“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."
~ Mahatma Gandhi
I feel it important to first clearly define the difference between the terms “happiness” and “joyfulness”. I believe Brene’ Brown, a shame and vulnerability researcher, speaker and author, said it perfectly in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection.
“Happiness is tied to circumstance and joyfulness is tied to spirit and gratitude. Happiness is attached to external situations and events and seems to ebb and flow as those circumstances come and go. Joy seems to be constantly tethered to our hearts by spirit and gratitude.”
After having awakened to new truths some years ago, I noticed that it was rare that I ever exhibited the crazy happy vibe. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a very vibrant person who laughs obnoxiously loud, loves her people big, shares her heart and soul and smiles A LOT. Historically, I would have described myself as “happy”. I later determined that terms such as “joyful, content or peaceful” better defined my emotional state the majority of the time.
Just as Brene’ Brown paraphrased above, “happy” seemed to be a spike emotion that came and went as circumstances came and went. Although I do experience happiness in my life, it is not the feeling I strive for on a day to day basis. I learned from experience that to seek that space for long periods was unachievable and could very easily become a stressful and frustrating job.
Without going too much into theory, I’m going to assume we all know that nothing “outside” of us can truly make us happy. We may think when we achieve societal status, financial status, relationship status, fitness status etcetera, we will be happy, but it is simply not so. Wherever we go, there we are.
I believe a better goal to achieve would be joy, contentedness and/or peace. The pathway to peace/joy is actually quite simple, although it may take some work on your part depending where you are at on your journey.
6 Steps to Joy
1. Love yourself– When we truly, TRULY love and accept ourselves, so much of life falls gently into place.
2. Trust the Universe– We are all a pieces of the same Source. We are powerful beyond measure. When we own that and start co-creating with Source, flow and joy happen.
3. Meditate– Release the monkey mind. A cluttered mind can receive no more. When we open space for new insights, knowledge and guidance, magic happens.
4. Let go of control– You need not prove anything to anyone. You need only to answer to your Higher Self. Understand all is happening for your Highest Good.
5. Practice self-forgiveness– We must let ourselves off the hook. We made a mistake and we will do better next time. We are forgivable.
6. Practice gratitude– Gratitude is a practice, an orientation. Joy is the byproduct of gratitude. When we allow all we are blessed with to truly sink into our hearts, joy abounds.
Let us not seek for superficial means to bring us happiness. Let us seek for joy and peace; for in joy and peace, life becomes much brighter!
Kristen Brown, Author & Certified Empowerment Coach – www.sweetempowerment.com
If I could talk to myself in my early 20’s, I would tell myself to not just get that college degree but more importantly to get a Ph.D in ME. I now tell this to my client’s in therapy and my friends. Your biggest job in life is to get a Ph.D in YOU! That means figuring out what makes you happy and prioritizing your happiness.
If you could only have 5-10 minutes, 1 hour, a full day or even a week, what would you do to make you happy?
If we forget to prioritize our own self and restorative activities, we burn out and become anxious, irritable or short with others. You have one life to live and how are you going to spend it?
My new life goal is to be SUPER RICH! Rich in adventure, health, knowledge, laughter, family and love.
This is happiness to me. I have a choice in darkness and in light to be the human that chooses this rich life and not wait for the “perfect conditions”, not to wait until such and such happens to be happy. I choose it now and in this moment.
What do you choose?
Julie Kurtz, LMFT – www.juliekurtz.com
For so many, happiness is that elusive thing that we chase and can only see from afar. We’re not sure what it really looks like or how to get there, we just know it’s not HERE. In reality, happiness is inside of us. Just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, our ability to “go home” or to “be happy” is with us all the time. So, the question becomes – How do we access it?
The key to happiness is to:
1. Stop chasing and seeking and just STOP. Be fully present. Be in this moment – completely. In truth, this moment is pretty good, all things considered. When we stop and look around and notice that it’s all good, we let go of the “seeking anxiety” and we feel more relaxed. We’re not worried about what was…we’re not worried about what will be. We are just here and now and we can choose to feel good.
2. We can really amplify the “it’s all good” feeling by adding some gratitude to the mix. When we are grateful, then we actually feel the wholeness of this moment and we fall in love with it. That may sound corny, but it’s the truth. We sometimes forget to fall in love with all we have and all we have created and just enjoy it. Instead, we are so busy seeking the next big thing, and are never satisfied. A daily gratitude practice of naming and/or writing down five things for which we are grateful is a life-changing practice that brings greater happiness.
3. BREATHE! Taking a slow, deep breath is a very powerful happiness tool. Taking that breath while doing a yoga practice, a workout, a hike in nature, a run in your neighborhood, a brisk walk with someone you love, a kickboxing class or anything that oxygenates your brain and your body is an amazing way of honoring your body, mind and spirit and contributes to a brain-chemical based sense of well-being. The more often you do it, the better you feel and the greater your level of happiness.
4. Connect with friends and loved ones. It’s proven that people who live longest and happiest on this planet have deep connections and relationships and are nourished by them. The best way to connect with others is to be positive, be compassionate and to take responsibility for the good, the bad and the ugly in your life. No one wants to hang out with a victim!
With some simple behaviors and a bit of consistency you can up the happiness factor in your life! Try it and then share it – that’ll add even more!
Bette Levy Alkazian, LMFT, BCPC – www.balancedparenting.com
In daily life, emotions don’t have to be “big” emotions like anger, sadness, or anxiety to get in your way of feeling good. Often there are “little” emotions like annoyance, irritability, or just feeling you have gotten out of the wrong side of the bed. Everyday fluctuations in minor moods can affect your daily happiness if you submit to them. Here are some tips for managing those “feeling funky” emotions most people encounter at some point in daily life.
