“Putting it all together, everything I see tells me that far from being a disease, happiness is an all-too-rare condition, of short or long duration, with wonderful symptoms and not one but many causes.” –George Burns
Everyone is engaged in the pursuit of happiness, even though happiness isn’t always easy to catch. For that very reason, there are countless theories and ideas out there for how to get happy. But, the way I see it, happiness is personal; it means different things to different people, and the feeling can’t easily be put into words. Contrary to popular belief, happiness isn’t something that can be bought in a mall, car lot, or luxury building. Happiness is a state of mind—one that doesn’t stick around for 24 hours a day. It comes and goes, always making you aware of its presence. In my experience, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula for happiness; however, there are some things you can do to experience more of it on a daily basis. Below is a list of suggestions for how to achieve happiness in your everyday life. I welcome you to add your own suggestions in the comment section and share with me your methods for getting happy.
1. Take Some Action
“The essence of greatness is the ability to choose personal fulfillment in circumstances where others choose madness.” –Dr. Wayne Dyer
You know those people who just like to complain? The ones who always seem to have something to nag about and who, when you try to give them a solution, say, "Yeah, but…" and then continue to moan some more? It’s almost like they enjoy being miserable and find it necessary to explain the negative circumstances of their life without doing anything about it. Well, unfortunately, many people tend to go through life that way. They see themselves as victims and aimlessly float through life, not taking responsibility for their choices or participation in creating their undesirable circumstances. They ignore the positive and look at the negative with a magnifying glass. If you want to ultimately achieve happiness, you need to be both responsible and committed to yourself. You need a thirst for life and a desire to participate in it. You must be willing to acknowledge what is going right, not only paying attention to what’s going wrong. Happiness isn't a one-time destination; it's a life-long vow to your own health, well-being, and pleasure. Basically, instead of just complaining about all those things you want to change, do something about it—or change the way you perceive the situation, which is really another way of doing something about it. As Dr. Wayne Dyer said, "The best antidote to worry is action."
2. Know That You’re in Charge Of Yourself
"They say your destiny is already written. But sometimes you just have to grab a pen and become the author of your life." -Unknown
Let me tell you a secret: Living in an internally controlled emotional world, rather than being dictated by external circumstances, will significantly shift your happiness meter. When you maintain an internally controlled emotional world, you get to choose how to deal with each issue or problem that arises in your life. You can decide whether to have a mental breakdown, hide away, hate your life, yell, blame others, confront your issues, deal with life head on, curse, use drugs, work out, etc. Even though you might not always feel like it, you have the freedom to choose how to deal with life's inevitable ups and downs. The important thing isn’t whether the problem gets solved; it’s how you maintain your happiness and worthiness through the process of dealing with whatever comes up that matters.
3. Put Yourself First
"Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future." –Deepak Chopra
If you’ve read some of my other articles, you know I’m a big fan of putting yourself first. I’m also an advocate for taking charge of yourself and your own life, which falls in line with that type of thinking. In the past, my life was completely dominated by other people; I came to realize that if I didn't change, I would continue relinquishing control of my life in order to be accepted by others. One aspect of achieving happiness is giving up the idea that you have to live your life the way others say you should. It involves coming to the realization that your life is precious, and you deserve just as much as anyone else to live it the way you want to. It often means choosing actions, behaviors, and decisions that please you rather than conform with what you think you ought to do. When you can live comfortably with your choices, you create the conditions for happiness to enter and stay in your life.
4. Control Your Thoughts
"You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That's the only thing you should be trying to control." –Elizabeth Gilbert
Think about something that has made you feel emotional. Now ask yourself, where did those emotions come from? They most likely came from your thoughts. Neuroscience research shows that your brain doesn't know the difference between you actually experiencing something and you just thinking about that experience. What this means is that you can create a physical and emotional reaction with just your thoughts. Your thoughts usually come before any feeling you have, whether you’re aware of them or not. Therefore, if you maintain control of your thoughts, you also maintain control of your feelings. Many people have the inaccurate belief that other people make them angry, upset, or unhappy. However, the truth is that you allow them to make you upset through your thoughts about their actions and decisions. A major aspect of becoming a happy person is changing the way you think about situations and realizing that you’re in charge of how you feel, think, and react to people. No one else can really "make" you feel any certain way.
5. Live in the Present
"Wherever you are - be all there." –Jim Elliot
Living in the moment—being present in the now—is a very effective strategy for living a happy life. As many well-known philosophers have stated, "Now is all there is, there really is no other moment." Our culture doesn't value the importance of living for the now. We continue to lose the present moment by thinking about the future and the past, conjuring up “what if” scenarios, and generating anxiety about things that probably won’t ever happen. I make a constant conscious effort to keep myself from entering anxiety territory by concentrating on what I’m doing in the present moment. I’ve noticed that it’s harder to bring myself into the now when I’m bored; it’s much easier to think about other things. However, when doing things I enjoy, it takes little effort for me to remain present. I love writing, reading, teaching, and conducting therapy. I know this because when I’m engaged in those activities, it doesn't take much effort for me to be present. It's important to be attuned and present in any task or activity you’re doing. When you notice your mind wondering, bring yourself back. I do this by concentrating on my breathing and repeating to myself, "I know I am breathing in, I know I am breathing out." Enjoy every moment, tune into the now. Get your mind out of the past, which already happened, and the future, which hasn't happened yet. Bring yourself to this very moment, because that is all there is.
Listen, I get it. It’s "safer," easier, and more comfortable to hang out in the same place you’ve been, even if you aren’t happy in that place. I also get that writing about achieving happiness is a piece of cake compared to actually achieving it. But maintaining the same viewpoints that keep you stuck and continuing to do the same actions that keep you trapped will only keep you in the cycle of discontent. Whether you want to hear it or not, your life is the sum of your decisions. You, not anyone else, are in charge of yourself and your happiness! Of course, there will always be external circumstances that bring you down like a death, health issues, or the loss of a job. However, as time passes and you truly mourn those losses, you inevitably regain the option to choose happiness. You must recognize that having problems is part of life, and just because you have them shouldn't make you an unhappy person for your entire existence.