Happiness is within reach for everyone, no matter what their life circumstances. We are not talking about a life that is all cotton candy and rainbows with no problems. We are talking about feeling more good than bad and feeling content and fulfilled despite all of life’s challenges. By understanding four basic concepts, anyone can learn to be happier.
- Define Happiness – Many people chase pleasure instead of happiness because they are not clear on the difference. Happiness is an inner state of contentment, fulfillment, and satisfaction that survives over time while pleasure comes from outside stimuli and makes you feel good in the moment. Happiness comes from feeling confident about our choices and our effort, while pleasure comes from getting more money, playing xBox, or eating a good meal. Pleasure can add to our happiness but it has strings attached: too much pleasure can also take away from happiness rather than add to it. Think of a chocolate cake sitting on your table. You can have a small slice or you can eat the whole cake. A small slice gives you pleasure which adds to your happiness. It also makes you happy because you exercised self-control and you will feel good about your decision tomorrow when you still fit into that new pair of pants. If you ate the whole cake, you get a jolt of pleasure. But that will fade quickly after the sugar high and will result in you feeling bad about yourself, your decisions, and your potential for fitting into those new pants. What really makes you happy vs. what just brings you temporary pleasure? Define the actions that bring you contentment, satisfaction, and fulfillment and focus on those. Define happiness so you can choose actions that will make you happier in the long term vs. just provide you a little pleasure in the short term.
- Choose Happiness – Take control of your life and own your happiness rather than being a victim of the people and circumstances around you. According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, only 10% of happiness comes from our circumstances, who we married the size of our house and how much money we have in the bank. 50% comes from our genes or natural disposition and the last 40% of our happiness is based on our choices. We can choose to be upset with our spouse, our boss, or the guy who cuts us off in traffic or we can choose to accept them with all their challenges and find reasons to be happy anyway. Decide today that you are in control of your life and choose happiness.
- Nurture Relationships – Giving to positive relationships is one of the strongest indicators of happiness. It is not about what you get from those relationships, but what you give to them. Spending time with friends and family and appreciating what they bring into your life will make you happier. The key is to focus on what you can bring to the relationship rather sitting back and waiting for someone else to make you happy. Trying giving 100% to your relationships and expecting nothing in return. More than likely they will return the favor, but even if they don’t, the feelings of satisfaction and contentment that come from giving authentically of yourself will provide lasting happiness.
- Find Your Higher Purpose – We all need something bigger than ourselves to focus on. If we focus internally we tend to become critical and think negatively about ourselves. When we find something bigger than ourselves it adds purpose and meaning to our lives. Your Higher Purpose could be your religion, contributing to your family, or helping your team members reach a difficult goal. It might include a charity, a social movement, or sharing your music or other talents with the world. Find something other than yourself to focus your thoughts and efforts on and you will be happier and more content.
Happiness is not something that is just given to you. But it is something that you can learn and practice and improve over time.