1. Be mindful of whatever is bugging you. If you don’t know what is bothering you, you can’t do anything about it. If you just act on your feelings, you are likely either to 1.) feel worse and maybe lash out, or 2.) “swallow” your feelings and maybe start noshing on sweet foods. Being mindful means noticing without judging. You need to call upon that part of you that can observe whatever is happening at the moment, including your own thoughts and feelings, and bringing these to consciousness for examination. Just don’t become self-critical of yourself.
2. Accept your feelings. Feelings are temporary. Of course, you can make them stick around if you dwell on how crappy you feel instead of reminding yourself that feelings are just your mind’s way of resisting the way things are. The key is to accept—that is to be willing for whatever is bugging you to exist. If you can’t change the circumstances right now, leave them alone for another day. And realize that feelings are not facts—you don’t have to act on them. Just because you feel “bad,” you can do something to feel differently.
3. Remember what counts. You really do have only today. Tomorrow’s troubles or rewards aren’t here yet. Make the most of each day. Some people focus on the beauty in nature or the satisfaction of completing small tasks to feel better. What you focus on determines how you feel.
4. Take care of yourself. Do something good for yourself today. No excuses about not having the time or having too many other things to do. Turn on some music you enjoy. Light a scented candle. Take a short walk. Call a friend. Be mindful, accepting, and caring of yourself, and you can make each day happier.
Dr. Joyce Nash – www.drjoycenash.com
1. First of all seek and destroy barriers to your happiness. Problem solve to do what you can about the real things in your life that are sources of distress
2. Remember that we can’t be happy all the time, that as humans we tend to focus on the negative, and that it is okay to feel sad every once in a while, and in fact helps us to appreciate when times are good
3. Focus on the positive. Whatever may not be going well, I bet that there are a bunch of things that are. Even if it’s hard to see them, try to be grateful for what is good in your life, and what is good in you too.
4. Take action to identify what makes you feel good and do it. We are generally happier when we do what we enjoy, and feel confident when we engage in activities that we feel good at. Make a list of things you like doing, or want to try, and do them!
5. Spend time with people who love and appreciate you, who make you feel how you want to feel. Don’t forget that your pets can provide positive companionship too! Feeling connected feels good.
6. RELAX. How many times do I need to repeat this one? Try to rest your mind and body, and let go of unnecessary stress and worry. Meditate, get massages, take naps, do whatever you can to remind your nervous system that there is nothing you need to panic about, and nothing that you cannot handle.
7. Love yourself through the good and bad times. Remind yourself that it is okay to be sad, and that things will get better. Sometimes all we need is a little reassurance and self-soothing to remember our resilience and strength in facing challenges. Do the things that help you to feel comforted and cared for. Be mindful of your body’s needs, and your spiritual needs in addition to your emotions.
8. Make sure that you are covering the basics: getting enough sleep, eating healthfully, hydrating, getting sunshine, fresh air and physical activity. Each of these things plays a role in keeping your body (and your heart and mind) feeling good.
Lisa Resnick, LPC, LMHC, CHHC – www.Lisaresnicktherapy.com
Being happy has a lot to do with perspective. Do you choose to be happy and grateful for the things in your life or do focus on the things you do not have? Remember, “Nothing changes, if nothing changes.” If you are unsatisfied with your circumstances, do something to change them. You cannot control or rely on other people or events to make you feel better. This has to come from within you.
Below are 3 tips that you can start today to begin your journey towards happiness.
1. Self-care. Between work, school, kids, running errands, the finances, and other day to day responsibilities, it can be difficult to find time for yourself. It is imperative that you remember that YOU are important too. Set some time for yourself each week to reward yourself for your hard work. This could be something as simple as watching your favorite TV show, enjoying a night out with the guys or girls, going for a walk, taking a warm bubble bath, reading a book, or treating yourself to your favorite meal. Remember, you have to take care of yourself in order to take care of other people and other obligations.
2. Focus on the positive. If someone were to ask you how your day was, you are more likely to point out the things that went wrong, rather than what went right. Sometimes pointing out the negative can seem to come automatically. To change this habit, reflect on something each day that was positive. Verbalize a positive affirmation out loud such as “I am a hard worker” or “I am lovable.” Also helpful is writing down positive affirmations or things that you are grateful for on a piece of paper. Stick this piece of paper in a conspicuous place, that way you will see it every day. For those of you who are tech savvy, “there’s an app for that.” There are countless apps that can be downloaded to your phone for inspirational and positive quotes. Each morning it will pop up on your phone so you can kick off your day right.
3. Give back. Help out by volunteering your time or making a donation to a charity. Studies have shown that helping others has many psychological and physical health benefits such as decreasing blood pressure, stress, obesity, depression, anxiety, and other mood and behavioral disorders. When you give, you will receive internal satisfaction knowing you have helped to make a difference in the world.
Jennifer Whitfield, LMHC, NCC, RPT – www.hhhcounseling.com
Do you know what constitutes authentic happiness? One of the loudest of the confusing messages we hear on the subject is that gratifying our needs will make us happy—eat this food, buy that car, take a special vacation, learn this, purchase that. Much of what passes for happiness these days is really short-term gratification with little nutritive emotional value. In order to experience true happiness, it pays to understand how it differs from gratification.
When we seek gratification, we’re looking for pleasure in the moment. Psychologically speaking, gratification is generally used to describe the needs of infants and young children who, in early stages of development, are primed to demand that their emotional and physical needs be met instantly. They lack the capacity to discern whether meeting these needs (for a bottle or a toy or a cookie) is good for them or not. All they know is that they want what they want when they want it. When their need is met, they feel satisfied and filled with pleasure—in a word, gratified.
