume whenever he was vacuuming. Damn it was a buzz when I busted him!…Let the music consume you and vibrate life through you.

14) Get outdoors:  Seriously, how often do we need to deal with hazardous weather conditions compared to many other countries? Cyclones, hail storms, horrid fire storms aside, how beautiful our temperate climate, blue skies, sun, surf, forestry? Take just five minutes to breathe in the air and let the sunshine warm your face.

Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr - An Affair to Remember (from wehadfacesthen.tumblr.com)15) Fall in love:  Don’t be afraid. It’s messy, weird, overwhelming, exciting, exhilarating, oft loaded with baggage, our own and theirs…but how intense the joy? How excruciating the sorrow? Both life affirming experiences. Physically, psychologically, emotionally.

16) Be You:  I know I chatter incessantly, wear my heart on my sleeve, ruminate out loud on the complexities of life, love and relationships, and I love with abundance. I’m not unique. Friend’s and family have their own quirky traits, all of them loved and without judgement. Let people in. Show yourself to the people around you, allow yourself to be vulnerable and allow them to love you for all that you truly are.

17) Explore:  Our world is filled with unimaginable beauty if we would just take the chance to discover it. Travelling can be expensive, but how many amazing places are right here, right under our noses? Just a short distance from our homes?

18) Look after yourself:  Look after your body as you do your brain. Serve it well, train it to be healthy and strong in a way that supports you and all of your dreams. A simple sprained ankle and my body’s already screaming with frustration at missed Yoga classes and movement. Limited exercise requires careful food choices. Be healthy while still recognising that it’s OK to enjoy a Krispy Kreme Doughnut every once in awhile. And I will when back in action.

19) Star gaze:  What a wondrously beautiful cosmos out there huh? Choose a new moon night in a spot free of city lights, lie on the ground and gaze. Can you find the Milky Way, unique to our part of the world? Figure out how to find ‘south’ using the alignment of the stars that make up our Southern Cross? The saucepan? The Dog Star? Magnificent!

And finally…
20) Be in the moment:  Be enthralled by the people you are with. Park the phone, commit 100% attention to your companions. Make them front and centre. When out and about, take in your surrounds, the colours, the textures, the sounds, look up, look around, observe. What a beautiful world. How lucky are we?

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