Have you ever noticed how some individuals seem to make life even harder than it has to be? Let’s face it. Life is full of challenges, problems, obstacles, pain, betrayals, losses and dangers.
Likewise, life is also miraculous, wonderful, magical, beautiful, expansive, adventurous and positively delicious. How we experience life depends on how we view life. And this is largely based on what we expect, create, and where we direct our focus. What we decide to cling to and what we choose to let go of directly influences our happiness.
Would you like to experience more of life’s wonders, see more beauty, feel more adventurous and discern more of the miraculous? Above all, would you like to have a happier life? In the interest of brevity, I will list 7 things you can do to have a truly happier life.
As with most worthwhile pursuits, they are not easy, but they’re all pretty simple. And all of these things are very doable if you really, really want what they have the power to do for you.
- 1 #1 Make Up Your Mind to be Happy
- 2 #2 Engage in Daily Disciplines to Foster Happiness
- 3 #3 Remember that Happiness is Primarily an Inside Job
- 4 #4 Acknowledge That Being Happy Doesn’t Mean Everything Is Perfect
- 5 #5 Cultivate Gratitude
- 6 # 6 Engage in Self-Care and Living a Healthier Lifestyle
- 7 #7 Find Things That Inspire You
#1 Make Up Your Mind to be Happy
Truth is timeless. It resonates and is reiterated across many disciplines – from ancient Scriptures, historical figures, cutting edge science, modern psychology, present-day mystics, and motivational speakers.
Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States of America (1861 to 1865) astutely observed,
“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”
As Lincoln’s quote indicates, true happiness is a personal decision and presupposes taking personal responsibility for how we feel. And in order for one to be successful in this decision-making, it requires that we give up blaming others for our lot in life, our current circumstances, and whatever challenges we face.
In short, we are responsible for our happiness or lack thereof. Be honest with yourself about this, and then be forgiving. Forgive yourself and others. This approach leaves the past behind us. As a result, it brings our energy and focus into the present.
To put it another way, consider how Mahatma Gandhi expressed the progression and influence of what we decide.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.”
Truly, we control our destiny to a significant degree. Apart from the age-old question of Nature vs. Nurture, and all the challenges each of us must overcome, we are thinking beings endowed with free will. The point is that we can turn our obstacles into stepping stones if we really want to.
There are endless sources of information and inspiration available for those who want it badly enough. When we seek we really do find, and we also reap what we sow. If we aren’t thoroughly pleased with the harvest of our hearts, we can change what we’re choosing to cultivate.
#2 Engage in Daily Disciplines to Foster Happiness
Of course, choosing happiness can be easier said than done. It is an on-going process, and something we need to regularly work on.
Zig Ziglar poignantly and whimsically pointed out,
“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.“
Like our attitude in general, the degree of happiness we tend to experience depends on how motivated we are to keep renewing our decision, our choice, or our resolve to become and remain happy. We do this by consciously changing the direction of our thoughts whenever negativity, doubt or fear creeps into our mind.
Fortunately, we can shift our focus and think of something hopeful, attractive, or pleasing. For example, we might do some small, thoughtful thing for someone else. We could think of 5 things which make us happy. Or make a plan to which we can look forward with anticipatory excitement. Take a few moments to breathe deeply, or look at something beautiful. Read an inspirational or motivational quote. Change your scenery. It can be such a small thing and only needs to be about 20 seconds – as long as it changes the direction of your thoughts.
We can choose to stay motivated and enhance and improve our attitude, as well as how much joy and happiness we have, from moment to moment and day by day.
#3 Remember that Happiness is Primarily an Inside Job
Happiness is primarily an inside job. Whenever we rely on others to “make” us happy, we will eventually end up feeling as if something is missing or being unfulfilled. Ultimately, it is a set-up for disappointment. And we shirk our personal responsibility when we put such an unrealistic and unfair expectation upon another person.
As the Dalai Lama has so beautifully advised,
“Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace.”
#4 Acknowledge That Being Happy Doesn’t Mean Everything Is Perfect
There is an important distinction between reacting to external conditions and outward circumstances, and our being centered and intentional about responding to things happening around us.
In addition, happiness is a choice, and the world is often unpredictable and unkind. We are going to be called upon to choose again and again, amid all manner of challenges. Certainly, the most important thing to remember is that regardless of what is happening around us we have the power to determine what is going to happen within us.
