There is a great paradox in life. In order to have happiness, one must choose to be happy with life as it is.
This may seem like a huge contradiction, but there it is. Even in the happiest of circumstances, it is your choice to accept that emotional euphoria that brings happiness and not the other way around.
So, what is it that makes us happy? If it's not something outside of us, what creates that sensation? I don't have any scientific data, or great quotes from famous philosophers to back me up on this, but I think it's one simple thing: we become content in the moment. Period.
But, you say, sometimes happiness lasts for more than a moment. How does that work?
Happy is a state of mind in which we choose what we have, where we are and our circumstances. We do more than accept it, however, we embrace it. This is not to say that it isn't easier to experience happiness on a beach, with a full belly and a cold drink, than it is in a barren desert with no water for two days, but there are those that find it in both places.
It can be experienced for as little time, or as long as we want. We have the power to become and remain happy at any time.
The substance of happiness is really no substance at all. It may be best defined in the things it is not.
- Happiness is not desperation or neediness
- Happiness is not experienced in the future or the past
- Happiness is not automatic
This last one gives many of us pause. We often think, if I just had that job, or that car, or that person in my life, then happiness would ensue. But, as most of us know, there are times in life when we get the thing, the position, or the experience we desperately believed would make us happy, only to realize it did not materialize.
That is because happiness is not a place, a destination, or an achievement. It is something we choose and have in our power to choose at any moment, in any place, in any circumstances.
I am sure some of you are already formulating your responses based on depression and brain chemistry.
There are always exceptions to any rule. According to the APA, America is one of the most depressed nations in the world, but even here, only 6% of citizens will ever develop clinical depression. So, for 94% of the population, or more, what I am saying is true.
So, how can you be happier? Here are some things you can do.
Choose to focus on the positive in your life.
- Before you say you can't, think back, haven't you ever met someone happy in the face of overwhelming odds, or through severe disability or tragedy?
- As you focus on what's good, more will present itself. The law of attraction says, this is the universe drawing more of what you focus on to you. At the very least, it is a shift in your perception, you begin to filter life differently.
- As your perception shifts, you see your reality from a new angle. By not focusing on the struggle so much, but rather on what's good, you gain perspective and you are better able to cope.
Stay tuned into right now.
- Often times, the struggle, or "need" or lack that we feel and express is really a part of our past, or our imagined future. What about this moment? Do you have what you need right this second? You'll find that overwhelmingly, there is more time when you have no lack, than when you do feel true lack.
- By living in the past, or the future, in your head, you block out a lot of great opportunities that the universe may lay at your doorstep. We can focus on being wronged, or the dread of what's coming so much, we can't see solutions in the now.
- When you don't stay tuned in, you're making your observations based on faulty, incomplete data. The past may seem better, or worse than it was, while not focusing on today, causes you to miss the real blessings all around you.
Start noticing things that you love.
- It can be something as simple as the color of a car, or a cloud. Saying to yourself, "I love that..." (whatever it is) you will lift your mood and start to move into a more positive frame of mind.
- The more you do this, the more you'll find there are things all around that stir you, from a breeze, to a snatch of music, to a pretty girl.
- As you focus on the things you do enjoy, the darkness tends to recede as your mind turns finding things you love into a game, seeking out more and more of them, until it becomes almost overwhelming.
Do one thing you love every day!
- Everyone can do this. It may have to start off as simple as taking time to really stretch, or yawn, or run. Find it and do it.
- Build on this. Add something else. Physical actions, places, tastes, sounds, smells, all can fit into this category. Chew your favorite gum, whatever!
- Without discarding your life, begin to fill the moments with things you love. Put a sticker on your car (or your shopping cart if you don't have a car) that makes you smile, wear your favorite color, listen to your favorite song. Soon, your life becomes overwhelmingly about tiny things you love, you are reinventing the fabric of your universe, without changing much of anything.
Take one small step toward your ideal life!
- I keep a list of the elements that would make up my dream life. I visit it often and work toward those things. I try to do this every day.
- It may be as simple as walking up to the apartment building you'd like to own some day and looking at it, imagining what it would be like.
- When possible, make it practical; learn a skill, buy a new tool that will move you forward, save 50 cents toward your dream vacation.
Everyday remain in at least one moment a little longer.
- Whenever you find yourself happy, stay happy. Maybe it can only be five more seconds, but practice happiness every single chance you get. Things worth achieving are worth practicing.
- Keep that moment with you. Keep a memento if you can. Let it remind you of a moment of bliss you experienced and can go back to next chance you get. Focus on it when things are hard and let it carry you.
- When time permits, stay in your moment as long as you can. Focus on how it feels, think about your body, your rhythms and your state of mind. Notice: what are you thinking about, what else goes into it. Eventually, you can learn to "bottle" this feeling and reproduce it in tough times.
Eliminate stressors that you have control over.
- Sure, it's your job, but you shouldn't be berated, or made to feel like crap to earn a paycheck. Keep your eyes open for other opportunities if this is you. It can feel like it's the only option, but it rarely ever is.
- Minimize, or eliminate time with people that leave you feeling bad. You can't always get rid of negative influences, but you can control how much focus you give them.
- Get rid of stuff and environmental factors that are less than optimum. Sure, you may not be able to shop on 5th avenue, but even thrift stores carry a wide variety of things. Be intentional about what you have, wear, and live with.
Increase positive influences in your life.
- For some, this may mean finding a place to worship, joining a book club, or playing pickup basketball once a week. Find places and people that help you find happiness and spend time there.
- Read and listen to things that help lift your mood and keep you focused on what's right in your life.
- Find ways to remind yourself of what's good. Keep a journal, make art, carry things that remind you.
Help someone else find happy.
- We never really own the things we learn until we share them, it seems, so, as you begin to make progress, find someone else and share this with them.
- Seeing others progress can give us hope and doing things alone is much harder. If you choose someone further along than you, you may be tempted to see what they do as outside of your ability.
- Having someone else hold you accountable, check up on you, and count on you to do the same is a great way to build habits. And, everyone wants more happiness, right?
Admit when you're happy.
- When asked, most people will say they are more or less satisfied with life. There are always things they would change, but if there's so much happiness, perhaps we should be talking about it more.
- Smile when you feel happy. Resting bitch face is not a good excuse. Letting others know you are happy is a good way to lift the mood and bring more reasons to be happy.
- Sometimes, you just need to stop and ask yourself, "Am I happy?" if the answer is yes, celebrate that. Do a little happy dance, buy yourself an icecream, whatever. Positive reinforcement is a great way to get more of what you want.
Continue to raise the bar!
- Complacency is the nemesis of progress. When we get comfortable where we are, we forget where we are going. If you want to be happy in your life, strive for that, every day.
- Challenge yourself to stay happy longer and longer. Find more things you love, stay in your happy moments, enjoy things you love, etc. Don't shirk responsibility, as this will bring stress, just fit happy in wherever you go.
- Spread your happiness to others. Share. Do things for people. Be spontaneous in your random acts of kindness, then go ahead and pat yourself on the back and laugh about it! Enjoy being happy!
Don't apologize for being happier.
- It is guaranteed, someone is going to try to bring you back down. Crabs, boiling in a pot never escape, because, they drag each other back in! Misery loves company, don't accept the invitation.
- You don't owe anyone a more serious, or somber attitude. (obviously, don't interrupt a funeral with your happiness) Do you. They can be just as miserable,or happy as they choose.
- When people try to bring you down, you know you're on the right track! Remember when it seemed like your life sucked? Yeah, they're still there, so be patient and kind. It hurts. Plus, getting pissed about it will definitely make happy harder to find.