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How are you feeling? Like, really feeling? Are you happy deep inside or just pretending to be? Do you look at other smiling people and wonder what they’re smiling about?
There’s a lot going on in the world right now. A lot of reasons to feel miserable and sad. But even amidst all the chaos and loss, some people still find the energy to be happy.
Is it because they don’t have any problems? Probably not.
Maybe it’s because they’ve never experienced the loss of a loved one. That’s not likely either.
Perhaps they have so much money that they can pay for their problems to disappear. Rich or poor, everyone has problems. Money can’t change that. So, that can’t be the case.
Then why is it that some people still manage to be happy through all the turmoil and trouble that afflicts the world?
These happy people have realized a little secret. And the secret is that happiness comes from within.
And because their joy comes from inside, no external circumstance can stop the happiness they feel every day.
At some point in their lives, almost everyone has experienced the loss of a job, a loved one, or their health. Some people experience all three in a short space of time. This includes those who choose to be happy despite these dire situations.
If you’re tired of being unhappy, tired of waiting until things go back to “normal” to feel happy, want to learn how to be happy no matter what is happening around you… we hear you!
Negative emotions are a burden. They’re exhausting to feel and maintain. We would rather spend our lives chasing happiness, even if it’s fleeting. Finding happiness within yourself, however, allows you to experience long-lasting happiness right now.
But it is a task that requires deliberate effort. And time; it’s going to take quite a lot of time to train your mind in the right practices and techniques.
Here are 18 ways for you to find and experience long-lasting happiness within yourself:
1. Decide what happiness looks like to you.
What does happiness look like to you? Is it owning your own house with a white picket fence? Or traveling all over the world? Maybe your idea of happiness entails teaching English to children in third-world countries. Or running your own business.
With a paper and a pen, write down what happiness means to you. Put anything and everything that makes you joyful or smile down on the list. Nothing is too ridiculous to put down, as long as it makes you happy.
By defining happiness, you’ll know whether you’re going in the right direction in your life. Are you even pursuing happiness or are you chasing after what everyone else considers happiness to be? After all, you can’t feel happy if what you’re going after doesn’t make you happy now and won’t make you happy in the future.
Once you’ve written what your definition of happiness is, align your life to better reflect that. If happiness is living out in the country on a small farm, start saving towards that or take trips out to the country whenever you get the chance. Take small steps towards living your happy life now.
2. Stop chasing happiness.
Have you ever thought, “I’ll be happy when I get the promotion,” or, “once we buy that house, we’ll be happy,” or, “I’ll be so happy when I finish school”?
Without realizing it, we attach happiness to special occasions off in the future or external events, or actual inanimate objects/experiences.
We work long hours to earn money to buy things we hope will make us happy. But because the joy of achieving a goal or the pleasure we get from an object is fleeting, when our happiness eventually fades, we’re chasing another goal to get the feeling back.
We compartmentalize our joy to a few brief moments in between long periods of hustling. But do the things we’re working hard to get actually make us happy? Or are we so caught up in the hustle and the grind that we’ve never thought about it? There’s just no time to rest or think.
Stop chasing happiness. Stop delaying your happiness until you’ve bought a new car, house, or gone on that vacation.
All you need to be happy is inside you. You don’t have to wait until you reach some arbitrary goal to feel happy. Give yourself the freedom to be happy now regardless of what you have or don’t have.
You deserve to be happy every day.
3. Smile more.
You know how annoying it is when you’re having a bad day and someone tells you to smile? Especially when the last thing you want to do is smile. Well, studies show that smiling not only relieves stress and enhances moods, but also helps reduce pain.
When we smile, even when we don’t feel like it, our brain is tricked into thinking we feel happy. So our brain releases hormones like dopamine and serotonin, which further help to put us in a good mood. As patronizing as it sounds to hear, “you should smile more,” it’s actually pretty good advice to help you get back into a good mood.
What’s even better is that a smile is contagious. When someone smiles at you, even a stranger, often before you realize it, your facial expression changes to smile back. By smiling when you don’t feel like it, not only is your brain working to match your mood to your facial expression, your smile is also having a similar reaction on others.
4. Practice gratitude.
It’s hard to see the good when everything is going so very wrong. But as bad as everything seems to be, there is still something to be grateful for. That you woke up this morning is reason enough to be thankful. Not everyone got that opportunity.