Of course, there are autonomic functions which can kick in, such as our Fight or Flight response when perceiving or facing danger. But apart from these usually short-lived instances, we decide. As Steve Maraboli has so beautifully stated,
“Happiness has to do with your mindset, not with outside circumstance.”
#5 Cultivate Gratitude
One of the most powerful ways to be happier is by cultivating a lively and consistent practice of being grateful. Gratitude is not merely some trendy kind of mumbo-jumbo. Its efficacy is ancient – as old as humanity. The only thing our Creator asks us to give, in response to the gift of life, is thanks.
A Faith Perspective
Scripture refers to this practice or spiritual discipline as a sacrifice of thanksgiving. Psalm 50 tells us the kind of sacrifice God desires from us. The offerings God desires are not ones of material obligation, but rather expressions of gratitude from our happy heart.
A sacrifice is something we give up, and something we offer. We are to give up meaningless and insignificant offerings. Instead, we are to offer acknowledgment and our sincere thanks for this wondrous gift of life, not sacrifice bulls and goats.
“If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving…”
The startling importance and value of being grateful are woven into the very fabric of our being. Actually, an attitude of gratitude is essential to our well-being. Interestingly, we see this same dynamic with every single thing God asks of us.
Anything that is required of us by the Holy is always and ultimately for our benefit. As a result, we are enriched, enlivened and teeming with happiness when we live in accord with nature’s laws and God’s will.
A Psychological Perspective
Similarly, modern psychology makes the same point in less colorful and poetic language than the ancient Psalms.
In the Clinical Psychology Review, Volume 30, Issue 7, November 2010 there is an interesting article by Alex M.Wood, et al about gratitude and well-being. It looks at some factors which are causal, and how these can be integrated into our lives.
In the paper, the co-authors present what they call “a new model of gratitude incorporating not only the gratitude that arises following help from others but also a habitual focusing on and appreciating the positive aspects of life.”
It makes the case that,
“Gratitude is relevant to clinical psychology due to (a) strong explanatory power in understanding well-being, and (b) the potential of improving well-being through fostering gratitude with simple exercises.“
A Positive Perspective
When we make an intentional practice of habitually focusing on life’s positive aspects it enhances our well being. We can often find innumerable reasons to discount an idea, reject something new, or be in denial about something that is actually irrefutable. Clearly, that is another aspect of free will.
But we can also find profound and luminous answers whenever we are receptive and ready. It’s always our choice. We decide the kind of person we want to be – as well as the kind of people around whom we choose to be. As Albert Einstein said,
“Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution.”
Being around negative people makes it much more challenging to cultivate a happier life. But even more importantly, it is paramount not to be one!
Conversely, surrounding yourself with positive people dramatically increases your ability to remain upbeat. Positivity is contagious.
# 6 Engage in Self-Care and Living a Healthier Lifestyle
Studies from multiple disciplines have found that there is a strong and direct correlation between what we think and how we feel – mentally, emotionally, and physically. In the same way, there is a direct correlation between what we eat, and the macro and micronutrients we absorb (or are missing), and how we feel – mentally, emotionally and physically.
According to Dr. Bruce Lipton, a cellular biologist, we can influence and alter our physiology through our thoughts. His book, The Biology of Belief, goes into breathtaking detail about lessons from the Petri dish to our DNA and RNA, to the Human Genome Project, quantum biophysics and beyond. He explains the science behind how,
“beliefs control behavior and gene activity and, consequently, the unfolding of our lives.” And how,
“…we are not victims of our genes, but masters of our fates, able to create lives overflowing with peace, happiness, and love.”
#7 Find Things That Inspire You
Jim Rohn has stunningly observed,
“We generally change ourselves for one of two reasons: inspiration or desperation.”
Both desperation and inspiration have been change-agents in my life at various times. As a result, I am a passionate believer in inspiration.
Clearly, there are times when the universe needs to get our attention – because we simply aren’t picking up on the more subtle signs. Maybe we keep refusing to learn a vital lesson, and consequently, we keep repeating it. Or perhaps we just aren’t living in accord with God’s highest and best for us. Impatience, pain, suffering, repeatedly getting raddled, having a tendency to deny or anesthetize our feelings, or even experiencing a sense of desperation are all indications that we are out of sync with our true nature. We are rejecting the gift and lessons within our distress. And as a result, we are not nearly as happy as we are designed and meant to be.
The old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is true. Habitually doing things to make us happier, and regularly being in touch with things which inspire us, is like preventive maintenance against desperation. It ensures that inspiration becomes our preferred method of change, and helps us to grow and thrive.