However, happiness often comes from deferring gratification. Activities like socking money away to buy a house or travel around the world, waiting for the right romantic partner to come along, or slogging your way through graduate school all speak to setting aside present gratification for future happiness. Of course, some people are so future-oriented that they forget to be happy—or even gratified—in the present. In my book, we benefit from a blend of both emotional states.
In The Mayo Clinic Handbook for Happiness, Dr. Amir Sood, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, provides “step-by-step practices to help you decrease negative stress and intentionally choose happiness.” Yes, happiness is a choice. Perhaps you thought it was about good luck and happy childhoods. Only in part. It’s a choice, every minute of every day.
Fortunately, you can actually retrain your brain to be happier. Because we’re wired to have survival fears, Sood recommends actively moving attention from the negative to the positive. “Intentional attention” trains your thoughts to go in a particular direction—stopping negative thoughts and encouraging positive ones—and teaches that you can think yourself into happiness or away from it.
And improve your health, too, according to a University of North Carolina study in which researchers found that “the genes of the volunteers whose lives contained lots of pleasure but little meaning were priming cells to express high levels of inflammation—which is linked to cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease—and a weaker anti-viral response to infection.” Seeking short-term pleasure worked against having good health. Alternately, participants who focused on community and service to others, “showed a pattern of gene expression linked to less inflammation and stronger immunity.”
Here are five things you can do to create happiness:
1. Pursue gratitude by putting more attention on what you have than what you don’t have. This takes conscious effort if you tend toward a victim or martyr mentality.
2. View others and yourself with compassion. This means accepting imperfection in all of us and being understanding and kind when mistakes are made.
3. Find meaning in life on the macro or micro level. It can even improve your health. The University of North Carolina study mentioned above found participants who focused on community and service to others, “showed a pattern of gene expression linked to less inflammation and stronger immunity.”
4. Live in the present. Stop ruminating about the past and worrying about the future. Build a better day by being more aware of how you’re living it.
5. Do things that generate pride, not shame. Feel good about who you are and you’ll be a great deal happier. Start a pride journal.
What is one happy thought you could have right now?
Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed. – www.karenrkoenig.com
Having an ability to be self-reflective can be immensely helpful in shifting one’s mood.
For some of us this is simple and instinctive. For some of us self-reflection requires an intentional turning inward to bring our awareness to our internal cues in a way that doesn’t come naturally. Whether you are instinctively self aware or have to teach yourself to recognize and name your feelings and internal experiences, knowing when you are feeling unhappy….in the moment…. can be key to developing your ability to feel happier.
Happiness is a universal feeling, a hard-wired part of our blueprint.
What makes each of us feel happy can be as different as sky diving and sitting quietly by a pond in meditation. Obviously, there will always be external circumstances, those things we can’t control, that will impact us in any given moment. The job we wanted was given to someone else. Our spouse/partner is angry and wants alone time and we were really looking forward to going out for the evening.
The kinds of events and life experiences that make us feel unhappy are infinite, of course. Our only certain option for feeling ok with life’s uncontrollable factors comes with feeling mastery of our internal world …. our thought patterns and beliefs, our patterns of muscular constriction, a heart that is open and receptive or closed and defended, whether fear and rage are coursing through our veins and driving our entire physiology.
If you can notice when you are feeling unhappy and look inward (rather than only looking at your external circumstances) you create the possibility of shifting your mood to a lighter, more open feeling. If you can take some moments to notice, “what am I thinking about right now? Am I obsessing on some negative thought about myself or someone else?, Is my body tight or relaxed?, What is in my heart right now?”, you can gather the cues you need for shifting your internal landscape.
This kind of self-reflection can become more automatic the more practice you give it.
If you make a decision to start with something as simple as five minutes each morning for a “check-in” with where your thoughts are, how your body feels, and what is in your heart you can be teaching yourself a habit that can be brought to many moments each day. If you are able to develop the practice of checking in(ward) you can more effectively bring this practice to those moments you need it most.
Moments of unhappiness that are given compassionate self-attention can become moments of release and relief. It is possible to learn that no matter what life has tossed on our path the moments can feel simpler, lighter, gentler, and even happier, in spite of the inevitable challenges our human journey brings.
Sherry L. Osadchey, MA, LMFT – www.sherryosadchey.com
One practice many of my clients find helpful — and indeed I have found remarkably beneficial in my own life — is the creation of a gratitude altar.
While we normally think of an altar as a focal point in a church or other religious establishment, a gratitude altar allows for the ongoing creation of a focal point for all you have to be grateful for — right NOW. Regardless of where your goals are taking you tomorrow, happiness exists only in the present moment, and the creation of a gratitude altar brings that fact to life in ways you can see, touch, smell, and hear.
Here’s how to create one:
a. Find a spot in your home that can be dedicated to this purpose. It can be as small and simple as the ledge of a window. (I have one on the ledge of the kitchen window over the sink so I see it as I’m doing dishes.)
b. Place tangible representations there of all you have to be grateful for. Here’s a random sample of what’s on mine right now:
– A penny from the change left over when I had coffee with a friend just now
– A receipt from my last trip to the grocery store. I’m so grateful to have the money to put food in the refrigerator, AND I’m so grateful to the countless individuals who made that food available for purchase.
– A photo of my son from when he was in 3rd grade.
– A piece of dog hair. I was about to get grumpy about all the dog hair on the floors of our house, and placing some of it on my gratitude altar reminded me of how grateful I am to be able to enjoy the company of dogs.
c. Add to the altar every day. Of course, unless you have a really big altar, you’ll have to rotate items through. There may be some that are always there (like a photo of a loved one), and some that only last a day (like dog hair).
