One of the things my favorite book, The Happiness Project, made me realize (and the reason I love it so much) is that happiness is in all of our control. It’s something you have the power to bring more of into your life by making certain choices, no matter what your circumstances are. It’s also something you can learn to develop and get better at the more you practice it.
I’m a naturally cheerful person, but that doesn’t mean I’m happy all the time. I have bad moods and bad days, everyone does. But I’ve been trying, ever since reading that book, to learn to be happier…not as a mood, but as a choice. Because that’s what it comes down to.
You may not always feel happy, but happiness is more than a mood. It’s a way of approaching the world.
That may sound confusing, not to mention hard to pull off. How do you make yourself happy when you’re just not feeling it? But it’s not a matter of forcing yourself or willing yourself to do anything…it’s a matter of acting in a way that encourages the growth of happiness…of being open to the good and acknowledging what you have to be thankful for. It’s choosing to focus on the bright side of things, even when things look pretty dark.
And it’s something you can get better at with practice and learn to incorporate more of in your life.
OK, Em (you say). That’s all good, but how do you choose happiness? How do you learn to incorporate more positivity in your life? I am by no means a happiness guru, but I can tell you what I’ve been doing, and I can also tell you that it’s been working:
Find things to be grateful for
Even if it’s been a stressful day and everything has gone wrong, spend a few minutes at the end of the day coming up with a gratitude list. Find 3-5 things from that day that you’re grateful for. They can be really silly, tiny things if it’s been a rough day, like being thankful you have food to eat when you’re hungry (which is actually a really big, super-fortunate thing we all take for granted) or the fact that you remembered to bring an umbrella when it rained.
Thinking about the good things in your life helps you relax and sleep easier, and it helps me wake up the next morning in a more positive frame of mind. Sometimes, if I’ve got something coming up that day that I’m anxious about (like a presentation at work), I also run through a gratitude list in the morning, too: I’m grateful I have a job, I’m grateful it’s a sunny day, etc.
Choose to react in a positive way
We all have bad things that happen to us, and we have every right to be unhappy or angry or resentful about them. But who wants to be unhappy or resentful?
We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can control the way we react to things. Even if we’re mad and upset, we can learn to practice patience, forgiveness, and looking on the bright side. This doesn’t mean we’re saying bad things are OK, it just means we’re saying we’re not going to let them get us down.
Me personally, I don’t see why you’d want to choose not to be as happy as you possibly can. It won’t change a bad situation if you choose be angry at it, it will only bring you down even further.
This is a tough one for me, because I’m a huge worrywart. But by realizing this and working to change it, I’ve found that I’m happier overall because I’m less stressed. I can kind of roll with things better and be optimistic that ultimately things will work themselves out.
Someone once told me that worry does nothing but borrow trouble from the future to ruin your today, and that’s the way I try to look at it now. Just like in choosing to react positively, we have no control sometimes over how some things will wind up in the future. Worrying about them now only robs us of enjoying the moment. And whether things turn out good or bad, it doesn’t make any sense to also make now bad by worrying.
Enjoy the journey
Not only is happiness a choice and not a mood, it’s also a journey and not a destination. It’s really easy for us to think “I’ll be happy when…” (I get that raise, I have X amount of money, I finally meet the right person.) But real happiness is being able to find joy and satisfaction in your day to day life…because in the end, that’s the only thing you have for sure, anyway.
As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” Learn to appreciate life as it unfolds, and you’ll find happiness right now, not as some far-off destination down the road.
How could you choose happiness more in your daily life? What other tips you would add to this list?
photo credit: adam.