How To Be Happier
How does a person become happy?
Figuring out how to be happy is one of the easiest things for those who are naturally contented and fulfilled, while it can be one of the hardest tasks you’ll ever undertake if you aren’t naturally a happy person.
People have a talent for all kinds of things and being happy is one of them. If you tend to be dour, depressed, disagreeable, negative or pessimistic, these traits can affect your life. As they say, attitude is everything.
Why Are So Many People Unhappy?
Becoming happy for a person like that means going against your instincts. Throughout your life, whether through bad experiences or brain chemistry, something has pushed you to be unhappy and look at life with negativity and dismay. Your reasons for doing so might be well justified, but knowing that doesn’t help you overcome your unhappiness. You have a habit of being unhappy.
Learning new habits and living your life a little differently will help you be a happier person. Happiness might not come easily to you, but that doesn’t mean that living the happy life is a hopeless cause. But you are going to have to evaluate yourself and your life and, instead of focusing on the negative side of things, begin to explore the positive possibilities that stretch out before you.
Decide what you find important to you. Is your family most important? Is your job most important? Is having a romantic partner the way to happiness? Is having a whole lot of different experiences? Your own creativity? Social interactions? Solitude? Relaxation? Religious Values?
Whatever the case, figure out what is most important to you and then find a way to make that the focus of your life. You’re going to be happier putting your time into things you enjoy and that make you happier.
That isn’t to say you will be able to focus on just what’s important to you. Most of us have to work, but make sure the rest of your time is devoted to what brings you joy and pleasure. Speaking of work, let’s discuss careers.
Get Your Career Set
Studies show that an overwhelming majority of Americans hate their job. It’s so widespread, it’s the default expectation that we’re going to dislike our job. But since the job is approximately 1/3rd of your waking adult life and 1/2 of you work week, that’s a huge chunk of life that you’re going to be suffering, if you hate your job.
Now, unless you stand to inherit a lot of money or you just won the lottery, you’re probably going to be working most of the rest of your life. So figure out what type of things you enjoy and find a way to make a living at that. Get the education you need to be in the career path you like. Find a way to make a living with that vocation online. There are so many possibilities these days, you can find a good job for you, if you get creative. Don’t just expect to hate your job.
Don’t get me wrong. Virtually every job you can imagine is going to have difficulties and challenges. You’ll have your good days and your bad ones. But if you enjoy what you’re doing, you’re going to perform your job assignments better and you’ll enjoy up living a happier life. Regardless of whether your career is the most important thing to you or not, you’ll never be truly happy until you get this one squared away.
Live and Learn
When I said earlier that you should “know yourself”, that can be more complicated than it sounds. People change as they grow older, and their priorities change along with that. What you held most dear a year ago may no longer apply. What you thought was most important 5 or 10 years ago is almost certain to have changed – at least a little bit.
That girl you met whom you thought you would spend the rest of your life with? She may be way in the rear-view mirror by now. Maybe you didn’t think family was that important at age 20, but at age 30, you’re starting to realize you relate to your parents and siblings now and that you value the time you spend with them. You might get the sense the clock is running out and you only have so many years left to spend with these people you love.
As we get older, we begin to grapple with our own mortality more and more. That might manifest as a desire to get to know our aging parents better or to have children of our own. It might manifest as a shift from career-oriented goals to enjoying life more or exploring avenues of life we’ve sublimated to our careers (the classic “mid-life crisis”). Maybe we start to wonder about retirement and decide that we haven’t worked hard enough or saved well enough for an old age we thought was ages away, if it ever came at all.
Whether we just “grow up” or gain a little extra perspective from experience, life looks different as we grow older. So evaluate yourself and consider whether you are “truly happy” every once in a while, so you don’t absentmindedly fall into the trap of letting life pass you by or weigh you down. Take stock of what’s most important to you occasionally and see whether your life is headed in that direction. If not, don’t be afraid to make a change.
If what you have been doing isn’t working for you, don’t beat yourself up over it. Chalk it up to experience, learn from living and make new decisions.
Staying positive is a huge part of being happy. Hope and expectation are a lot more conducive to happiness than despair and dread. Find aspects of your life to be happy about. Find things to look forward to, even if others find them trivial. Know that whatever circumstance you find yourself in is temporary. One thing about life is that it changes all the time, so if things are bad right now, they aren’t likely to be as bad in the future.
Studies show that people who remain positive live longer. Negativity literally drains the life from you. Sure, you’ll have your moments where you get jaded, but don’t let that rule your life. Positivity and positive energy will make you happier. Even if you’re naturally a pessimist and have to fake it or fool yourself in the beginning, try to learn the habit of optimism. Look at the glass as half full long enough and you’ll be able to start seeing the good in things naturally. A good attitude is a miracle worker.