Either first thing in the morning or just before you go to bed, acknowledge the good in your life. Jot down the simple pleasures of life that you are grateful for, like a good cup of coffee or the sound of birds chirping outside your window, or the smell of freshly cut flowers.
Look at what is working in your life and write it down. Try to find new things every day to be grateful for. The best part is that the more you find, the more there is to see. Soon you’ll have pages filled with reasons to be happy.
5. Perform random acts of kindness.
Have you ever benefitted from a random act of kindness? Maybe you were getting your morning cup of coffee and when it was time for you to pay, the barista informed you that the customer before you had already paid for it. Or perhaps as you were leaving the supermarket, pushing your cart laden with grocery items to your car, someone walked up to you and gave you a flower just because.
How did that make you feel? Initially surprised, but ultimately it would have put a smile on your face and brightened up your day. Studies show that performing random acts of kindness improves the well-being of the person performing the act and its effect is comparable with that of other positive psychology interventions, such as mindfulness, positive thinking, and practicing gratitude.
Performing a random act of kindness benefits you almost as much as it benefits the receiver, if not more than.
6. Acknowledge the challenges.
Have you ever told anyone your problems and had them stare back at you in horror, shocked that you’re enduring so much? Have the details of your romantic relationship worried a friend or loved one to the point where they worried about your mental or physical safety? Were you ever ashamed to share your problems with a trusted friend because you felt they’d worry needlessly?
The danger with traumatic situations is that they mess with your perception of what is normal or acceptable behavior. Your capacity for trauma gets expanded to where you see it as normal.
It’s easy to identify when someone else is going through a traumatic experience. But when it comes to our own trauma, we underestimate the impact of what we’re going through or enduring.
Acknowledge the challenges you are facing. Recognize the trauma you are enduring. If you do not, you will continue to manage situations you were never designed to handle. When you acknowledge you have a problem, then can you take steps towards resolution.
7. Get rid of stressors.
What is the cause of your unhappiness? Can you identify what in your life is causing you stress? Is it your job? A relationship? Money trouble?
There are some problems whereby the only solution to resolving them is to get rid of them. That toxic relationship will not improve over time. Get out of it. Your toxic office won’t magically get better. At least not until either you or the toxic people leave. Dust off your resume and prepare to go.
There’s always a way to get rid of a stressor in your life. The challenge is recognizing when a problem cannot be resolved and it’s time to walk away. No one likes to give up, especially on a relationship. But when you continue to have the same issues, you need to realize that the best option for you and the other person might be to walk away.
If you’ve done the best you can and there doesn’t seem to be a solution to the negative situation, give yourself permission to get rid of the stressor.
8. Spend time in nature.
When did you last spend time outside? Do you only go outside when you’re running to and from your car? Can you remember what it’s like to feel the sun on your face? Or your lungs filled with fresh air?
Studies show several benefits to spending time out in nature, which makes squeezing in a 15-minute walk around the block worth the effort. From boosting creativity to lessening anxiety to helping you get vitamin D to giving you better immunity and more, mother nature takes better care of us than we do of her. In fact, being out in nature is so good for you that the Japanese have a name for it: shinrin-yoku, which means forest bathing.
Shinrin-yoku is not about exercising, hiking, or jogging outside. It involves simply being in nature and connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. Researchers in Japan have linked the practice of shinrin-yoku with lower levels of cortisol, which is the hormone that causes your blood pressure to rise.
9. Give back to the community.
Volunteering your time, donating money, and giving back to the community are activities that benefit you almost as much as the people you’re helping. Not only do you feel good about yourself and your contribution, but you’re also helping build your community and making the world a better place. Studies show that people who believe they are contributing to the well-being of humanity tend to feel better about their lives.
As we age, making new friends and establishing healthy relationships becomes challenging. One of the many benefits of volunteering your time is that you have the chance to increase social interaction. You don’t have to go searching for your tribe at popular hang-out spots where you may not feel comfortable. Volunteering at a soup kitchen, for example, allows you to get to know the people there who have at least one common interest with you.
Imagine surrounding yourself with people who are passionate about building the community, generally feel good about their lives, and share your interests.
10. Let go of grudges.
People have hurt us in the past. Deeply. And often, we’re very justified in holding on to the anger of their betrayal. Especially when they have not acknowledged the pain of their actions nor apologized.
