Is it that easy to have a happier life?
I’m only just starting to get the hang of this happiness thing after nearly 40 years on the planet.
Eek! Let’s move swiftly on from the ‘almost 40 years’ thing!
Back to the topic.
Like a lot of people, I used to think success made me happy, and those successes came in many different forms:
– Doing well at school
– Passing my driving test
– Getting praise from my boss
– Reaching the top of a climb
That kind of thing.
But I’ve come to realise that this form of ‘happiness’ is reliant on external factors rather than what’s going on inside.
After reading a ton of books, attending numerous courses and watching endless videos on the topic, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are three main things that we can do to be happier in our day-to-day lives.
So, to save you the effort of all that research, I’m going to share them with you right now.
They work for me; I hope they work for you too.
#1 The number one thing controlling your emotions
“He could have gone then”
“For goodness sake, why didn’t he go after the van?”
“Seriously, this idiot is going to make me late for work!”
“Oh, come on, you @*&%$, now I’m really late, FFS!”
This was me sitting at the roundabout on the way to work more times than I care to admit!
It’s all too easy to let your thoughts lead you into a never-ending spiral of negativity.
Anger, self-pity, jealousy, impatience, fear.
All of these emotions are sparked by the thoughts in your mind.
So, how do you overcome them?
Well, you start by recognising that you are not your thoughts. Your mind, which creates your thoughts, is an organ of the body just like any other. Your mind is designed to think, just like ears are designed to hear and eyes are made to see. You, as a person, are not your thoughts any more than you are your ears!
When we start to think in this way, it becomes easier to separate ourselves from our thoughts and, ultimately, to take control of them and our emotions.
This is the foundation of a technique called ‘mindfulness’ and it is the perfect place to begin on the road to happiness.
When I’m at that roundabout these days, it goes a bit more like this:
“He could have gone then”
“For goodness sake, why didn’t he go…?”
“Why am I getting so wound up about this?”
“Because I’m going to be late, that’s why.”
“And, what happens if you’re late?”
“My boss will be mad with me!”
“And then what?”
“Well, I guess I’ll just apologise and make sure I leave earlier tomorrow morning.”
“OK. No drama.”
It might not always play out this way, but the crucial part is recognising that your thoughts are starting to control your emotions. How you react from there is up to you, which brings me nicely onto our next step.
#2 The easiest way to be content right now
Are you psychic?
Then why do we always try to predict the future?
Like when you’re walking down a steep hill and you tell yourself you’re going to fall.
Or when you go to a party ‘knowing’ that you are going to have a rubbish night because you don’t know anyone there.
You can make big money with those psychic powers!
But, seriously, by predicting a future that has yet to happen, we create unnecessary anxiety, fear, panic or dread.
The same happens when we let our past experiences overly influence our actions and emotions.
Rather than let our anxiety over the future or our fear of the past control us, we can choose to live 100% in the present moment. We can decide to approach each experience as if it were brand new without judgment.
The next time you are experiencing anxiety or concern, try to notice whether the feeling is linked to a past event, or whether your imagination is causing negative emotions by predicting a scary future. This simple act of noticing is often enough to remove the worry from a situation.
Let’s go back to that party.
Instead of turning up with a vibe that screams, “I’m in a crappy mood because I know I’m going to be bored out of my brain all night!”, you arrive open-minded and relaxed.
Which version of you do you think is going to have a better time? 😉
#3 The one thing you must do to be happier
What was the last thing you said to yourself?
“I am such a kind-hearted person.”
“Do you know what? I’m doing a pretty good job juggling everything going on in my life right now.”
No, I didn’t think so!
Let’s face it, we’re far more likely to call ourselves “stupid” or “useless” than “smart” and “interesting”.
The scary thing is, we believe every word we tell ourselves.
Negative self-talk leads to feelings of guilt, self-judgement and anger.
Instead, talk to yourself the way you would talk to a close friend – with kindness and without judgement.
For example, if you make a mistake, go easy on yourself. Rather than give yourself a hard time, accept that you’re only human and that mistakes happen.
Learn to be your own best friend – a friend with your very best interests at heart who is able to analyse situations and emotions logically and give the very best advice in a compassionate way.
In any given situation, take a step back to see whether the words you utter to yourself are helpful or hurtful.
Detach yourself emotionally and think about what you can learn from the event. Then, most importantly, let it go and move on.
I’ve really struggled with that last part so, in case you’re like me, I’ll say it again.
Let it go.
And move on.
Win the battle for happiness!
So that’s it!
3 steps to a happier life.
Piece of cake!
I understand that bad things happen, and life is hard.
Maybe following these steps won’t fill your life with sunshine and lollipops but it will help you to mindfully deal with the tough times.
Remember, it’s impossible to be happy 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. And, let’s face it, would you really want to be? I mean, without ever feeling low, how would you appreciate real feelings of joy?
We are emotional creatures with a whole host of feelings to experience in a lifetime.
But in the same way that thoughts are just thoughts, emotions are just emotions, they will come and they will go again.
As Ghandi once said,
“Man’s happiness really lies in contentment.”
I guess, true contentment is the ability to understand that whatever you are feeling – high or low – is OK.
Listen to every happy, sad and downright bizarre working of your mind and feel safe in the knowledge that you are more than the sum of your thoughts.
I truly hope these three steps lead you to a happier, more content life.
And please let me know how they work for you.
PS Get in touch if you have a great idea for a blog post – I’d love to hear from you!