Happiness. Ah, that ever-elusive state of mind that’s characterized by contentment, joy, satisfaction and pleasure. The United States holds the ideal in such high regard that “the pursuit of happiness” is seen as an inalienable human right, right alongside life and liberty in the Declaration of Independence.
No matter one’s creed, origin or social standing, we are all taught that striving to be happy is a hugely important aspect of life.
All of this being true, how does one actually obtain happiness? There seems to be no foolproof formula and the code of how to be happy and stay happy hasn't yet been deciphered.
We all know that one person, the one who’s always joyous despite whatever curve balls life might throw, and we also all know that other person who is miserable, despite having all he or she could want in life (at face value).
This may be because happiness is largely — if not completely — subjective. We decide what make us personally happy. What makes you happy will not necessarily make someone else happy; what makes the majority of a populous happy will undoubtedly produce an unhappy minority.
There are, of course, the things that society tells us we should have to be happy: a good job, a faithful partner, family, religion, money, success... and the list goes on. Will having just one of these things make you happy? If you obtain them all, are you guaranteed happiness for the rest of your life or for as long as you can keep them?
The crux of the matter is, you are the master of your own happiness. You have control over whether or not you are content and joyous, or discontent and dissatisfied. Here are a few ways you may be able to increase your own happiness:
1. Focus On The Positive
A massive cliché, yes, but this statement always rings true. We are a product of our thoughts (as Gandhi famously quoted) and we become what we think.
Everything in life has both positive and negative aspects; with a constantly negative outlook, misfortune is sure to follow because that’s where one’s focus lies.
By way of example, say you make a mistake at work that your whole office, in addition to your boss, sees.
You have a choice: You either focus on your perceived failure and potential embarrassment (to err is human), which will pull you into misery of your own making, or you can focus on the fact that you have learned something new from your actions.
You won’t make the same mistake again; you’re wiser, stronger and better from it.
2. Live In The Moment
In the above scenario, you actually have a third option, which is to not think about it at all. This is the essence of living in the moment. Not thinking about what has been and what will be and instead, focusing your entire being on the present moment.
We have all had moments in which we’re having so much fun, without a flicker of thought about the past or the future. Then, conscious that the fun is ending, we start looking at the time or worrying about what may or may not be.
Turning your focus from the present to the “what-ifs” of the future has a real dampening effect on happiness. Enjoy something while it’s happening.
That being said, no one person lives in the moment 100 percent of the time — if we did, then no one would get anywhere in life. It is only wise to think about our education, our careers, our love lives and so forth.
If we lived entirely in the present, these things wouldn't cross our minds and who knows where we’d be then. Living in the moment is best done in moderation.
3. Define What You Want In Life
This is a big step towards happiness, and arguably the most difficult. Very few people know what they want from life with 100 percent certainty. Those who do are very likely to be disappointed because life has a habit of not giving you exactly what you want.
What we want tends to change as we grow and as we reach the goals. Staying focused on passions is a powerful tool for providing yourself with contentment.
Work will take up the majority of your life. Most of us work more than eight-hour days, five days a week, from your early 20s through the mid 60s.
That’s an awful lot of time. If you’re not doing something about which you’re passionate or can at least tolerate, each day will seem very long, indeed.
4. A Question Of Money
We've all heard the quote, “Money can’t buy happiness,” and it’s a true one. We are social creatures by nature, so having all the money in the world but living alone on your $150 million desert island won’t yield joy.
Material goods can provide you with happiness for a short amount of time; however, humans as a species always want more. Happiness lends itself more to human contact and self-acceptance.
The upshot is that we need money to survive, but money cannot buy you happiness — it can only buy you food and a place to sleep. As much as it pains me to quote Kanye West, in this instance I must: “Having money’s not everything/not having it is.”
5. Focus On Good Traits, Not Bad Ones
We all have good points and bad points, and no one is perfect. (Perfection is yet another subjective concept!) Do you know someone who talks too much? Someone else who’s always boasting about what he or she has? That other person who’s just a bit too sarcastic?
These specific character traits don’t define who these people are; they’re merely part of their identities. Focusing on a person’s negative character aspects will only serve to amplify those characteristics because it’s all you can see.
Instead, focus on good parts of their personalities; they’ll be much more likely to display this trait because you’ll elicit that behavior from them.
6. Love, Laugh And Appreciate What You Have
This one is very important. We only get one shot at life; we’re on this planet once and for a finite amount of time. Do as much as you can to make yourself happy. Laugh as much as you can (studies show it’s good for your health), learn as much as you can and love without restriction.
Once you’re gone, you’re gone, so why not spend your time on planet Earth enjoying what you already have and doing what makes you smile?
Photo via Blue Devil Tumblr