How to be Happy
Lots of people have thought long and hard about happiness and how a person can make themselves become more positive and less anxious/angry. There’s no one “fix” for this issue. But there are fixes. And seeing happiness/unhappiness as a habit we can change seems to work for a lot of people. To get more context, check out this post on humans and happiness.
I think the road to greater happiness in life lies along a path where three things must happen first before your journey to greater happiness habits can begin.
First, you must realize you are not as happy as you could possibly be. This is a self-realization. You have to think about where you are and how you feel. You have to be brave enough to look inside yourself and admit it if you are not happy.
Second - and this usually comes after failing at trying to make other people or the acquiring of possessions make you happy - you come to realize that the only person responsible for you becoming happier is you. Circumstances and situations change. Like Joshua Becker says about the accident victims and lottery winners, external circumstances mean little to your overall sense of wellbeing in the long run. What you THINK about your situation. That is the key.
And third, you have to decide to do something about it. You have to decide to change. And change is messy and hard. So again, you must be brave and face your own unhappiness, stop blaming others or your situation for it, and decide to make your own life better.
There’s an old saying that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. That’s a bit of a stretch, but I think we can all agree that it doesn’t help to just keep repeating behaviors and attitudes that have gotten us into a bad place. Change happens when you feel too uncomfortable to stay where you are. People often resist change because they fear the unknown. And change from within, changing yourself, can be the hardest and scariest kind of change to attempt.
But you can do it. Why stay unhappy if you can start growing toward a more contented you?
So. You’ve decided to make changes toward becoming happier. How do you start?
One way is to simply Google, “How to be happier.” Some results may resonate with you. Here’s one of thousands of results.
It’s where I got the quote from Joshua Becker. It’s not necessarily the best source, but it’s one place to start.
Here are some other ways to start:
Make a list of what you don’t like about your circumstances/self and decide one thing on that list you can change. Then take one step each day to change that one thing. Make it a small and easily doable change, so you can see your success. It will make you more likely to try changing some other part of your life that’s bugging you.
Talk to a close/trusted friend about what you might try to do differently to make life better for yourself. Then make a pact with them to do it. Have them check up on you for results.
Talk with a therapist about what steps you can take to make positive changes in your life. Take those steps and reevaluate as needed with your therapist.
Drop the negative people from your life when possible or minimize your contact with them if you can’t drop them. And find new friends who support you. Negativity rubs off, and it’s easier to feel happier when you avoid negative people.
Spend a few minutes every day doing something positive for yourself, something you like to do. Doing something that doesn’t cost money is best and of course something that is also good for you. “I will spend ten minutes every day eating as many potato chips as I can cram into my mouth,” is not a good choice, no matter how much you love to eat potato chips! And if you can’t think of anything, you now have your place to start! Spend time thinking and making a list of what YOU like to do. Not for others, or what others might like to do with you, but to please only you. Not something productive, either. (Unless scrubbing toilets makes you veryhappy, don’t include anything that even hints at a chore on that list.) Then do that thing. Every day. And see if it doesn’t make you feel happier.
Start paying attention to your habits. Pick one activity you do most days, like say, driving, and pay attention to yourself as if you were a passenger in the car with you. Are you an angry driver? A distracted driver? What could you do to make your drive easier/happier? Could you leave for your destination early sometimes, take side roads for a change, and if the weather is nice, roll your windows down and just relax? Just changing your attitude towards a daily drive/commute, making it “me time,” could be a great first step. If you commute by train or bus, could you listen to music that is calming? Or a recorded book? Could you use the time to knit or crochet or read?
Practice your faith. Dig into the truths of it. Every major religion teaches us how to be happy in our everyday circumstances. Let your faith lead you on a path to that richness of personal understanding about your place in the world and how to be happy in it.
People DO change. All the time. Happy people don’t just happen. If you ask a person who usually seems happy why they are happy, they might not be able to tell you. But if you ask them about their daily routines, they will often reveal small choices in actions and mindset that have added up to an overall decision, even an unconscious one, to be a person of contentment. They have made the changes necessary in their lives along the way, so that their lives are filled with opportunities to practice being grateful, interested in life, and to work toward goals they feel are important. And that is what REAL happiness looks like. Life happens and you choose to make it work for you in a positive way. Every day is not easy, but overall, you are satisfied with what you are doing and why you are doing it. And the result is the feeling of wellbeing we call “being happy.”
- Autumn Starks, LCSW (about)
Founder and Psychotherapist, Starks Therapy Group
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