Happiness is one word in modern parlance that seems to have defied definition, refused to be boxed in, and eluded many. It’s the reason so many from all walks of life have searched far and wide, high and below, New Delhi to Tibet only to come up short.
The search for happiness is at the core of all of humanities pursuits and it’s concomitant with humanities quest for self-realization and without it, life would be agonizingly meaningless. Perhaps this was what inspired its inclusion in the American declaration of independence by its founding fathers; “we hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal: that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.
What then is happiness? The Merriam-Webster Collegiate dictionary defines it as “a state of wellbeing and contentment”. But despite this definition, opinions differ on what happiness means for each one of us. Some have tried to associate it with materialism and have often believed that they could find happiness by simply having more material possessions – “if only I could get my dream car, job, wife, and more money, then I would be truly happy”. And yet after their attainment, there’s has still lingered that vague sense emptiness prompting us to yet want more.
On the other hand, the minimalist believe that the converse holds true, and that less is more (and they can cite Gandhi who had only ten possessions on his death including a watch, spectacles, sandals and eating bowl and was yet a fulfilled man). For the minimalist true happiness is about owning fewer possessions and finding less satisfaction in material things.
But when it’s all said and done, happiness never comes with having more. On the contrary, it springs from a continuous commitment to taking tiny positive actions that will have the most uplifting effect on our lives and general wellbeing.
So if you, like me, want to find happiness every day of your life, you have to do these 7 things that have been tried and tested to bring happiness.
(1) Do What You Love Every Day.
I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours. I love to keep it by me: the idea of getting rid of it nearly breaks my heart. – Jerome Jerome.
What you love is that thing you get so engrossed with that you never notice the passage of time. It’s whatever you are most passionate about and what brings out the best in you. When you do what you love, you’ll feel truly satisfied with yourself and your attitude will be one of optimism. In doing what you love, you find yourself. So what do you love? It could be any kind of work that excites you, activity like watching the sunset, painting a beautiful picture, cooking, traveling or anything else. For me, I itch to write every day and I’m incomplete without observing my regular walks around the city in the evenings.
(2) Accept Yourself
Wanting To be someone else is a waste of the person you are. – Marilyn Monroe
The worst Loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself. – Mark Twain
You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful. – Amy Bloom.
Today, we live in a culture where social media and television projects images of ideal people whose lives have been “photoshoped” to look immaculate and superhuman – images that tend to fuel our sense of inferiority. We hear of Facebook depression, a situation in which our reading of the feeds mislead us to think other people are doing better than us. But you have to emancipate yourself from this self-deprecating way of thinking if you want happiness. Deep down inside you lies your own self-worth. You might be imperfect, and frankly we all are, but of the roughly 7.5 billion people on the face of the earth, you happen to be the only qualified person to be you, to put on that unique face of yours and to walk around in your own skin. No else is better qualified to be you. Nobody is better than you nor you anyone else. Believe in yourself, embrace your imperfections, goofiness or weirdness – it’s in the whole package. Never look to others for validation and remember that you are second to none. Stop comparing yourself to others. Now that should make you happy.
(3) Stop Wallowing In Self-pity
Take a drink because you pity yourself, and then the drink pities you and has a drink, and then two good drinks get together and that calls for drinks all around. – H. beam Piper, Little Fuzzy.
If it rains on your parade, don’t swear or curse, just find an umbrella. – Me
Ours is a topsy-turvy world with enough troubles to go around. This means that bad things can happen to good people. Sometimes that’s the way the cookie crumbles and you might be lead to yell “life’s unfair” but never let this get stuck in your head. You have to get over it and move on. Next time you hit a snag you can’t figure a way out instead of throwing in the towel and asking for condolences stay put and find a solution to your problems. If it rains on your parade, don’t swear or curse, just find an umbrella. Challenging yourself to find a solution to your problems will empower you to take control, overcome self-pity and be truly happy.
(4) Don’t Take Life Too Seriously
Life is good only when it is magical and musical, a perfect timing and consent, and when we do not anatomize it. You must hear the bird’s song without attempting to render it into nouns and verbs. – Ralph Waldo Emerson.
If you’ve been reading the newspapers, then you’d feel there’s no point being bullish or optimistic – everything seems to be going south for us earthlings. Yesterday, it was global warming, and after that, tribal wars, and today, global terrorism is high on the list. And who knows what would be next tomorrow? But it’s important you don’t allow all of these strange happenings turn you into a killjoy or worst, a chronic cynic and faultfinder. Of course that doesn’t mean you should be callous to the sufferings of others. Just don’t dwell on it. Learn to enjoy yourself, lighten up sometimes, don’t sweat the small stuff and also try to laugh at yourself or those around you. You should have learnt something from our nihilistic guy in the movie, The Art Of Getting By. George thought that since we were all going to die, there was no point doing his homework or attending classes. Don’t be that guy!
