Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D.

Susan Weinschenk Ph.D.

Brain Wise

How To Be Happy in 30 Seconds... Really

Happiness isn't elusive. Here's a simple technique anyone can learn.

Posted May 06, 2013

Happiness. A sense of peace and contentment. It's what we all want, right? Why does it seem so hard to get there and stay there? It must take extraordinary circumstances, or effort, right? It must require years of yoga and meditation or some sort of serious mind training, right?

What if all it took to be happy was 30 seconds of time a few times a day? What if you could start practicing right now and it took one day to learn how to be happy? And what if it was free? I know, it sounds impossible, but I want to share with you a simple technique that you can try right away. It really seems to work. 

First, let me say that I did not invent this. It's a (slightly modified) idea that I took from Ezra Bayda's GREAT book, Beyond Happiness. If you haven't read this book I highly recommend it. It's full of wisdom about life and how to be happy. 

So right now, while you are reading this, try this simple technique:

1. Ask yourself, "Are you happy?" This means right now, right at this moment are you happy? If the answer is yes, then you are done. As many times in a day as you like, start all over with this #1 step, and ask yourself the question 

2. If the answer to the question above is "No", then go on to the next question: "What obstacle is in your way to being happy?" Right here and now, what is preventing you from being happy?

Let's take an example. You ask yourself the first question, "Am I happy," and the answer is "No." So then you ask the second question, "What obstacle is in my way?"  In this example let's say that the answer is, "I'm frustrated because I'm late to my meeting with an important client. My children were slow to get out of the house today, and that put me behind. So now I'm late and frustrated and anxious about everything. The obstacle to my happiness is that I can't seem to let go of this. I'm just churning it around and around."

3. So you've asked yourself if you're happy, and you've asked yourself what the obstacle is to happiness. The next step is to ask, "Can I accept this?" Can you just accept that your children were slow and you are late and you are churning and can't let go?

This is the magic part of the technique, because if you can just take a deep breath and accept that your kids are slow, you are late, and you are an anxious nut about it, magically the angst and unhappiness start to melt. You may still be late, and your children may still be slow getting out of the house, but you aren't unhappy about it anymore. You aren't an anxious wreck about it any more.

As far as Ezra Bayda's technique from the book you are done. And the whole thing takes 30 seconds or so. You can repeat this as many times in a day you want. 

"But wait," you might be thinking, "what if I answer no to question #3?" What if you can't just accept the obstacle? 

This is where I've modified the technique a little. If when you ask question #3, "Can I accept this," the answer is "No!" then ask one more question:

#3b: "So what am I going to do about it?" If you really can't accept what's going on, then make a decision right then and there about what you are going to do to try and change things. In our example above, you may decide to call your client and just tell her that you are running late and will be there as soon as you can. You may decide to implement a new "get out of the house in the morning" routine for your family. Then take a deep breath again. 

If there is a solution to the obstacle, then decide on it and the first/next step to achieve it. If there is nothing you can do to change the obstacle, or if you are unwilling to do what needs to be done, then you have to accept it.

I know this may sound simple, but it really works. Try it for a day. Ask yourself throughout the day if you are happy. And if the answer is no, then try the rest of the steps. I think you will find, as I have, that the answers may surprise you. I discovered that I was much more happy than I was aware of (i.e., most of the time the answer to the first question was "Yes.") I think you will also find, as I have, that it doesn't take very much effort to fix unhappiness and overcome obstacles. I either have to be willing to take action or I have to accept what's going on. Realizing this moment to moment in my day has brought me a sense of empowerment and peace. It can do the same for you.

Right now, in this moment, are you happy?

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