Have you ever said these words to yourself: “My life will be better when…..” With these simple words, we agree to prolong our happiness. Many of us even find “logical” ways to prolong happiness (i.e “I’ll be happier when I graduate”, “I’ll find happiness when I get a full time job”, “I’ll be happy once my partner changes”). What we forget is that happiness is fully possible right now. There is no need to wait months or years from now to receive happiness. We all deserve happiness in this very moment.
One big mistake we often make is thinking that happiness can come from achieving goals instead of achieving happiness itself. Of course, our happiness can be affected by our environment and circumstances (i.e jail, job loss, poverty) but true happiness comes from within. We’ve all heard stories of extreme unhappiness in celebrities or those considered to be the rich and “successful.” Sometimes, these so-called successful people are so unhappy that they end up ending their lives tragically via suicide or drugs. These awful tragedies can serve as lessons for us: Things like money or success cannot bring happiness alone. There are even studies that prove that money cannot buy happiness: Princeton University: Link between income and happiness is mainly an illusion.
Now the #1 question- How do I get happy?
We often hear phrases like the “pursuit of happiness” but what does that really mean to us? Happiness – like Life- is a journey, not a destination. If we learn to see happiness as an evolving process instead of another goal to achieve, it becomes much easier to get to. Happiness is not some stagnant thing waiting for us behind a job offer or a new home. Happiness is more like a plant. Once the seed is planted and we water it, it can grow more and more each day. The amazing thing about Happiness is that it is actually never-ending, meaning that you can literally find ways to become more and more happy each day. The key is not to necessarily find Happiness but to find the path to Happiness. Once we know the paths (or the key steps) that lead to happiness, our journey becomes so much easier.
Here are a few suggestions for beginning (or continuing) the path of Happiness:
1.) Change Your Thinking Our thoughts are very powerful in influencing our emotional state. We all hear references to “positive thinking” but many of us don’t realize the power of it. Positive thinking in and of itself can be considered as happiness (i.e if the majority of my thoughts are positive, I am most likely a very happy person). Furthermore, our thinking affects how we interpret every situation we encounter. For example, if I am riding a motorcycle and it rains, I could start thinking negatively (i.e “this is terrible”, “this ruins my whole day,” “why does this always happen to me?”) which would lead to feelings of sadness or anger. I could also be in the exact same situation but think positively about it (i.e “The rain is so beautiful”, “This gives me a chance to take a break,” “I am going to stop and watch the rain”) which would lead to “happy” emotions. From this, you can see how the same exact situation can produce two completely different emotions. That is because it is all about interpretation. How we interpret things determine how we feel about them. If our thoughts are predominantly negative, it does not matter what we do or don’t have, we will never be happy with it. (For more information on Positive Thinking, please see the Positive Thinking Blog)
2.) Talk About Your Problems With Someone Who Understands. Don’t keep things inside. Many people are unhappy because they deal with their problems alone or not at all. Talking to a trustworthy person about issues you may be facing, is the first step to healing from it. You many find someone in your personal life who you trust to talk to or you could seek help from a professional who specializes in guiding people. Support groups are another great way to connect with people who understand what you are going through. What is most important is that whoever you speak to is non-judgmental and genuinely concerned about your happiness.
3.) Get Rid Of Things In Your Life That Make You Unhappy There are so many things that we feel like we have to hold on to for various reasons (i.e relationships, terrible jobs, etc. ). Once we realize that we are not really obligated to anything or anyone, we can become more in control of our happiness. This does not mean that we have to get rid of things through dramatic changes; you can start small. This week, start by eliminating one thing out of your life that you dislike or something that counteracts with your happiness (i.e a decoration in your home, an annoying ring tone, an unbalanced schedule) or simply say “no” to something you don’t want to do.
4.) Do Things That Make You Happy Everyday Many of us go about our daily lives without considering if we actually enjoy what we do. Even when we are not working or fulfilling obligations, sometimes we forget to do the things that we enjoy. Sometimes the first step is even remembering what we enjoy. Is there a hobby you left behind? Are there people you wish you spent more time with? Have you allowed yourself to have “quiet time”? Try this week to incorporate at least one activity that you genuinely enjoy into your schedule everyday even if it’s for a short amount of time (i.e watching a video, eating a favorite food, going for a walk) Click Here For A List Of Self Care Activities
5.) Make Happiness A Priority If you truly want happiness in your life, make it your priority. Too often, we put all things before our happiness. This often accepted behavior because it demonstrates sacrifice which, on the surface, seems noble. Always remember:
“There are no rewards for suffering.”
It can be said that one of the most (if not the most) important goals of life is to achieve happiness. If this is true, we must learn to make it a priority. Try prioritizing your happiness as if your life depended on it! (i.e “I can no longer do this everyday because it interferes with my happiness”). Sometimes, our lives do depend on it.
6.) Alter Your Environment Sometimes our environment has an effect on our level of happiness (i.e clutter, safety issues, etc). If possible, change your environment in a way that assists in your happiness. Even if you can’t make large changes, there are always small scale things you can do (i.e rearrange furniture, put inspirational reminders up, light candles, etc).
7.) Listen To/Watch Things That Make You Happy If happiness is a priority, make it a part of your daily life! Start monitoring the music, tv, movies and conversations that you choose to engage in. Tune into more things that will help bring you happiness (i.e positive music, motivational speeches, etc).
8.) Meditate Have some quiet time every single day. Even if you sit quietly and breathe for only 1 minute a day, this can make a world of difference. It is so easy for us to get caught in worrying and being busy. Meditation helps us quiet our thoughts temporarily so that we can better act in a way that will lead us to happiness. Furthermore, it leads us to being more in-tuned with our spirit, which is the ultimate guide to our happiness. (How To Meditate)
9.) Change Who You Interact With. Interacting regularly with people who think negatively or cause you pain can easily cause detriment to your happiness. If there are people you can’t ultimately get away from (i.e family), start by at least limiting your time with them. This all goes into prioritizing our happiness. Many people struggle with this because they have so much compassion for other people. However, we must remember that we cannot do much good for others if we have not first taken care of ourselves. In fact, we can end up doing a lot of harm to others, if we are not in a good place.
Never Compare Your Happiness To Others. The truth is we don’t really know how happy any one else is. What is demonstrated on the outside may not accurately reflect what is going on inside. Furthermore, we all have unique lives and circumstances, which means our Happiness will be unique as well. If we are to make any comparison, we should only compare our own happiness through time (i.e “I am so much happier than I was back then.”)
Remember that Happiness is a process not a destination! Be patient with yourself. Congratulate yourself for doing things that bring you happiness. Reward yourself like you would for any other accomplishment because finding happiness is one of the greatest things that you will ever achieve.