Almost all of us want to be happy. Being happy is not a skill taught in school. If we are lucky, our parents taught us about happiness, either by example or by shared wisdom. For the rest of us, there are some important things to remember about happiness, and the art of being happy.
1. It is OK to want to be happy. It is not unduly selfish, or materialistic, or self-centered. Wanting to be happy is normal.
2. To pursue happiness is an inalienable right - to be happy is not. Some people seem to believe that they have a right to be happy, that other people should make them happy, that when they are not happy they have a right to complain about it and that complaining will cause them to be happy. All three premises are false.
3. No one owes you happiness. Assuming you are an adult, your happiness is not anyone else's problem. If you are a person who spreads happiness, then others will probably want to contribute to your happiness. This is their choice, not your right.
4. Happiness comes from attitude, from within. We become happy when we cultivate an attitude of appreciation and gratitude, when we focus on the good stuff. One way to do this is by keeping a regular gratitude journal. This gets us in the habit of looking for what is good in our lives, and when we focus on that we are likely to be happy.
5. Owning more things does not make you happy. Advertisers would like to make us believe that we can buy happiness, but we cannot buy happiness by buying more things. Wanting things goes back to our heritage as hunter-gatherers. It was important to hunt, and to gather, but that was for reasons of survival. For most of the people reading this, our 'wants' rarely relate to our survival.
6. Happiness is more a process than it is a goal. When I get... when I reach... when I am... we may think that happiness is something that will come, or will happen, one day. Eventually, we will probably find that happiness is the journey, and that if we focus only on the destination we will never get there.
7. Talking about unhappiness does not make you happy. It is true that we all need to vent at times. The purpose of venting is to express our dissatisfaction with something so that we can move on. If we vent just to let others know how badly used we are and how awful something is, nothing new will happen. If we keep our mental attic filled with unhappy stuff, there will be no room for anything else. We need to get rid of it so as to make room for the happy thoughts to move in.
8. Happiness is more often accompanied by accomplishments than by
compliments. Certainly it is nice to be appreciated, and we all need to receive encouraging words from others. But they need to be based on fact. The empty words that are just intended to 'raise self-esteem' ring hollow when we know that we have truly done nothing to deserve them. It is when we have worked and achieved that we can know that the words ring true, and can really feel good about them and ourselves.
9. Memories of happy times can be stored up for retrieval during the
bad times. Very few of us will never feel unhappy, will never fall into 'the sloughs of despondence.' A major help then is to remember the times when we were happy, and the fact that we have those memories 'in the bank.' They are a part of us, they can remind us that we are capable of happiness, and that the world is not always out to make us miserable. When you are happy, consciously store up the memories - they will serve you well.
10. Happiness comes from sharing happiness. There are few joys as complete as those that involve bringing joy to someone else. Happiness defies the laws of economics in that it is not something that we have less of when we give it away. It is something that grows greater for the giver as it is given. The more you give, the more you have.