We all want happiness and we think that it’s so hard to come by but really, it’s not. It’s just that we’ve been looking for it in all the wrong places. We think that we’ll be happier if we have more money, power, fame or influence. We think we’ll be happier if we’re richer, more attractive, or if we have nicer stuff. None of this is true. Of course, we need a certain amount of money in order to be secure, but it’s been proven that more money can’t bring us more happiness.
Happiness doesn’t come from superficial or material things. It comes from a deep connection to others and from a sense of purpose and meaning in our lives. Happiness comes when we’re free of psychological suffering and addiction. Without these things, it doesn’t matter how fancy our house is or how Insta-famous we are.
But if we understand that we’ve been going after happiness in all the wrong ways, how do we change directions so that happiness is possible? Looking around, loads of people are promoting “the way” to find happiness, but it seems like are less and less happy. I think that this is because of two things – 1: Many of those who are selling happiness are selling us a scam; and 2: Happiness takes work, and a lot of us are unwilling to do the work.
There is a real way to find happiness. No lie, no scam. It does require some work. But if you do the work, happiness is pretty much guaranteed. I’d call that a fair deal.
1. Conscious Awareness: I call it being fully present in the moment and sadly, it’s not that common. Many of us walk around in a state of denial or wishful thinking. We wish for things and then believe that our wishes are going to come true. That’s called magical thinking and it’s dangerous, because when we’re not grounded in reality we have no power to take action and to make real changes in our relationships, or jobs or our wellness. Being in denial takes away our power and leaves us passive and helpless. This is no way to be happy.
We need to wake up and really see what’s going on inside us and around us. We have to stop telling ourselves that the pain in our chest is “nothing,” or that our partner’s abusive behavior is not that bad or that our boss isn’t an unreasonable micromanager.
When we face the truth we become empowered to deal with whatever is going on. When we live in denial, we can’t deal directly with problems, so we never gain confidence in our abilities to cope and this makes it easier to stay in denial. On the other hand, the more we face the truth and deal with what’s going on, the more confident we become, and the easier it is to stay present.
2. Personal Responsibility: Many of us like to blame others for our problems. We tell ourselves that it’s our partner’s fault when our relationship falls apart, or that our bad boss or undermining colleague made us lose our job. But this attitude makes it impossible for anything to get better.
When we blame external forces for our unhappiness, we aren’t able to improve our lives. On the other hand, when we take responsibility for the choices that we’ve been making we have the chance to learn from our mistakes and to adjust our behavior accordingly. The more responsibility we take, the more empowered we are to fix the problems in our lives.
3. Self-Compassion: In order to be aware and to take responsibility, we need self-compassion. It can be painful to face the fact that we’ve chosen an abusive partner or that we’ve gotten into some bad habits with real-world consequences. We might feel a lot of guilt or shame for these choices. We might become anxious or depressed when facing the truth.
The way to avoid feeling so bad is to practice self-compassion. This involves being gentle with ourselves and not beating ourselves up for what we see, but rather, rewarding ourselves for seeing the truth because this is the first step to a happier life.
Self-compassion also means forgiving ourselves for the bad choices we’ve made. Instead of rubbing our noses in these choices, we can be kind and understanding and we can put into perspective the mistakes that we’ve made. This forgiveness allows us to see these mistakes with greater clarity so we can stop making them.
4. Mental Flexibility: Fear is a big part of life and one common response to fear is mental rigidity, in which we’re unable to shift our perspective or change our mind about things. Mental rigidity makes it impossible for us to change. If we can’t see that something might not be exactly the way we thought it was and then adjust our ideas of it, or if we can’t let go of an attitude or belief that isn’t serving us, we become trapped in a mental prison of our own making.
Mental rigidity creates a lot of unnecessary unhappiness. With mental flexibility we’re free to change our ideas, attitudes, beliefs, habits and relationships for the better.
5. Compassion for Others: Some people think that being selfish and exploitative is the way to go, because they’ve “got to look out for number one.” Some people believe that caring about others and helping others somehow takes away from themselves. That’s just not true.
Probably the number one bringer of joy in our life is meaningful connections with others. If we’re selfish and we’re using people, we don’t benefit from the interactions because they’re empty and meaningless. Numerous studies have shown that being kind and generous bring us far more happiness than being selfish or insensitive. When we care about others, our heart expands and happiness rushes in.
Now that you’ve learned about these five mental habits, you can see that you can transform your life and become really and truly happy. Of course, it will take some work, but it’s a no-brainer. You’ll have a guaranteed return on your investment of time and energy. So, what’s stopping you from trying these habits today?