Wednesday, March 26, 2014

HOW TO BE HAPPY IN NEW YORK CITY...


{ Tina Fey for Vogue, 2010 }

People often tell me that it seems like I'm always happy. Recently, a co worker remarked that every time he walks by my desk and I'm working away—I'm smiling at my computer.

At 28, I know myself well enough to say that it's true, I am a happy person. However, I haven't spent very much time thinking about why. I suppose the easiest answer is that I choose to be happy. When you're relatively poor, perpetually single and living in an expensive-yet-tiny apartment in New York City—there's a lot a person could be sad, mad and frustrated about. Sure, aspects of my life get me down from time to time—that happens to all of us—frequently.

I've blogged before about how much I love this city, and why. It's a city that, objectively, is easy to love. But loving living here? Putting in the 9-to-5 grind that's really more like 8-to-7? That can be challenging, especially when things go wrong. And let's be real, they go wrong all the time.

I think part of the difference between myself and some of the more dark and miserable people I know is that I make conscious choices everyday to do things and consider situations in ways that result in a positive outcome for me. Is it selfish? Sure. But I'll tell you right now that one key to happiness in NYC is putting yourself above everyone and everything about 85 percent of the time.

Anyway, I thought I'd share a few of the choices I make from day to day that I think help me stay on the sunny side of the street, so to speak.

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Don't think about money, except when you have to. I'm not, by any means, telling you to be irresponsible with your finances. However, if you spend too much time lamenting how expensive everything is, you will be miserable. 

Don't compare rent with friends. In New York you can add it to that list—politics, religion and money—of impolite dinner topics our parents told us about. Discussing rent is a recipe for one or all of you to end up depressed.

Go out to eat. It's one of the greatest pleasures of New York that we dine in the company of friends as much as we do. We need an excuse to get out of our cramped apartments, and at the end of the month when you're dead broke, you'll be happier with your memories of laughs and spilled glasses of wine than you will with a closet full of blouses from Zara.

Get the late night slice. Listen, I don't care if you'll regret the calories the next morning. We have the best slices in the world and some of the best conversations happen over pepperoni at 5 a.m. Indulge.

Drink. Because there's no bad New York day that a Manhattan can't fix.

Set your own soundtrack.Whether I'm working, walking, crammed on the L train with uncomfortably close strangers or getting ready for a night out, I make sure to have music playing. The sounds of the city can be charming (Bedford stop banjo man, I'm talking to you), but much of the time they're really irritating. Music makes me happy, and you'd be surprised what can happen to your mood walking down 14th Street to Paul Simon instead of sirens.

Get thee to the park. Sometimes looking at nothing but buildings and concrete does a number on your brain. If you've had your fill of the crowds at Central Park, try Riverside Park. When the weather behaves, my girlfriends and I like to take the subway up to Columbia, take a turn through the campus and then walk all the way down Riverside to the West Side Highway and end at Houston Hall for beers and pretzels. (It's about six miles.) If you want to get really lost, Prospect Park is just the thing. 

Move. Your. Body. I say "move your body" instead of work out, do fitness or exercise because I have to admit that I can be really bad about doing any of the above. It's true, I am a happier, more exuberant person when I'm attending yoga classes or going for a run along the East River a few times per week. That doesn't always happen though, so at the very least I make sure I'm doing something. It can be as simple as walking half my commute home while talking to my family on the phone, or playing music in the shower and dancing a little. When my body is sedentary for too long, I feel bad about myself, much more tired and less inclined to snap out of a lazy routine.

Put effort only into the people who do the same for you. Once I stopped wasting energy on relationships and would-be romances that were only one-way, I found my social life in the city vastly more fulfilling. I spent more time than I care to admit holding onto friendships that gave nothing back. It's easy to forgive bad behavior from the ones we love (and even just like), but at a certain point you have to ask, "If this person respected me as much as I respect them, would they act this way?" Sometimes, no matter how much love you have for someone (and how much they may claim to love you as well), you've got to demand r-e-s-p-e-c-t. For me, it was a sad process to let go of some of these kinds of friends, and I grieved the loss. However, my day-to-day life is richer, happier and more joyful now that I don't spend time confused and hurt by people I considered friends, who were essentially just not.

Go wild for the ones who are worth it. I mean it! Friends, lovers, employers, karaoke comrades—we didn't come here to do or be mediocre. Happiness is not often found when you look back on things and think, Thank goodness I didn't try this or do that or kiss him or work those hours or attend that party or have that drink. Some of the best people I know live here, and doing things with them, for them and because of them is what truly makes me happy.

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At the end of the day, how happy you are is an entirely individual experience. (You might hate parks and pizza, for all I know.) Sometimes life throws you unexpected curveballs and you cannot help but to be angry, sad, jealous, frustrated or heartbroken. And sometimes those feelings last. But I think it's important and valuable to take an active roll in your emotional well-being.

What do you do to be happy?

10 comments:

  1. LOVE THIS, taylor! I'd say I do all of the things on your list! xo

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    1. So glad Grace, thank you! I'm always inspired by your attitude and all your fitness and health and CAT instagrams :) xoxo

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  2. The last one is my fave... Miss you, girl! XO

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  3. This was wonderful. This is great advice no matter what city you live in, but I'm hoping to call NYC home someday, so I'll keep this in my back pocket. ;)

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  4. This is really really wonderful. Thank you!

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  5. That was a very insightful article. From all the way in Lethbridge, Alberta (*** and wishing I was in NYC to enjoy the pizza), thanks for the great read!

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  6. Really good article! You're totally right, there are certain realities about living in NYC that you cannot control, so why sit around lamenting how expensive everything is and how small our apartments are? It's utterly pointless and time would be better spent taking advantage of the wonderful things the city has to offer. Thanks for this reminder!

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  7. This is spot on. Especially the part about only putting effort into relationships that do the same for you. It's exhausting to try to please those who refuse to be satisfied, and in my life has made me an angrier person. Definitely going to ruminate on these ideas and put them into play! Thanks for a great article!!

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  8. This post found me at an alarmingly appropriate time: I'm graduating from college next month and am deciding whether or not I want to move to NYC right away to work as an actor. All I've been hearing is how scary and difficult a life in the city is, and it's encouraging to know that there is happiness there, whether it is found or created. Thanks for this!

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