Focus On the Good Times
Don’t dwell on the bad times of the past. Think about all the good times in your life and the positive moments you’ve shared with others. If you have a loved one who is no longer with you, try to think of something they said or did that brought a smile to your face or made you laugh. If they enjoyed laughing about your eccentricities, cherish those warm moments when the two of you shared that bond. A loved one will always be a part of your life, as long as you choose to remember their love.
Put Happy Thoughts in Your Head
If you find there are certain moments or influences in your daily life that are negative, try to marginalize them as much as possible. When you have a chance, put positive thoughts in your head. Avoid negativity of all kinds. Read positive books or watch positive movies and tv shows, if you have to. If you find the overwhelming majority of the culture you run through your mind is negative and it’s not healthy for you, replace those with positive culture. Some people have no negative side effects from bombarding their brains with negative stimuli, but some people do. If you are one of those people, avoid the bad stuff.
Sure, you might not be able to avoid that negative person at work who tries to bring their poor attitude and resentments into the workplace, but that doesn’t mean you have to reinforce those bad feelings when you get home. If your entertainment time resembles your real life and you don’t like that, change what you entertain yourself with.
Don’t Compete with Loved Ones
I’m not saying you shouldn’t shoot baskets or play cards against your family and friends. I’m saying you shouldn’t compare your life to theirs, because it’s apples and oranges.
Life has a different meaning for different people. You have different interests, likes and dislikes from every other person on the planet. Even those whom you are closest to, or whom you have many things in common with, will have different opinions and values about what is important in life. Support your friends and family in helping their dreams come true and don’t turn your relationship with them into a competition.
You’re going to do one of two things when you compare your life with those of the people in your life. One, given your different values, you’re likely to look down on their accomplishments as virtually worthless. Two, you will decide they have a better life than you and you’ll be filled with envy and resentment. Neither of those is a good option for maintaining a healthy, happy set of friendships and relationships. Life isn’t a zero-sum game, where one person winning means another person loses. Work together.
The fact of the matter is, you are going to be competing in one arena or another most of your life. There’s no need to bring competitiveness into your the most important relationships of your life, or you’ll miss what’s important about those friendships.
Just because you aren’t trying to outdo everyone in your life, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to improve yourself. When you challenge yourself to do something new or different, you grow as a person. New experiences stimulate your brain and that dynamic experience brings new energy into your life.
If you don’t know how to improve yourself, start small. Start taking a walk to get in better shape. Read a little bit every day to stimulate your brain. Take a course at a community college or online. If you don’t have the money, join a civic organization or a local club. Heck, buy a new cologne or bath oil and improve the way people perceive you.
When you take the time to improve yourself even in small ways, you gain confidence in yourself and that’s priceless. Set a simple goal and achieve it. Achievement of any kind let you improve your self-image.
Find Happiness in Yourself
Here’s where things can get tricky sometimes. When I tell people to find something that makes them happy and make that the centerpiece of their life, people are often conditioned to think “find love and live happily ever after”. If you want to live happily, though, you have to enjoy spending time with yourself.
Don’t just look for happiness in other people. If you depend on finding that soul mate to fill a void in your life, you may be searching for a long time. Most of what I’ve talked about today has been about self-improvement and self-confidence. That’s because you won’t be happy until you are like yourself and enjoy being you.
Once you find happiness in yourself, people will be more likely to spend time with you and want to be around you. True happiness is attractive. If you want to attract the opposite sex and be the true love of another, make yourself the kind of person worthy of that love and affection.
Doing it the opposite way is called “putting the cart before the horse”. Sure, we all want instant gratification, but well-earned gratification is much more satisfying and is, in fact, much more realistic. Find happiness in yourself and you’ll find everything else just might fall into place.
Be a Giving Person
I’m not sure what religion or creed you follow, so excuse me if this sounds like I’m making an ethical or religious argument here. Try to share more and be a more giving person and you’ll find that people respond to you more often. Generosity and magnanimity are important traits.
When I say that, I’m not saying you should tip better and give bigger gifts at Christmas. I’m saying you should be more willing to share your thoughts and feelings and positive emotions with other people in your life. Try not to be so critical of others. Be a little more willing to laugh at a stupid joke or show a little more compassion.
Being “magnanimous” tends to have an economic connotation, but the truly magnanimous person is willing to give a person the benefit of the doubt or forgive a person for their minor faults. We all have faults, so don’t judge another person more harshly for theirs than you judge yourself for yours.
When you share with people, some won’t return the feelings. Never mind them. There will be people who respond positively to your new attitude. Take the opportunity to get to know these people better and enjoy each others company. Being generous and magnanimous in life is giving energy, not taking it away.
Appreciate What You Have
Finally, appreciate the good things in your life: family, friends, the world around you. We live in an age of leisure and, if you’re reading this, you probably live in the United States, Canada or another English speaking country. If that’s the case, you are one of the privileged few who live in a free, open society where people really are free to choose how to live their lives.
Even if things aren’t so great right now, you have the power to live a happy life.