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Happiness: The Thing We All Look For But Never Really Understand

Happiness: The Thing We All Look For But Never Really Understand

As emotional beings, it can sometimes be difficult to accurately define a feeling. So much can get lost in translation and leaves something to be desired. Perhaps that’s a part of the reason that so many people have trouble achieving happiness. At times it just seems so elusive and complex. I mean, what is happiness really? Are you only truly happy if you only experience that emotion, and that one alone?

Definition of happiness by different philosophers share the same theory.

There are many ideologies with their own philosophies on how to achieve happiness. For example, the Buddhists believe that happiness can only be achieved when you have rejected all need for material goods, reaching what they call Nirvana.[1] Taoists attain happiness by living simple, uncomplicated lives; appreciating what is, and accepting what is not.[2]

What these two theories have in common is the rejection of longing. You can’t be truly happy when you focus on what you do not have.

But what we believe is true about happiness has been hindering us from pursuing true happiness.

Myth 1: Happiness is a constant state.

If you think that you need to be happy 24/7 to be a happy person, that just simply isn’t true. Everyone gets stressed, everyone gets angry. We are capable of an array of emotions for a reason, to feel them. To be a happy individual, you have to know how to reel yourself back and not allow the other emotions to consume you. Take the Taoist approach here: appreciate what is, and accept what is not.

Myth 2: Money can buy happiness.

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Before I get all preachy again, I’ll admit that I’m guilty of shop therapy. Getting something new and exciting, and fulfilling for the moment can be nearly euphoric. Especially when it’s something that you’ve been pining over, worked for, and are finally able to make that purchase and make it yours. But more likely than not, that new exciting object will become an old, forgotten thing of the past. Like a temporary high, it will cease to satisfy you. Here I am going to ask you to take the Buddhist approach: do not rely on material objects to bring you happiness.

Myth 3: Destination: Happiness.

“I’ll be happy when___”, “Things will get better when____”, does this sound like you? Happiness is not a destination. A new place, a new job, a new hobby will not completely alter your life, filling your soul with rainbows and sunshine. I mean, it certainly can help, and changing your circumstance is the first step towards achieving happiness. As it was once so eloquently stated by Jon Kabat-Zinn, writer and philosopher, “Wherever you go, there you are.” Happiness lies within yourself. Changing your circumstance isn’t enough, you must change yourself as well.

Success and happiness don’t need to be enemies.

To some, happiness is an idealistic fantasy; a hindering roadblock for a successful life. Well, hey now, what is success? When do you feel truly successful? Couldn’t success be defined as achieving your desired lifestyle and therefore achieving happiness? For some yes, for others it is a resounding no.

Many business tycoons have put happiness on the back-burner, sacrificing everything that gives their life meaning in order to grow their business, their empire, and most importantly, their bank account. The need to succeed monopolizes every other aspect of life with soul crushing force, leaving little room for luxuries like joy and bliss.

Although this isn’t the case for all workaholics. For them, working endlessly, building their dream, and growing their net worth is exactly what gives their life meaning. The key is finding a balance and learning how to prioritize the little things that make their heart sing, and including them into their daily routines.

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Start with your smallest lifestyle change, and prioritize happiness.

Yes, that’s all you need to do!

There is a new trend in the workforce where primarily millennials are finding ways to pursue their passions, and building their empires by nurturing their interests. Many baby boomers sneer at this lifestyle, mostly out of resentment for not having the same opportunities; or the courage to do so.

Some people, specifically myself, cannot trudge through life mindlessly doing what is expected to fulfill my obligations. What is expected? Accept your life for the monotonous conveyor of: heinous commute, work at a job you hate, pay for the house in the town you want to leave, fantasize about the life you wish you had, cry yourself to sleep, wake up, repeat. Perhaps I’m being a bit dramatic but too many people have accepted this way of life, and I’ll tell you what, they are not happy.

They’re leaving out one very important ingredient, themselves. They let the light die out in their soul, they’ve forgotten their passions. They’ve let go of those important elements of life that make them think “THIS is the reason I’m alive!” When very simply, if they included one little ritual daily, or even weekly, setting aside time for what interests them, they can find that oasis of contentment and happiness that has been missing.

This is where things can get tricky. Because pursuing happiness can be exhausting when approached too forcefully.[3] People tend to overwhelm themselves by taking on a bunch of new hobbies, or launching a side project for the dream business they’ve always wanted. Usually they take all of these tasks on at once and ultimately burn themselves out. This leaves them defeated, feeling as if happiness is as they say, just not in the cards.

Integrating happiness, and ultimately prioritizing it is a bit like a diet. If you take on too much at once, you’re bound to crash and give up. The key is small lifestyle changes that eventually become a part of your daily routine.

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Now is the time to start prioritizing your happiness, and here’s how.

Create a list

Write down everything in your life that doesn’t satisfy you. Fold a sheet of paper down the middle and on one side label it: “What Needs to Change.” Perhaps it’s a bad habit that you can’t seem to kick, the fact that you feel bored, tired, sore, you don’t feel attractive, or you feel like your life doesn’t have any passion or meaning. Just write it all down and get it all out. Now on the other side of the paper, I want you to label it as, “Solutions.” List 3 solutions to each issue, even if they are a bit of a stretch. The idea here is that you’re searching for answers instead of ignoring the problem. If you can’t think of three solutions that’s more than okay. As long as you can come up with at least one you’re making progress.

For example: Let’s say that you wish you had more friends, or the courage to talk to people. Three possible solutions would be:

1. Say hello and start a conversation with a stranger 2 times a week.

2. Join a group or a class, surrounding yourself with like-minded people with similar interests.

3. Ask someone you think is cool on a friend date. Invite them to that class you just joined. Chances are they’ll take you up on the offer, and now you have a new acquaintance and possible friend to hang with.

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Designated “Me” Time

Set aside time for yourself at least 20 minutes a day, whether it’s before or after work, or maybe on the weekend. Take this time to take a bath, meditate, go for a hike, pick up a new hobby such as watercolor or knitting.

I know you’re busy, we all are. But busy people are the best at making time for their top priorities, and you should always be number one. Give yourself a chance to replenish and recharge. Otherwise you’re just pouring from an empty cup, and it’s going to run you dry.

Volunteer/Get involved

Reach deep down and think of an issue that concerns you. Women’s rights, food activism, animal activism, preserving nature, homelessness, etc. Whatever it is, there is a group fighting for the advancement of the cause and they need your help.

Contact them, see what you can do. It could be something as small as passing out flyers, or getting out there and giving fruit to the destitute.

You will become full with a new sense of purpose, and the knowledge that you did something to help. You’re now a part of the solution, and you’re awesome!

Reference

More by this author

Jenn Beach

Traveling vagabond, writer, & plant-based food enthusiast.

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

“We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

1. Take a step back and evaluate

When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
  3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
  4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
  5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

4. Process your thoughts/emotions

Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

  1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
  2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
  3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
  4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

5. Acknowledge your thoughts

Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

6. Give yourself a break

If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

As Helen Keller once said,

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
  3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
  4. Take action on your next steps!

After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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