One of the many discoveries to be made in hypnotherapy is that ALL of our conscious thoughts — that running narrative we hear in words in our heads — are driven, for good or ill, by the immense power of the unconscious. And the unconscious, in turn, doesn’t use words so much to make meaning as it does direct sensory experience, emotion, and metaphor.
Having a tangible gratitude altar awakens the transformative beneficial flow of the unconscious, sending waves of positive emotion cascading through our brains. And those waves wash away anything that overlays the truth: this precious moment, the one we’re living right now, is an astonishing gift of limitless value.
Achieving a significant goal is fantastic, of course, but those moments of throwing our arms skyward are, in the normal course of human life, relatively few and far between.
Quotidian happiness is at the same time smaller — in that it happens in the little minutes that add up to a day — and much bigger — in that our lives are, by and large, made up of just those small, priceless moments. A gratitude altar both celebrates and sparks the happiness in each one of those moments.
Cynthia Pulham, MA, CCH – www.wellspringshypnotherapy.com
It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day drama, stress and unhappiness. Unhappiness seems to be emanating everywhere you look, people stuck in traffic and stuck in line at the grocery store. People just seem to frown more, and it seems like these frowns are contagious. Other people’s unhappiness contributes to your unhappiness. But you don’t have to join the hordes, you can be happy. Even if you are feeling unhappy because right now life isn’t going your way. Maybe you are stressed, unhappy in your relationships or work. You can still find happiness.
1. Enjoy childlike wonderment. Be like a child again. See life through a child’s eyes. Play and have fun. Even if it’s only for a few minutes, allow yourself to have fun. Play with your children, the neighbor’s kids, your pets. Don’t have kids or pets, hula hoop, turn up the radio and dance, blow bubbles. Each day take time to do something you love and have fun while doing it! Give yourself permission to be in the moment, even if it is just for that moment and really just be, have fun doing something you love.
2. Spend time in nature. Find the beauty. Revel at how awesome nature is. Buy yourself flowers or a plant and put it on your desk. When we spend time in or with nature, we allow ourselves to slow down, we feel more at ease. Nature is a wonderful way to feel good every day.
3. Laugh. When you laugh you feel better, you smile and that translates into being happy. It only takes a couple minutes. Watch a favorite comedy show, watch something funny on YouTube. And while on you on YouTube, go ahead and watch some cute animal videos, those always seem to make people smile. Smiling and laughing is the key here. Both help you to relax, feel more at easy and generally in a better mood.
Bonus- Do something nice for someone else. Pay it forward. Buy the person behind you a coffee or pay for their meal, help someone with their groceries, shovel their walk in the winter, rake their leaves, pay someone a compliment. When you do something nice for someone else, you feel better about yourself, improving your mood, sense of well being and overall happiness.
Margaret Bell, MA, NCC – www.forwardkindheart.com
Research in the field of Positive Psychology suggests that it takes three positive experiences to alter the brain wiring from one negative, stressful or “dangerous” experience. It is called the positivity ratio. This makes sense. If you think about it, our survival has mostly depended on focusing and responding to the negative – the angry boss, the heavy traffic, or the lost promotion at work. This can leave us feeling depressed, stressed and unfulfilled, always looking for the next big thing to make us feel better. Unfortunately, “life happens” and no matter how great the next big thing is, we will get used to it and need something else, and, again, something else. It is called the “hedonic treadmill”.
Research in positive psychology indicates it is the “little things” that lead to greater life satisfaction. For example, if we can make it a habit to counteract a negative experience with three small positives, we can actually alter our brain chemistry leading towards greater contentment. So the next time you are faced with the metaphorical saber-toothed tiger, (and the danger has passed) try practicing a few simple “tricks of the positive psychology trade”:
• Gratitude. Think of something simple you are grateful for: The sun is shining, you at least have a job – (for now), and you are going to have a good meal. Thinking of three different and unique things each day for which you are grateful can greatly improve one’s state of mind. When done just before going to sleep it can help lead to better quality of sleep.
• Savoring. Check in with your five senses for something to savor for a moment. It helps to calm our nerves. Remember those roses? Stop and inhale – deeply. Now may be a good time to savor a favorite piece of music. Did you notice the soft feel of the fur on your pet? And how about that breathtaking sunset? Now savor your meal by eating slowly and identifying each unique flavor.
• Reframing. Change the way you look at something to alter your experience of it. Stuck in traffic? What a great time to savor that music. Lost the promotion? Maybe you are better off and this is a good time to make that life change – after all, you always did want to join the circus. Lost sock in the dryer? Let’s add this to one of those unsolved mysteries that keep life interesting.
You get the picture. You can mix ‘n’ match: Gratitude, Savoring, Reframing. Make it a habit and try for three positives to every negative on a daily basis. My guess is you will soon notice a difference in your level of life satisfaction. It’s worth a try!
Wishing you many happy days!
Jody Andrews, LMFT – www.jodyandrews.com
People often make the mistake of thinking that authentic happiness is tied to their circumstances. Something “good” happens, and you feel happy. Something “bad” happens, and you feel sad.
When the key to your happiness is external, you can feel out of control and reactive. Or, you chase the dream that you think will make you happy… only to find out when you get there that the “happiness” you were hoping for is short-lived. Then you set your sights on the next goal, and trudge on.
You don’t have to live this way. You can take control of your happiness. The truth is that you can unhook your mood from your circumstances, and learn how to be a happier person – no matter what is going on. The secret to authentic happiness is actually very simple: All you need is to learn “happiness skills.”