The unfortunate thing in such situations is that you are not likely to get your deserved apology and the weight of carrying around that grudge and all that bitterness is immense. It affects your present relationships, your mental health, and prevents you from moving on.
Letting go of past grudges and forgiving those who have hurt you allows you to put down that burden and move forward, unencumbered. It’s not about them, it’s about you and your ability to not let that painful past affect your present and future. Because no matter how badly you were hurt, not moving on gives them the power to continue hurting you. It’s like the gift that keeps on giving.
The best revenge is simply to forgive, move on, and live your best life.
11. Honor your values.
Are you living in honor of your values? Do you even know what your values are?
Your values are the attributes that are important to you in the way you live and work. Values help you understand the difference between right and wrong. They are characteristics and behaviors that motivate you and guide your decisions. Examples of values include:
Many times, our values reflect our upbringing or the people we surround ourselves with. We don’t stop to think about whether the values we model our lives after reflect our true nature. This can lead us to live lives that do not honor our inborn values.
Essentially, we are not being true to ourselves.
Using the above list as a guide, determine what your values are. Those are the attributes that, come hell or high water, you will always embody. For example, do you claim that integrity is a value but have no problem lying to your partner about where you’re going? Are you always compassionate, even when the person doesn’t deserve it? Be honest with yourself.
Next, reflect on your life to determine if you’re living in honor of your values. Where you are not, can you make adjustments? If not, you may need to leave the situation because it cannot add to your happiness.
12. Imagine the best.
Being disappointed sucks. You get your hopes up. Get all excited. Only for it all to come crashing down. It’s a horrible feeling, one we try to avoid as much as possible. To spare our frail feelings, we prefer to brace ourselves for disappointment by not setting our hearts on the best outcome or preparing for the worst. We think it helps us manage our disappointment.
The irony is that preparing for disappointment rarely makes it hurt any less. We still go through all the emotions of feeling hurt, sad, frustrated, and so on. By setting our minds towards disappointment, we just prolong our suffering. Instead, hope for the best and imagine the best possible outcome.
Think about how happy you’ll be when what you hope for finally happens. Imagine yourself getting that promotion you’re hoping for. Think about how happy you’ll be when you’re selected for that special program. Don’t be afraid to look at what you really want and imagine yourself getting it.
If you eventually don’t end up with what you desired, you can deal with the pain of it then. There’s no need to get a head start on pain and disappointment.
13. Do things that make you happy.
There never seem to be enough hours in the day to do all the things you need to do. Between work, family responsibilities, and the challenges of adulting, you’re busy jumping from one issue to the next. You can barely find time to sleep, much less to have some fun.
When you’ve been programmed all your life to constantly be on the go and to take care of your responsibilities, finding time to do the things that make you happy or for self-care can seem pretty selfish or a colossal waste of time. When life is about everything you have to do or about helping everyone else, your mental health and well-being start to suffer.
Doing things that make you happy gives you time to decompress and replenish. When we’re performing strenuous physical activity, we know we must rest and gather our strength. Our bodies won’t go on without rest from the physical activity. But because we undervalue the sometimes nonstop emotional and mental activity we are capable of, we cannot recognize when we need a break.
Don’t wait until you can’t go on emotionally or mentally before realizing you need to decompress and replenish your emotional and mental strength. Make doing things that make you happy a regular part of your daily activity.
14. Look inward.
As odd as it may sound, we sometimes don’t know when we’re in trouble. Have you ever had a close friend or family member ask you if you’re stressed, seemingly out of the blue? Until they asked that question, you may not have considered how you’re doing. But something in your demeanor or personality or behavior tipped them off to the fact that you’re struggling. You weren’t acting like yourself.
Don’t wait until someone else asks you if you’re ok before you know you’re not. Check-in with yourself regularly, perhaps even daily. A daily journaling practice will make this very easy to do. It will also help you figure out what your triggers are.
Set aside some time to reflect regularly. Ask yourself how you’re doing. Are you stressed? Depressed? Happy? Check-in with yourself, the same way you’d check-in on a close friend or family member you haven’t talked to in a bit.
Make sure you’re ok. If you’re not, take the steps to get yourself back on track.
15. Build up your self-esteem.
We live in a world that enjoys tearing people down and stripping them of their self-esteem. In a perfect world, our parents/caretakers, schools, and mentors would work to build up our self-esteem. They’d teach us how to build up others as well.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. In our world, we need to figure out how to build ourselves up. As we’re learning how to build ourselves up, we need to work on building others up too. Or at least learn how to not tear them down.
