Happiness. What is it? How do we find it? Happiness is something that we are all searching for. We all want it and we all need it. We look for it in the the perfect job, the right home with the picket fence, and especially in a compatible partner. However, even when we attain these things, happiness still so often alludes us. The search for happiness causes us to overlook the simple fact that happiness cannot be found in any of the above but is found within. The perfect partner, the right career, and the white picket fence might enhance our happiness, but it is not the cause of it. Last week I reflected on living a life of gratitude, and how that can lead to happiness and fulfillment. This week I’m piggy backing off that. When we are grateful and appreciative of what is in our lives it is easier to find our self worth and to let go of the endless search for happiness and to find happiness in what we already have. The first step in the journey to happiness is gratitude and if you want to read my thoughts on gratitude. Go ahead and read that first, I’ll wait.
You back? Excellent. Now, living a life of gratitude isn’t always easy, but the health and happiness benefits are worth the effort. Imagine if your default setting was wonder, appreciation, happiness, and gratitude instead of stress, fear, and uncertainty. If this is already your default setting them please email me your secret, because I, like many, struggle with finding happiness in the little things and it is a daily exercise that I must do, not to get bogged down by life and all the stuff it throws at me (which sometimes does feel like a lot).
Many of us gauge our happiness on the circumstances surrounding our life. We try to find happiness in our jobs, our relationships, and materialistic things. We want or wish for more. More money, more love, more security, more success, more talent, more more more. We keep striving to increase our station in lives thinking that we will be happier. This leads to more self criticism and leads to more unhappiness. True happiness comes from our self worth and self acceptance, not the outside factors of our lives. When we truly love ourselves, we find true happiness and then the circumstances of our lives enhance that happiness and do not define it. Accepting who we are, faults and all, is the foundation of our happiness. That’s not to say we don’t want to improve ourselves, but it should come from a place of self love and acceptance and not once of criticism and judgment.
One of the hardest things for me in achieving happiness is in letting go of the things I cannot control. I never thought I was a “control freak” but there are many things in my life that (especially over the past 3 years) that I wish I could control and I know I cannot. You know that old saying, “Let go and Let God?” Whether you believe in God or not, this rings true in the sense we need to focus on the things we can control and not let the things outside of our control dictate our lives or our happiness. In life, there are so many things beyond our control that we could go crazy trying to control things. This is also why many of us hone in on things, no matter how little, that we can control. We can however, choose how to respond to things when they are not going our way. Instead of holding onto to anger, resentment, regret, and opinions we may be happier just letting go. If holding on to these things affects our happiness then why should we not find freedom and happiness by letting these things go and focus on the present, not dwelling on the past and things we cannot control.
When we “lose” our happiness it is often due to not being able to let go of pain from our past. We should learn from the past but not let it define our happiness. Likewise, we shouldn’t depend on the future for our happiness (a future job, future purchase, future relationship). Happiness is found in the moment. We need to let go of the past, and not worry about the future. While it may be good to have plans for the future and learn from our mistakes of the past, focusing on what we have, where we are in the present, and having gratitude for who and what is in our lives in the here and now will bring happiness. No one can predict the future and we can go down a rabbit hole of worry running through future scenarios that may never happen. Living with gratitude and living in the moment is when we experience happiness. The greatest moments in my life were the times I focused on the moment, what was happening, who it was happening with, and not thinking about the past or the future. Though it is of course easier said than done. Uncertainty is scary, but embracing it can bring a great sense of happiness.
Unknowns such as change, risk, heartbreak, fear of the future, fear of making wrong choices can hold us back from happiness. So much of life is unknown, but rather than view it with fear we could embrace the unknown and accept it. If we can view life in this way, the unknown becomes an exciting opportunity. This state of mind would be liberating and allow you to be fearless and sure in all your life choices. Unfortunately, this is an ideal that most of us won’t achieve, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to live life more in the moment, less afraid of the future, and less tied to the past. We should enjoy, embrace, and appreciate everything and everyone in our lives now, in the present, because life is fleeting and enjoying the moment is a path to a life full of happiness.
Part of enjoying the moment is to try and get in touch with your inner child. Play and laughter are essential to happiness. They say children laugh around 300 times a day, while adults laugh around 17 times. That is a huge difference in happiness levels. Obviously children aren’t bogged down by the stress of life and don’t have the same “adult” concerns, but the other factor is that every day they have play time. We lose this as we get older and other priorities take precedent over “play time.” We all need to take more time out of our days to do something that we really enjoy. For me, I really enjoy writing, exploring nature, reading, being with friends, and spending time with the people I love, but too often the stress of life, work, and other adult concerns take away from the time I need to spend on enjoying myself. I am sure this is true to many of us. In the past I’ve felt like I had a good work/play balance but the past year was hard, I lost my job, had some personal issues, and felt the stress of life crushing me and my relationships and i didn’t take the time to really enjoy life. I’ve renewed the priority to enjoy life, for myself, and I know I will be happy and healthier for it.