Genuinely happy people have learned a set of specific skills that allow them to be resilient, confident, and satisfied with life. Specifically:
Happy People Have Happy Minds: They have learned how to get control over their thoughts, and cultivate healthy, helpful ways of thinking. They have also learned how to stay in the present, and avoid toxic, unhelpful thinking styles that drag them down. They have mastered the art of dealing with anxiety, and learned how to transform “anxiety” into “motivation.”
Happy People Have Happy Bodies: All the tools, techniques and tips in the world will not help you feel better if you are sabotaging your happiness through your unhealthy habits. Happy people have learned not just what to do to take care of themselves, but how to change their habits – cultivating the kind of lifestyle that supports happiness.
Happy People Have Happy Hearts: This may surprise you, but genuinely happy people are often actually more comfortable with their difficult emotions than unhappy people. Happy people have learned how to be compassionate with their feelings, take wisdom from their emotional guidance system, AND how to tell the difference between feelings they should listen to… and ones they should ignore.
Happy People Have Happy Lives: Authentic happiness blooms when you start living a values based life that is connected to your deepest meaning and purpose. Authentically happy people have learned how to put their time and energy into the activities that bring them joy – and set boundaries to protect themselves against the things that drain them.
The best news? You can learn how to do all of these things too. You can be an authentically happy person – you just need to learn the skills.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby – www.growingself.com
So many people are running around today chasing after things that they think will make them happy. All too often they will come to find that what they had gotten didn’t really make them happy. Why?
Real happiness comes from the journey of living an authentic life and being at peace with oneself.
First of all, waking up in the morning and enjoying the sense of freedom that living in America brings us is truly something to be happy about as well as being able at any moment to pick and choose our next action in time.
Happiness is an internal process that can be achieved by appreciating what we have and being able to positively project that sense to others in the relationships with them such as enjoying the laughter of children playing or the warmth of a hug from a loved one. Happiness comes from that feeling generated by having a loving spirit towards others and being grateful for that love being returned unconditionally. Happiness comes from appreciating your tenacity, inner strength and courage to make it successfully through a particularly difficult time.
Our mindful thoughts of positivity can lead to a greater sense of happiness.
Doing something kind for someone, like “paying it forward,” can generate a sense of happiness within as well as for the recipient of the kind act. Feeling good about ourselves, our sense of self-esteem, starts with feeling happy and it can be bolstered in many simple ways in addition to serving others such doing an activity you enjoy to pamper yourself like reading a favorite book, listening to music, taking a yoga class, walking in the woods to enjoy nature or connecting with an old friend.
Keep a list of all the positive, wonderful things you feel thankful for and post it where it can be easily seen. Take a moment and read it daily upon wakening. Let your heart and soul be awakened and flourished by an array of your positive, life-affirming statements. This will go a long way to warm your heart and make you smile.
Dr. Joanne Wendt – www.drjoannewendt.com
Happiness is considered the holy grail of human experience.
Who doesn’t want to be happy? Who hasn’t taken some risk or made a big mistake in the name of happiness? The problem is that true happiness is not something you find outside of yourself. It is not in a car, or in a home or in a relationship or in the Bahamas. Happiness is within YOU. How do I know this? Because there are many people who have all the luxuries of life, and do not feel happy.
Conversely, there are many people with very few luxuries yet feel happy on a regular basis. There is substantial research to support this claim. Studies by Sonia Lyubomirsky, an expert in the field of positive psychology, found that external factors only account for ten percent of our happiness.
The first step towards experiencing real happiness is defining it for yourself.
What does happiness mean to YOU? How can you experience happiness if you never defined it? The second step is to spend some time cultivating your happiness. How much time do you spend on your happiness? When I have asked my clients this, I am often met with a confused expression. I hear about the time devoted to anxiety or fear, but none to happiness.
I have defined my own happiness as total self-acceptance under all conditions, AND living from my own values and integrity to the best of my ability. This definition allows me to feel happy even when my children misbehave, or work is stressful, or a situation or relationship doesn’t go as planned. My happiness is no longer contingent on any condition outside of myself, nor is it vulnerable to loss because it comes from within me. This allows any condition to either contribute or not contribute to my happiness.
In order to discover your own happiness, it helps to release any conditions you have placed on it.
For example, a common mistake many people make is to put unnecessary conditions on their happiness.
I hear it all the time, “I can’t be happy until I find the perfect job”, or “I can’t enjoy myself until I pay off all my debt” or “I can’t relax until my kids get into the best school.” Some of my own included some really ridiculous ideas “I have to be perfect and please everyone” or “I have to finish EVERY project I start even if I don’t like it.” What are your conditions? What is keeping you from experiencing your happiness? Are you willing to let them go?
Dare to spend five minutes of your day reflecting on what happiness means to you, and then spending five minutes practicing it. Maybe it is drawing. Maybe it is working on cars. Maybe it is helping a neighbor. Do this for 30 days in a row and notice the difference in your mood without spending a dime!
Dr. Shannon Tran – www.shannontranphd.com
Happiness is a form of courage. ~Holbrook Jackson
Last night was family game night and as my husband dealt the much worn Sorry cards out, my teenage son stated “I couldn’t wait to get home to play Sorry today.” That was the ordinary moment that rocked the world.
We are a nation of overcomplicators. “It can’t be worthwhile if it’s cheap, or easy or even ordinary.” We have all we need at our disposal for free. We have the ability to pay attention. Paying attention to the smile of our newborn baby, the gentle squeeze of our husband of 20 years, the friend that boldly reached out to us in our toughest of moments, or even to the inner workings of a 14 year old can instantly bring a smile of satisfaction to any face. I enjoy going to Disney as much as the next person, but realistically, I can only go to Disney once a year. I can enjoy an ordinary moment every time I walk in the door and my dog wags her tail.