The first step towards building up your self-esteem is understanding that no one is perfect. Everyone has their own flaws. Some people just do a better job of covering their flaws up than you do.
The second step is to appreciate your flaws. They make you the unique person that you are. If you want to work on your flaws, there are resources available for you to do that. But your flaws don’t make you a terrible human being.
Instead of focusing on your negative traits, treat yourself the way you would a valued friend. With all their faults, you’d still appreciate their strengths and good points. Many times, you forget about their flaws because of their good side.
When you get down on yourself, celebrate yourself the way you would a good friend. Recall your past positive moments and achievements. Remember all the hurdles you were able to scale to get to where you are today. Be your biggest cheerleader.
16. Surround yourself with happy people.
Just as misery loves company, people like to be around those who brighten up their day. Surround yourself with people who have a positive outlook on life, people who seem to be perpetually happy. Look for people who strive to find the silver lining in whatever dark cloud they face.
These people have an innate understanding that happiness comes from within. People who are generally happy understand that while circumstances can change and affect us negatively, it is our choice whether or not we want to be happy. They choose happiness when it’s difficult to do so.
A benefit of being around them is that they’ll help you have a positive outlook on life as well. They’ll be that one friend who will help you see the silver lining in the dark cloud. When you spend time with them, you’ll learn how they’re able to take things in stride and still feel joy.
17. Be present.
You’ve also got a lot going on in your life. Time seems to fly by and the rate at which everything is moving can be overwhelming.
Because we’re so used to being on the go, it’s hard to slow down. If you find it challenging to slow down and to be present in the moment, try the following exercises:
Mindful body scan.
While sitting or lying down on your bed, take a few deep breaths. Pay attention to how your breath enters your body, fills your lungs, and exits your body as you exhale. Initially, focus on breathing in and out.
Then, starting with your toes, pay attention to how they feel and notice any sensation you’re experiencing there. After a few moments of focused attention, move up to the next part of your body (focus on your feet, then ankles, then calves, and up).
This exercise will help you focus your thoughts and attention in order to be present and mindful.
Mindfully review your day.
At the end of your day, right before heading off to bed, take a few minutes to do a review of your day. Reflect on your day, from the start to the present moment. Be sure to note any memorable events, the little things you didn’t have time to fully enjoy during the day. Take stock of your mood as you went through the day. Savor the joyful moments, both big and small.
It might be a good idea to write your reflections down in a journal or a diary.
Take time during the day to slow down and be present. Focus on what you’re doing instead of worrying about what you still need to do. Enjoy the things around you that you don’t always notice.
18. Reduce consumption of negative news.
A study conducted by Gielan, Arianna Huffington, and researchers at the Institute for Applied Positive Research revealed that participants were 27% more likely to report that they had a bad day, six to eight hours after being exposed to just three minutes of negative news first thing in the morning. Your early morning review of the major headlines has a bigger impact on you than you think.
Rarely does the media broadcast news that uplifts or motivates. The few times they do, it’s sandwiched in between alarmist news with shocking headlines meant to grab our attention. Often we’re left feeling anxious or scared about the future.
Completely ignoring the news is also not ideal, as we want to stay up to date on current affairs and critical information. In order to balance staying informed and not allowing the information to affect our mental health, try the following:
- Turn off news alerts – Turn off the push notifications for the news on your phone or email. We rarely need to be that connected to breaking news that we cannot miss the news that happens while we’re at work or out living our lives.
- Limit your exposure – Restrict the amount of news you listen to, read, or watch to a specific number, such as thirty minutes a day. This lets you stay informed without obsessing over it.
- Subscribe to a newsletter or podcast – Instead of aimlessly flipping through the channels for the latest news, subscribe to a newsletter or listen to a news podcast that will summarize the top headlines.
The news as a medium for staying informed is beneficial to us all. But when staying informed starts to make us anxious or worried about the future, we need to look at cutting back on how much negative news we consume.
Lasting happiness is something that comes from inside and can be found from looking inward. Happiness that results from an external action is fleeting. When you look inward and remove the habits or behaviors that block you from being happy, it becomes much easier to attain long-term happiness.
Struggling to put this advice into practice and find happiness within? Speak to a therapist today who can walk you through the process. Simply click here to connect with one of the experienced therapists on BetterHelp.com.
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