If You're Happy and You Know It...
True happiness is independent of circumstances. It’s a bold statement but it’s true.
How do I know? Because I am often on the opposite side of happiness. Even when my circumstances are great, I still struggle to be happy.
To make sure we’re all on the same page let’s start by defining “happy”.
Merriam-Webster says happy is “1: favored by luck or fortune or 2: enjoying or characterized by well-being and contentment.”
Cambridge Dictionary says happy is an adjective to describe “feeling, showing, or causing pleasure or satisfaction.”
Urban Dictionary had my favorite definition. Happy is “the feeling when your heart overflows with the joy of living and being able to just be free and have fun.”
That last ones seems to capture the happy that I am chasing after, perhaps it works for you as well.
Do All the Things to Become Happy ;)
During my anxious, depressed, or pessimistic times (yes, my brain is that exciting to live in), I tell myself that I will be happier “if,” “when,” or “as soon as.”
There are books, websites, and blogs filled with lists of things to do to become happier. Guess what though? I am a list fanatic. I tackle a project to the end. Do A, B, and C and you will be happy. Done, done, and double done.
Example List…for those who are curious.
o Exercise o Build a community o Reading, learning, education o Creativity o Healthy eating o Alone time o Service, focus on others o Make short-term goals
Easy peasy, right? Not exactly. These practices are stupendous, but they don’t always work to shift our mindset.
Happiness must be found within. To have that overflowing heart that Urban Dictionary mentions, the joy of living must exist separately from external circumstances. When we embrace the mental work, happiness can become part of our natural state of being. Eek gad, wouldn’t that be amazing!
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know what I’m going to say next. It takes daily consistency to nurture a happy mentality. It seems most things worth cultivating take daily consistency. Don’t worry. We can build those habits together.
Internal Shifts to Nurture Happiness from Within
Identify and analyze your negative thoughts
I love this tip from a MasterClass article, “Happy people still have negative thoughts or bad days, but one key to happiness is understanding the sources of these negative moments. If you find yourself feeling down about a particular aspect of your life, pause and consider these feelings and their source. Examine if this is a problem that you can solve on your own or if you need outside help.”
I’m a problem solver, and this practice seems very straight forward. I use journaling and talking to friends to work through my thoughts. I have to get the thoughts out of my head and somewhere else to process them. Leave a comment below to share what helps you to process your emotions and thoughts.
A follow-up to identifying negative thoughts is to let them go. It’s tempting to hold onto negative emotions and thoughts but doing so keeps us in that unhelpful space. Letting go of anxiety, anger, or hardships can work in many simple situations. Key word here is simple – there are times that more work is required. This advice is for daily annoyances and inconveniences that hold us back from specific goals or from finishing our day with satisfaction. Simply letting go of the small stuff can help us feel at peace with our life on a large scale.
There will always be situations in life that make it tough to be happy: housing, jobs, health, family, friends, global pandemics, politics, wars, etc. Amidst these circumstances finding things to be grateful for can help us feel better.
Get creative if you can’t think of any. Heck, you might even have to exaggerate at times. I know I do. “I am grateful that my teenagers know how to communicate. I am grateful that my golden retriever feels so secure in our home that he feels comfortable asking for constant attention.” You get the picture.
By focusing on good things instead of the bad you train your brain to make positive connections. Thus, increasing feelings of happiness!
This one falls under the letting go category but it’s a section by itself because it’s for Big Forgiving not simple forgiveness of the person who cut you off in traffic or the neighbor that left dog poo on your lawn.
I’m going to assume that the majority of us have had to do some big forgiving in our lives. Forgiveness can happen over time, after talking to a therapist, through journaling, or by saying our peace to the offender. Holding on to anger at others makes it harder to see the beauty of today.
Nurture Growth Mindset
Carol Dweck is the academic scholar that coined the term growth mindset. She says, “The growth mindset allows people to value what they’re doing regardless of the outcome. They’re tackling problems, charting new courses, working on important issues. Maybe they haven’t found the cure for cancer, but the search was deeply meaningful.”
Embracing a growth mindset helps us to be happy by accepting that we are on a journey, that we are a work in progress. This lets us face hard things with a positive attitude. With growth as our goal, we see barriers to happiness as things to work through, not permanent blockages.
I believe meditation can come in many formats. It is the practice of focusing the thoughts and clearing our minds. Lately I have been going for walks at sunrise with my dog. I don’t track our mileage. I don’t listen to music. We just walk and I let my thoughts go where they want to. If I wanted to increase the meditative practice, I could add an intention, and focus on a certain thing. Meditation is a practice that we fine tune as we learn what works for us.
There are also guided meditations. In April I went on a writing retreat and one of the writers led us through a “cut the cord” meditation. I loved it. We chose something we wanted to cut out of our lives. As he spoke, he guided us to imagine cutting the cord that tied us to that thing. Each of us had a different experience with the meditation, but we all finished feeling lighter and more hopeful. Meditation can help unlock more paths to happiness.
Change Takes Time
From my experience, there won’t be any one big aha moment, but a gradual growth into feeling happy more often. Like everything, learning to be happy is a process that takes time and consistent effort. I hope you found these tips helpful. In the comments below, let me know if any of them stand out to you.
Be Real. Be Intentional. Be You.
Sources  https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/happy  https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/happy  https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Happy  https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-be-happy-with-yourself  Bam, Nicole. “7 Ways to Feel Happier.” GoodNet: Gateway to Doing Good. 9/8/21. https://www.goodnet.org/articles/7-ways-to-feel-happier