The present moment has everything we need. Our devices can be as alluring as the siren calling the sailor to the sea. Phones, tablets, laptops and televisions are not replacements for relationships. In our lives they serve a purpose and part of the purpose can be entertainment. We shouldn’t confuse entertainment with happiness however. When I laugh at the meme or the people at Walmart (and I do, wildly) it is a moment I will probably not return to again. When I smile or laugh at the silly thing my husband or my son is doing to cheer me up, my heart will always return to that feeling. There is no replacement for people and the relationships of our heart.
I always tell my clients we weren’t placed on this planet on a deserted island for a reason. We need each other in a true, biological and interdependent way. We thrive in connection with one another. I have never been disappointed when I have taken the moment to reach out to an old friend over the phone or email. The response is always joy and desire to reciprocate the good feelings of connection. Carving out time for one another is the best thing we can do when we consider how to achieve and maintain happiness. Overwhelming joy is hard to achieve when we are scrolling our Facebook feed. Connection is the ultimate antidepressant and it’s available to us for free if we’re willing to take the risk.
When we take the time to care for ourselves, whether that be through exercise or prayer, good nutrition or proper sleep we make an investment not only in our body, but in our mood as well. We are more able to pay attention when we’ve slept well and better partners in relationship when we are properly fed. And when we get quiet spiritually the whole world makes a lot more sense.
Lydia Kickliter, LMHC, NCC – www.thepathwaystowellness.org
We all want to be happy, right? But being happy can seem elusive. It’s like nailing jello to a tree…trying to be happy just tends to make happiness slip through our fingers…or our thoughts…or blow away like feathers on a breeze.
I need a new car. I go out shopping for a new car after I figure out what I can afford. I make a new car purchase based on what I need, what I can afford, what I want, and what is available. I’m happy with my purchase. Contented. Satisfied that I met my need. Then, the first car payment comes. Suddenly, I’m not so happy. The first flat tire comes, I’m not elated. The first dent happens. The car isn’t making me happy anymore. See? It is transitory.
But, there are things we can all do to cultivate happiness, so that we aren’t dependent on chance occurrences of momentary contentment.
1. Practice gratitude. Being grateful for what we already have decreases the tendency to always be striving for more. Sheryl Crow said it in her song “I’m Gonna Soak Up the Sun”: ‘It ain’t getting what you want, it’s wanting what you got.’ When we practice gratitude for what we already have, happiness is more likely to hang around.
2. Learn to like (even better, love) who you are, right here, right now. This is similar to number one above. But it’s also different. Many people postpone happiness, telling themselves that they’ll be happy when they lose weight, find a partner, buy a house, etc…. But nothing makes being happy harder than telling yourself you are not OK. If you work on accepting who you are right now, flaws and all, and loving where you are in your life, you will find happiness that seems to just burst from the walls. It’s there, it is just waiting for you to stop “shoulding” all over yourself.
3. Recognize that being happy, and having joy are two different things. I need to thank a client for this insight. He reminded me of this in a session earlier today. As spiritual beings, joy is our birthright. When we are in touch with our true nature, joy is always there. Happiness is a fleeting emotion, that comes and goes of it’s own accord. You can be unhappy because of circumstances that are troublesome, and still be in touch with the innate joy of your spiritual self. This takes practice. Meditation, prayer, mindfulness practice, gratitude practice all are avenues of connecting with your joy. Being happy includes not confusing happiness (fleeting) with joy (normal state of spiritual awareness). Do not be fooled into thinking happiness is supposed to be a constant.
4. When you aren’t happy, give yourself permission to feel whatever is there. This goes along with #2 pretty closely. It connects with self acceptance and self love. If you are sad, let yourself be sad. Feelings have an annoying habit of lingering around the more we try to ignore them. Let yourself fully feel what you feel. Give yourself permission to be fully human, and know that whatever you are feeling, it will be different in a few minutes, or a few days, or a week. Accept yourself, including your emotions, in the here and now. If you have trouble doing this, you may need some help with the reality that there are no bad emotions, only bad actions. You can be angry without hurting others. You can be sad without blaming others. If you have trouble with this, you may need some help learning to separate feelings from actions.
5. Don’t worry, be happy. Worrying about things that are out of your control contributes to discontent and unhappiness. If you have no immediate ability to change something, stop worrying about it. This includes loved ones who aren’t living their life the way you think they should. Stop “shoulding” on your loved ones. Stop imagining that things should be different than they are. And please, stop worrying. You’ll live longer, smiling more often.
Carri Nash, RN, MFT – www.cnashmft.com
Redefine happiness! What really makes you happy today? Look at how you define happiness and evaluate: is this what you want, or is this the expectations of others for your life, such as friends, family, spouse, parents, or society? Recognize that happiness is a mindset; an attitude rather than an end goal. Happiness is in the small, simple experiences of life. It is not about money, beauty, power etc. So, define what happiness is for you today. Then, take small steps towards building your happiness. Today, decide what makes your glass half full, rather than half empty.
So what are some steps you can take today to improve your happiness mindset?
1. A Gratitude List
Write a daily list of what you are grateful for in your life. Pick a small number, 3-5-10 items at the maximum, and then write the list for a month. Notice how focusing on things you can be thankful for in your life can improve your quality of life and your interactions with other.
Any physical activity can help improve your mood. Take a quick stroll, do an online yoga class, or put on the music and dance. Physical activity reduces stress and increases the positive endorphins which in turn create a positive attitude. Happier people tend to be active.
