Halfway to Happiness

I’m halfway to being happy.  And it’s taken me a while to get to that point. Over the years I’ve done a lot of reading about happiness. I’ve searched for it everywhere – in books, magazines, the Internet. I thought maybe it was with my family and my friends, or even my cat. I was determined to find happiness one way or another.

What I didn’t realize was that happiness isn’t something you find, it’s a mindset, a journey – a way of looking at your life in a positive way and being grateful for the time you have been given. Of course family, friends, and pets aid in our ability to be happy, but we have to look within ourselves for the real source. Happiness is a multifaceted and complex state of mind. It takes work to achieve it, but if you are willing to study and make the effort, you can be happy.

Perhaps you are doubtful. Maybe you’ve been trying to be happy for a long time. No matter what you try, you just can’t seem to be content and happy with yourself or your life.  Maybe you think that you just aren’t meant to be happy.  This is far from the truth. I firmly believe that everyone on this Earth is meant to live a full and meaningful life, and this includes being happy. Of course there are certain inevitable events that can get in the way of our happiness. Everyone encounters them at some point in their life. The loss of a loved one, a pet, a job. Perhaps it’s a struggle with an illness, financial burdens, or family conflicts. These sad occurrences are a part of life just like happiness is.

But happiness can’t exist without sadness. We cannot feel a genuine gratitude for someone or something unless we have never had it, or it’s been taken away from us at one point in our life. Pain is a part of happiness. When we think of happiness we think about being free of pain, sadness or discomfort. But we need to realize those feelings are a part of happiness.

According to Russ Harris M.D., author of The Happiness Trap, “Happiness is not your reward for escaping pain. It demands that you confront negative feelings head-on, without letting them overwhelm you.” We can learn to challenge our negative thoughts and alter our ominous outlook on life. In doing so, we are already on our way to being happier.

So what exactly is happiness? Each of us may have our own definition for it. According to Carlin Flora, the author of the article “The Pursuit of Happiness, “the most useful is a definition that is agreed upon by neuroscientists, psychiatrists, positive psychologists and Buddhist monks: happiness is a feeling of satisfaction and contentment in one’s life. “ This differs a bit from the “jumping with joy” happiness we tend to imagine for ourselves. “It involves living a meaningful life, utilizing your gifts and your time, and living with thought and purpose. “

Happiness involves a willingness to learn and to grow, which sometimes includes discomfort. We as humans don’t like to feel discomfort and often turn to quick fixes to try and make ourselves feel better. We’ll go shopping and buy expensive things, or we’ll binge on our favorite junk food.  While these indulgences subdue our negative feelings temporarily, it is short-lived and we end up feeling more upset in the long run. Instead of masking our sadness, we should embrace it and be mindful of it.

Harris suggests we use mindfulness to help with the discomforts of life and be happier. “Mindfulness,” he states, “is a mental state of relaxed awareness of the present moment; with openness and curiosity toward your feelings rather than judgments of them”. He suggests that if you bring mindfulness to bear on negative feelings., they lose their impact. “Just let them be there without struggling against them,” he says, “and you’ll eventually feel less anxiety and depression.” So be aware of your feelings. Don’t push them away, but don’t let them get in your way either.

Being happy takes work. It doesn’t seem like it should have to, but it does. However, this will most likely be the most enjoyable work you’ve ever done. One step you need to take towards a happier state of mind is to let go of any doubt you may have. Tell yourself: “I deserve to be happy and I will be, no matter what life throws my way.”

Sonja Lyubomirsky PHD, describes the process of attaining happiness in her book The How of Happiness. She explains: “Sustainable happiness is attainable regardless of genetics, prosperity, health and physical attractiveness – if one is prepared to do the work. “ Much like losing weight and being fit, lasting happiness requires effort and commitment everyday of one’s life.

I’ve compiled a list of activities you can do to enhance the happiness in your life. Remember, happiness isn’t all about attitude, it requires action as well.

Make goals in life and work towards them.

According to Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist from the University of Wisconsin, “action toward goals makes us happy. Working hard toward a goal activates positive feelings while suppressing negative emotions such as fear and depression.” So set goals for yourself and work towards them.

Visualize the best possible future for yourself.

Do this once a week. The positive imagery will make you feel good and remind you of your goals in life – and the action you need to take to reach those goals.

Perform regular acts of kindness for others on a regular basis.

We’ve all heard the saying “tis better to give than to receive.” Studies have shown that helping others and giving of our time and ourselves gives us a sense of purpose and fulfillment in life.

Exercise regularly and eat a balanced, healthy diet.

Exercising releases endorphins, a chemical in your brain that makes you feel good. Being healthy and in good shape also reduces stress in our lives and can make us feel good about ourselves.

Make personal relationships a priority.

Research tells us that one of the most important causal factors associated with happiness and well-being is our meaningful connections with other human beings.  Healthy relationships can also act as buffers against the damaging effects of life’s let downs and setbacks.

Good luck on your journey towards happiness. I hope you find these ideas helpful along the way. And remember, life is a journey. Enjoy the ride!