Numerous studies on the subject have shown that most people surveyed put happiness ahead of money or fame, when asked what things are most important to them. However, many also report that they find happiness to be elusive. So, if happiness is so important, why do so many people need to know how to be happy? Let’s look at some strategies to help you find that elusive happiness.
I once read that humans need just three things to be happy – something to do, something to hope for or strive towards and someone to love. At first, I thought this statement was way too simplistic but on reflection, I decided that it just about covered everything.
After an accident several years ago that left me in constant pain and unable to work anymore, I sank into a deep depression and decided that life wasn’t worth living anymore. Luckily, there was still a small spark deep inside me and one day I had an absolute epiphany –if I was to recover from this state and be able to function again, it was completely up to me and me alone and I had better figure out how to do it.
I see happiness in the same light; that is, ‘if it’s going to be, it’s up to me’. The other thing I discovered on my long journey back to mental health was that you don’t ‘find’ happiness; you have to create it. And create it you can, day by day, but it does take some effort on your part.
This is the thing about being happy; most people seem to think that it’s something that we have to wait for; something that will happen sometime in the future. We hear things like “when the kids are grown up, I’ll be happy”; “when the mortgage is paid off, I’ll be happy”; when I get that promotion, I’ll be happy”; “if I had more money, I’d be happy”. Talk about putting happiness on hold!
I discovered that I could be happy at almost any time; all I had to do was decide to be. I found that, at any given time, there are plenty of things to be happy about; you just have to learn to recognize them. Of course, you might also need to change your attitude and mindset about a few things to make this possible, but you can do it. I am living proof of that!
An attitude of gratitude is key to being happy; it’s hard to be unhappy when you are listing all the things you have to be grateful for. I developed the habit of naming 3 things I was grateful for, in that moment, immediately before falling asleep and again as soon as I woke up in the morning. Back then, in the depths of depression, it was sometimes hard to come up with three different things twice a day but now I find I’m running off a long list in my mind without having to think too hard. It just takes practice.
So, what do you have to be grateful for? What about simply being alive or having great kids or friends or neighbors; maybe it’s been a lovely sunny day or much-needed rain has been falling; perhaps work wasn’t as bad as you feared or the line in the supermarket was really short. Open your mind to see lots of things to be grateful for, often things that you would normally take for granted.
You can set the tone for your whole day with what you think or say to yourself first thing in the morning. After listing the things you are grateful for, make a decision that it’s going to be a good day. Your subconscious can’t tell the difference between fact and fiction, so the more you tell it that ‘today is going to be a good day’, the more you will start to believe it and discover that often, it’s a true prediction. How much easier is it to feel happy when you are expecting to have a good day?
Relationships are an important part of human existence and nurturing relationships that build you up and help you feel good are an important aspect of feeling happy. Mix with people who leave you feeling better and limit time spent with those who drag you down. Contribute to your relationships by being supportive and appreciative and being prepared to listen.
It’s hard to feel happy when you are always looking at what you don’t have or can’t do. Appreciate what you have and the abilities you are blessed with. Feel proud of your achievements, even the little ones. Treat yourself regularly and reward your own successes. Don’t wait for other people to show appreciation to you; do it for yourself.
Happy people are optimistic and have an optimistic outlook on life. Even when things seem to be going wrong, try and summon up some optimism and positive thoughts for better times ahead. Develop the habit of looking on the bright side of life and cultivate a more positive state of mind. Watch your self-talk; catch yourself thinking about the negatives and change the thought into one that’s more positive.
Find a purpose to focus on and strive towards. This doesn’t necessarily have to be anything earth shattering, just something that moves you to action and leads to a sense of satisfaction. Start a garden, take up a new hobby, take a class in something new, learn a new skill, take up a creative pursuit like painting or sewing, volunteer your time at a community organization. Having something to work towards gives you a sense of purpose and helps you feel happy.
When looking for ideas on how to be happy, it’s really important to realize that you create your own happiness in the present; it’s not something that you ‘find’ some time in the future. Don’t put it off; look for the simple pleasure around you every day and make the decision to be happy today and every day.