3. Be Creative
Adult Coloring books are quite popular right now. So be creative! Color, paint, play music, cook, garden, dance, make a video. The creative process moves you out of focusing on yourself and your story, and allows you to enter into a healing, healthy world.
By doing something for others you can feel better about yourself. Learn new skills and help an organization you feel passionate about. So many organizations such as nonprofits, religious organizations, schools and political groups need volunteers from administrative work, helping others, helping animals, building, fund raising, and cooking. The only limits to volunteering is your imagination. There are so many opportunities in the world and your neighborhood.
5. Learn Something New
Explore the world of massive online open courses (MOOC). What is a MOOC? Free courses that offer a wide range of subjects from art to zoology. There is something for everyone! These courses can be a fun way to learn something new without a huge financial commitment. The skills can be personal or professional. MOOC can be a great way to take charge of life and get unstuck.
Reach out to others. People generally need other people. Join a meetup group, call a friend, or get involved. In other words, develop a support system. The value of a network of other people in your life can not be emphasized enough.
Laughing is so good for you!! Watch a funny movie, go to the comedy club, read a joke book. Have a friend who you know will make you laugh.
Anne Shopp, LMFT, CACII – www.anneshopp.com
I had a list of certainties when I was younger.
As soon as I got married, I would be happy.
As soon as I lost weight and had a rockin’ body, I would be happy.
As soon as I got promoted and made over $40K I would be happy.
Guess what. I was miserable married. Thin was never thin enough. And I did make over $40K but it was never enough, either. It turned into…as soon as I make over $50K, $60K, etc.
I call this as-soon-as syndrome. It’s a big ass lie that actually robs us of our happiness.
The truth is, I can be happy married or single.
I can be happy at any shape and size.
I can celebrate my success whether I am working, not working, and no matter how much I am making.
But how did I get caught up in the “happiness is outside of myself” belief that was rooted so deeply within me that it pressured me into marriage before I was ready, it seduced me into self-destructive ways of getting thinner, and pushed me to constantly stay late and give away my life balance for the promise of an even bigger salary?
I just hadn’t learned that happiness comes from within. Always. No matter what circumstance I find myself in, I can cultivate joy by committing to the following daily practices.
1. Connect with the Holy Spirit. It is the only way I know how to remember who I am, outside of my circumstances. Pray, sing, dance, paint, sculpt, drum, play in dirt, walk in the woods, write, or whatever connects you to God.
2. Immerse in the truth. Using guided meditations, prayers, affirmations and anything else I can get my hands on, I need to be reminded of the truth every single day. [YouTube is great for free resources along these lines.]
3. Surrender as-soon-as beliefs. I am bombarded with them daily. As soon as you buy this, get this, achieve this, you will be happy. I have to counteract this lie, when it tempts me. I have to remember over and over, it’s not true. A gratitude practice helps with this immensely. Or sometimes I just have to yell, “Bullshit!”
4. Keep my authenticity lenses nearby. I can slip down into a worldview that buys into this mess. I can see my life through the lens of as-soon-as, and I can feel the dark cloud forming overhead. I must remember, in this moment, it is NOT a change in circumstances that is needed to find happiness. I must change my lenses.
When we’re vigilant about looking at the world and our own circumstances through lenses of true identity and authenticity, happiness is the outcome. Happiness is the gift. And it’s always right here. It’s just a matter of seeing it.
Sue Markovitch, Author and Life Coach in Westerville, Ohio – www.clearrockfitness.com
1. Decide to be happy! Many of the circumstances in our lives can be changed by attitude. Holocaust survivor Vikor Frankl said “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” If a Holocaust survivor can choose to have a good attitude, you should be able to as well! Decide right now to be happy, despite your circumstances. Now, out loud, say “I choose to be happy regardless of what life throws at me.” Repeat this daily, even when you aren’t sure you believe it.
2. Make a list of all of the things and people you are grateful for, a gratitude list. I suggest using three columns- one for people, one for things, and one for miscellaneous. Create this list over a few days or a week, and use each one only once. When you see a growing list of all of the things you may take for granted on a daily basis, it tends to change your outlook.
3. Change your thought patterns. The two above tips are part of this process. Catching negative thoughts in action is the biggest factor I see when it comes to client success. If I could choose one thing I would like my clients to learn in therapy it is this: negative thinking about yourself, others, and circumstances, will weigh you down faster than you can imagine. The more you can catch negative thought and then replace them with something positive, the easier it will be to find happiness and joy. I test this in my personal life on a daily basis, and the more you are able to think positively, the happier you will be. The bonus is here is not only will you feel happier, but often you will feel more energized, motivated, and productive.
4. Find balance. Working too much, playing too much, doing nothing at all- these are all imbalances that lead to feeling unhappy. Take your vacation days from work and do something you actually enjoy. Find a job where you feel valued and challenged. Push yourself to get off the couch and rediscover relationships or a hobby you forgot about long ago. Having a healthy balance will lead to greater self-worth, and greater happiness.
5. Most important (even above positive thinking)- find hope! Life can be difficult and there is a lot of pain in this world. In order to make sense of it, you need to find hope. Whether that is in a Higher Power, karma, a purpose in life, we all need hope and some way to make sense of life. Do some soul searching and find your hope. If this is too difficult for you to figure out on your own, talk to friends and family, or even a counselor who can help you discover your hope.
Kelli Korn, LCSW – www.kellikorn.com
You hear it all the time, but it is true: Happiness is a choice.
The moment between realizing a situation is what it is and how you are going to feel about it is the space where you have control. Notice this as you go about your day. Pay attention to what you are thinking and feeling. Notice the connection. Your feelings are completely tied to your thoughts. A feeling doesn’t show up on its own, it is rooted first in thoughts.
