It can be challenging to figure out how to be happy
I had a happiness light bulb moment a few years ago
I had a bigger jolt than from any new skill or technique I’d learned. It was simply this:
Decide to be happy
It may seem way too simple — and in a way — it is. But deciding you are a happy person can change your self-perception on so many levels.
If you consider yourself happy, this becomes part of your sense of identity. Your sense of identity — the very core of who you are — will affect your beliefs about yourself and what you value. It will also impact how you behave; including how you relate to others, and how you think. Deciding to be happy can have a profound significance.
Deciding to be happy differs from being happy about something
When you’re happy about something, that something triggers your happiness, rather than your own decision. For example: “I’m happy we’re having wonderful weather on our trip.” What happens if you have lousy weather on your trip? If it means you’ll be unhappy, then you’re letting the weather decide your emotional response.
When you are a cheerful person, your happiness rarely depends on your outward circumstances or your situation. I’ve seen the happiest people in the most unfortunate of conditions; circumstances that would challenge many of us. Often they have few material possessions, yet they exude happiness.
“When I” happiness
As a coach and trainer, I often come across people with a, ‘when I’ mentality to happiness.
“I’ll be happy ‘when I’, leave school/pass exams/finish university/start work/finish work/get married/get divorced/have children/children leave home/retire/etc.”
It’s easy to see that these people are making their happiness conditional on an event, or certain circumstances.
Sometimes ‘when I’ happiness is conditional upon ownership. For instance, ‘when I have a new car/new house/new mobile phone, etc I’ll be happy.
‘When I’ happiness is always somewhere out in the future
When an event arrives, or they make the purchase, individuals are happy. Sadly, their happiness often only lasts a little longer than it took to make the purchase. Then, they’re back to wanting something else to be happy ‘about’.
Stop putting happiness on hold!
It’s perfectly OK to want things. After all, you are human. But making your happiness conditional upon having something, or dependent upon a specific event or circumstances, results in only fleeting satisfaction. It puts happiness on hold while you engage in an interminable search, striving and stressing towards your next ‘when I’.
True happiness comes from within
For me, happiness is a sense of gratitude, contentment, cheerfulness, joy, joviality, well-being, and playfulness. Happiness doesn’t depend upon anything outside of me. When I achieve a challenging goal or buy something I’ve saved for, I get a bonus buzz. But I’ve learned to enjoy the journey, and want to savour every minute of it.
Happiness is a work in progress
I have ‘down’ days like many others. Nowadays I can retrieve my general sense of happiness quicker and more easily.
I re-mind myself (and re-decide) to be happy. Doing so returns control for my happiness back to me.
How to commit to your own happiness
These questions will help you explore your own ways of expressing happiness. Please give them all serious thought because, although the questions are simple, your answers will have a deep impact on your self-image and feelings of authenticity.
If you were to decide, at the core of your existence to be happy, how would your decision influence your:
- Sense of self?
- Relationship to your nearest and dearest, your friends and colleagues?
- Stress levels?
Deep examination will uncover what it means to be happy in all aspects of your life. So don’t decide to be happy until you’ve explored them.
Some avenues that can lead to becoming that happy person
1. Developing new habits
Being unhappy can become a habit; simply focus on what’s missing in your life and, over time you’ll become more unhappy. Try finding aspects of yourself and your life that you love. Consciously look for and pay attention to those things instead. Take up a healthy new habit such as going for a walk and noticing nature all around, meditate, garden. The key is to start with just one new practice. Apply yourself to doing it consistently until it becomes a real habit.
2. Being grateful
This isn’t meant to be some hackneyed suggestion that’s challenging to implement. When you begin to focus on what you’re grateful for, you change the wiring in your brain and the RAS (Reticular Activating System) at the back of your brain. The RAS consists of a bundle of densely packed nerve cells located in the central core of your brain stem. Millions of bits of information bombard your five senses every second; smells, tastes, images, sensations, and sounds. Obviously, you can’t consciously pay attention to everything without going crazy!
The RAS filters the incoming information
The RAS determines the type of information that gets through to your conscious mind. The information that gets through is programmed and filtered according to your expectations, your interests, and what’s of value to you. If you decide to be grateful, your RAS will allow more things for which to be grateful to penetrate your conscious awareness.
3. Making better food choices
Easier said than done. I know! If you’re rushed, tired or otherwise stressed, it’s tempting to search for a quick option, take-aways — or something easy. And, while easy doesn’t have to also be unhealthy, it often is. Planning ahead a little (see developing new habits) so that healthy food is also quick and easy, could be a great place to start.
4. Getting enough exercise and sleeping well
It’s vital to exercise both mind and body. You probably exercise your mind pretty well in whatever work you do; resolving problems overcoming the latest challenge and learning ways to improve. Your body needs to move as well — and not just as you rush from one crisis to another!
Schedule time to exercise
Even a brisk walk with some friends or your dog — or both — at the start or end of the day, can set you up for a good night’s sleep. Having a consistent bedtime and some evening routines such as turning off the TV and devices an hour before bed, relaxing with a warm drink (not coffee!) can all set you up for a night of deep rejuvenating sleep.
Deciding to be happy is your first step
Without a fundamental and guiding decision to be happy, any fresh activities or habits would be a waste of time.
You’re in control of your own happiness from moment to moment. Don’t make your happiness contingent upon achievements, ownership, events, or occasions.
My How To Change Your Mind eBook has practical steps to help you develop your sense of happiness.Tags: Authenticity, Beliefs and values, Self-awareness, Thinking and mindset