“All I want is to be happy.” How many times have you had that thought? Well, maybe the best way to achieve happiness is not to chase after it directly, but instead to eliminate the things in our lives that are preventing happiness from showing up in the first place.
Happiness Is Not “Somewhere Out There”
Happiness is not something external that pops into your life unexpectedly, although it can certainly seem that way at times. It’s not something that someone brings and shares with you, although that can sometimes be the case. In fact, happiness is something that you already have. It’s something that’s already inside of you. It just may be hidden underneath a lot of personal and emotional baggage that you insist on carrying around for some reason.
What Keeps Happiness Under Wraps
What kind of personal junk can keep happiness hidden and undiscovered? What kind of emotional baggage can prevent happiness from taking center stage in our lives? Some obvious things (in no particular order) include the following:
- Waiting for happiness to come to you. I’ve already mentioned this in the second paragraph but it bears repeating. Happiness is not something external. It is not something that someone else gives you or creates in you. So stop waiting for that “special someone” to come into your life. Stop looking for that “special something” in the stores or catalogs. Happiness is already inside of you. You just need to find it and let it out. Unless you really believe this, there’s no point in going further because you’ll always be stuck waiting, waiting, waiting.
- Living in the past. So maybe a loved one left. Maybe that big deal fell through or that big promotion went to someone else. Wallowing in resentment and regrets is a sure way to kill any chance of happiness. Some people have made “crying over spilled milk” a profession that’s taken over their lives – and in that kind of environment, happiness has no room to grow.
- Poor self-esteem. Do you feel like you don’t deserve happiness? Feel like you’re not worthy of it? Poor self-esteem and the negative thought patterns it produces can be a happiness killer. Correcting this one is so important that if it applies to you, you might want to consider professional help.
- Stress. It’s impossible to feel happy if you’re under stress all the time. Now here’s the kickker – a large portion of the stress we all feel is self-imposed. We want everything in our lives to go according to plan and when it doesn’t, we freak out. Trying to control the uncontrollable – and stressing out about it – will always keep happiness under wraps.
- Isolation. Do you spend most of your time alone? Bad idea. Man (as in “mankind” – no gender bias intended <grin>) is a social animal. We all need to be around and interact with other people. We need to hear their troubles as well as be able to share our own. It helps to keep things in perspective in addition to making us feel needed, valued and accepted. Whether it’s a circle of friends or family, you need to be part of a social group. If you’re not, it will be really difficult to find happiness.
- Poor physical condition. You know, one of the reasons you’re not happy might be because you’re sick. Keep yourself in good physical condition by getting regular checkups and by following your doctor’s advice – especially the part about losing a few pounds and exercising.
- No mission or purpose. Feeling like there’s no purpose to your life is the “mac-daddy” of all happiness killers. However, taking care of most of the other 6 areas will take help to eliminate this one automatically. For example, if you have a close group of friends and family, you’ll automatically begin to feel needed. Agree to bring the coffee to the next group get-together and now you begin to feel like people are depending on you. Feeling like your life has purpose automatically comes from being involved with your family, your friends, and in your community.
Letting Happiness Shine Through
- Get positive. Learn to look on the bright side. I said “learn” because optimism is a learned behavior. It’s a habit, just like being negative is, only with a much better payback in terms of happiness.
- Learn to laugh more. Don’t cry over spilled milk. Learn to see the humor in everything around you, even the little things that used to drive you nuts. Once you do that, you’ll begin to experience joy, and from there it’s a short skip to happiness.
- Forgive the past. Let go of all the resentment and regrets. Learn to forgive others for the wrong they might have done (real or imagined) as well as yourself for not meeting whatever goals or expectations you might have set for yourself. Quit trying to blame others or situations as the reason you’re not happy. Learn how to forgive and let happiness shine through.
- Get physical. Get out and get active. Meet new people. Make new friends. Play games. Compete. Contribute. Find a group where you can volunteer. Eat right. Smile.
- Give thanks. Yes, I know times are tough. Yes, I know there are millions of unemployed and that the economy is in the dumps and that the Middle East is in flames, and blah, blah, blah. Still, take time to give thanks for what you have, for your health, for the people in your life, for life itself.