The other day I was driving and the traffic was really slow. I realized I was going to be late for an appointment.
At first I could feel my anger rising, I couldn’t understand why everyone had to be on the road at the same time. “What is going on? It’s never this bad.”
My anger was building. And then I stopped myself. I took a few slow deep breaths while placing one hand on my chest. That’s the place where I felt the anger getting bigger and more intense.
I reminded myself that I couldn’t do anything about the traffic but I could decide to just enjoy the beautiful summer day before me. It took a few more deep breaths and reminders that my anger was not going to help me in any way before I felt a release from the emotion of anger. I replaced the anger with thanksgiving. I began to notice the beautiful blue sky. I reminded myself how thankful I am that my car works and has gas in it. I was feeling at peace. To me, that’s as good, if not better than, happiness.
Contentment with right now, where I am and whatever is going on.
A few other actions that might help you shift from unhappy to happy: Playing an upbeat positive song, dancing, listening to comedy, looking at nature, being silly with friends or family… anything that helps you start smiling.
Karen Thacker, LPC – www.journeyforward.net
When we are projecting our happiness into the future, we are not allowing ourselves to find the happy in the present moment. The time to start being happy is RIGHT NOW knowing that we always have the option to lean towards happy. Below are five ways you can start creating your happy today…
1. Create a positive routine when you wake up: We have all woken up on the wrong side of the bed knowing those moments are precious precursors to our day. Tomorrow morning try not to check your email/social media for at least five minutes. Instead, breathe and pay close attention to your body and mind and consciously make a list of three things/people/attributes you are grateful for, three people who want to send love and blessings to and your intention for the day. By doing this you are putting yourself into a direction of positivity first thing in the morning.
2. Have a dance party: Music is food for the soul and any song you like that gets you up and moving has the potential to shift your moods and lean you towards your happy. Whether it is country, pop or rap music have a playlist of favorite upbeat songs that you can easily press play and break out dancing. Music gives us the opportunity to shake out our mood and frustrations and keep the good energy flowing.
3. Get outside: Sometimes our houses or offices can feel like they are closing in on us, and without realizing it, we can become bored and stagnant. Don’t be afraid to mix up your environment. If it’s enjoyable weather- get outside and feel the sunshine. Just take a drive, go out for a cup of coffee, and feel the breeze. By moving around and mindfully breathing fresh air you will notice that you feel more relaxed and are in an overall better mood throughout the day.
4. Do one thing everyday that is just for YOU: So often we try to take care of everything on our to-do lists, and neglect the most crucial thing we need to take care of: ourselves! When we are not routinely committing to self-care, we can easily become overwhelmed, fatigued, and resentful. Your happiness is YOUR responsibility…so whether it be getting a manicure, exercising, or buying some flowers to put next to your bed… be consciously proactive about doing one thing for yourself EVERYDAY.
5. Repeat #1 just before bedtime… mindfully think of three things/people/attributes you are grateful for; three people who want to send love and blessings to and your intention for the evening. If your day didn’t go as planned… trust that it is okay, and if necessary, forgive yourself and others (don’t dwell!) and allow yourself to fall asleep knowing that tomorrow is another opportunity to lean towards your happy.
Ashley Watson, LCSW – www.ashleyewatson.com
Often times we buy into to our society culture of scarcity. Scarcity mindset translates to: “I am not _____enough”. We have been conditioned to believe that we need outside means to define us and bring us joy. This scarcity mindset is deeply embedded in our fear-based thinking. Our internalized fear results in our feelings of desperation. We believe that external means like: a relationship, material item, degree, or vacation can fulfill us.
1. Practice having an abundance mindset.
The kind of abundance I am referring to is connected to a deep-seated belief that we are enough regardless of what we have and what we do or don’t do in life. Having an abundance mindset is about knowing that at the end of the day we are worthy of love, acceptance, and joy no matter what. Abundance means that we believe that there are enough____ for all. Examples may include the following. There are enough: men out there for women, job opportunities for those seeking employment, money for those desiring more, love for those seeking it, power for those desiring leadership, knowledge for those thirsty for wisdom, and connections for those craving relationships and acceptance. When we make the shift from not enough to more than enough, we strengthen our faith and belief system, which results in more joyfulness.
2. Develop what Dr. Brene Brown calls “critical awareness” and see the larger picture of what drives us.
Critical awareness brings us a deeper insight into our beliefs and why we are conditioned to think and act the way we do. By gaining critical awareness, we can then build a greater consciousness that our fear based thinking is created by the need for advertising companies to keep us thinking we are not enough. If we all walked around believing we were enough, we would not feel driven to buy the new expensive car, obtain that elite degree, buy endless beauty products, or that newly constructed home in a sought after neighborhood. Others thrive off of our scarcity mindset. The secret is, don’t let them.
3. Be present with your presence.
Sounds easy enough, right? Practicing mindful is actually challenging and requires us to engage in some deep reflective work. Ask yourself questions like:
1. What am I feeling now?
2. Where am I feeling this emotion in my body?
3. Why is this situation triggering me?
4. What is this person, topic, situation etc. reminding me of?
5. What is getting in the way of my joy?
6. Do I believe that I am worthy of joy in my life?
4. Joy is deeper than Happiness.
Define for yourself which quality you desire more in your life: joy or happiness.
Happiness is considered to be fleeting and based on surface means, like a receiving a nice present. Joy, on the other hand is equated with bringing deeper fulfillment like spending quality time with a loved one. Our greatest joy derives from the simplest moments occurring within our daily lives. Consider choosing joy over happiness. You’ll be happier if you do.
Brooke Campbell, M.A., RDT-BCT, LCAT – www.creativekinections.com
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