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How To Be Happy When Things Change

How To Be Happy When Things Change

Several years ago, I attended a college workshop for psychology majors (psychology was my minor) and heard a fascinating story about how change caused depression for someone who, according to everyone else, was a happy person. No one would have suspected it, and I’ve since learned more about how change can actually be a major cause of depression, among other factors.

The speaker at the workshop acknowledged that these types of change, for her, were as simple as moving to a new location. When I first heard this, my initial thought was, “How could something as serious as depression be brought on by something as trivial as moving?” OK, in the moment, that particular thought wasn’t quite so articulate, but I really was curious about how little changes can disturb our happiness.

As the speaker put it, change begets change. Moving to a new location meant she had to get a new job. She had to get along with her new co-workers and make new friends in a city that was unfamiliar to her. I started to see the story unravel.

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That brings us to the task at hand, which is: how to be happy when things change. To do this, I’m outlining several steps to go through if you’re searching for a silver lining to your less-than-ideal situation.

Step 1: Evaluate your definition of happiness.

Before you start dwelling on what your current change means to you at this moment, define your terms. What is your definition of happiness? Put another way, what would it take for you to be happy? What things need to happen, or what things would you need to do in order to find happiness?

This exercise will be the first and last step for some people reading this article. This is because your definition of happiness may not be related to the change you are experiencing at all. For example, your definition of happiness may be as simple as spending time with people you love.

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Well, if the change you are experiencing is that you’ve lost your job and are unemployed, this may actually be an opportunity to spend more time with your children while you’re in between jobs. In this case, defining your standard for happiness resolves any negative feelings you initially have about your change in employment.

Unfortunately, there isn’t always a happy ending, and even scenarios like the one above can lead to severe depression when you can’t seem to achieve the happiness you strive for. Which brings us to …

Step 2: Change or adjust your standard for happiness.

For some people, life may only be worthwhile if they’re making six figures and living in a mansion. Others may believe that their happiness will be achieved if they manage to travel to a certain number of countries and check off a bunch of things on their life’s to-do list.

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The problem is that these goals aren’t always realistic, especially if you fail. Regarding the earlier scenario of losing your job, this situation means that a lot of things are about to change, including your income.

You may worry that your definition of happiness, which is making a lot of money, doesn’t match up nicely with this recent change in your life. To solve this problem, it may be necessary to adjust or modify what happiness means to you.

This means that instead of focusing on making a lot of money, your definition of real happiness may actually come down to being able to provide for your loved ones. From there, you may find this change in your life more manageable and practical.

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Step 3: Let go of attachments and choose happiness.

This is especially valuable advice for individuals who move to a new location. You’re essentially losing something that is very important to you, which could be your hometown or close group of friends. Though it may not be easy, letting go of these attachments and focusing on the new things that are enriching your life is the key to making it through these awkward transitions.

Now, it may be easier said than done to accept these changes, mostly because the attachment can be so strong. But if you’ve been following along with the steps, you may start to realize that your happiness shouldn’t really be a goal or expectation. Happiness should, in fact, be an attitude. It’s a choice.

Once you start to accept that happiness should come from life, no matter what it hands you, then you’ll be able to set a standard for happiness that is sustainable, no matter what external circumstances or changes come your way.

Essentially, you’re choosing happiness and letting it influence every reaction you have when something changes or doesn’t go your way. As a result, you’re ready for anything.

You may also want to read: The 7 Deadly Sins of Happiness.

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Jon Negroni

An author and blogger who shares about lifestyle advice

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

2. Pace Yourself

Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

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Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

3. You Can’t Please Everyone

“I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

6. It’s Not All About You

You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

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It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

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Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

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Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

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