(5) Aspire For Something Great
And here is to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble makers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They are not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify them or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forwards. And why some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do. – Steve Jobs.
Never be content with what you are if you wish to be what you are not. Everyone is born with a spark of divinity, it’s up to you the individual to fan that spark. – Denis P Kimbro (What Makes The Great, Great)
Most people today trudge through life without aspiring for anything great and that is very telling why the ranks of the unhappy swells by the day. They find it hard to get out of bed most days that when the alarm goes off in the morning they feel almost like bashing it with a hammer. Most people get stuck in life because they can’t find any motivation for living. But when you aspire for something great in life the motivation for living naturally follows and this will fill you up with boundless excitement at every breaking dawn. When you are on a mission in life you tend to scramble out of bed, you are filled with passion and every day becomes a mission to accomplish change for the world. So what is your purpose in life? It can be about changing the world or making it a better place through your own little contributions, caring for the poor, homeless, orphans, providing for your family, a better life for your kids or becoming the best professional in any chosen field. Studies have shown that to achieve long-term happiness, you need to see yourself as a person who is making a difference in this life. Aspire to be great and the happiness you seek will follow. Go listen to Jaci Velasquez’s We Can Make A Difference.
(6) Give To Others (Don’t hog it all to yourself)
As part of your vision of making the world a better place, it is just as important to show deeds of kindness to others – that’s the only way the way the world goes round. I’ve always wondered why the some of the richest people in the world would work their butts off to get rich, attain it, and then give them back to society. It turns out, it’s the giving that makes them really happy and not their acquisitions. A recent 2012 study conducted by the University of British Columbia reveals that acts of kindness makes people well-liked and accepted and this leads to social acceptance and an improved image. So go ahead and be generous, be a volunteer and then watch your happiness double.
(7) Live In The Present
Why not seize the pleasure at once? How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation! – Jane Austen.
The aim of life is to live and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware. – Henry Miller
Live all you can; it’s a mistake not to. – Henry James.
You can’t find happiness in life when your eyes are glued to your rear-view mirror as you journey through life. Earlier in the week, I was watching the sci-fi movie, Passengers and I heard the android bartender make this statement to Jim Preston (Chris Pratt); “You can’t get so hung up on where you’d rather be that you forget how to make the most of where you are. Take a break from worrying about what you can’t control. Live a little!”
The past has come and gone but it has still left you with an unbelievable blessing and that is “today”. But some of us are killjoys who enter this blessing of a new day carrying the scars and emotional baggage of our ugly past and that keeps us from living in the moment. You can’t experience happiness when you are a “tomorrow” person. Why not live in the moment, looking less ahead and less behind. Listen to the leaves rustle, watch the sun rise, and dance to your favorite song. Treasure every fleeting moment of your life.
(8) Buy Experiences Not Possessions.
We’ve been misled to think that happiness can be got from amassing more wealth. Every day the media inundates us with TV commercials of celebrity lifestyles and the latest products to hoodwink us into buying more. They say “Buy this and you’ll be happy” but nothing could be farther from the truth. Think about this for a second, material goods get used, they are malleable to wear and tear, get old and break down eventually. So what then happens to your happiness when it is tied to the things you own? Finding happiness in life will be a real shot in the dark when you are lulled into thinking it lies in having more. Research has shown that excessive wealth beyond what one needs to feed, clothe and house ourselves only increases happiness by a fraction. That is why it is better to buy experiences that you would treasure for the rest of your life. The amazing memories you accumulate in life will follow you to the grave. Do things like going on an exotic vacation, donating to a charity and so forth. Next time you go on vacation keep souvenirs that would remind you of each experience you have.
(9) Be Thankful For What You Have.
Develop an attitude of gratitude and give thanks for everything that happens to you knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation. – Brian Tracy
Keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows – Helen Keller
Sometimes people are so caught up dreaming about the big things of life that they easily forget the essence of gratitude for the little things they have and how this contributes to their long-term happiness. We think only in terms of what we don’t have than what we do and we become life’s biggest ingrates for this very reason. But happiness is about valuing the little things you have, the people and the events that have taken place in your life. Research as shown that people who express gratitude over a given period of time are way happier that those who focus on the negatives in their lives. Practicing gratitude rewires our brain to think positively, to focus on the things that are going for us leaving us happier for it. Keep a gratitude journal and spend a few minutes of your time every morning listing the 5 things you are most grateful for. It could be having enough to eat, having a roof over your head, a family that loves you, a fulfilling job or career. Write 10 people that have helped you in anyway a “thank you note” appreciating their kindness. Take nothing for granted.
(10) Find Any Excuse To Smile And Laugh
When you smile and laugh, it results in an endorphin (also known as happy hormones) boost which reduces stress levels and also make you happier. According to a facial feedback hypothesis, our brains can’t differentiate between real or fake smiles and it interprets the position of your facial muscles in the same way, which helps releases more endorphins. So that then means that you can make yourself smile for no specific reason and still get the same results.