Happiness is a common life goal. If you think about everything you do, every choice you make revolves around fulfilling a purpose designed to increase your happiness factor.
For instance, you help your mother when she needs it because it makes you feel useful, which makes you feel happy. You go to work every day because it pays the bills and keeps a roof over your head and food in your belly, which also makes you feel happy.
But, what happens when life becomes monotone? How do you change a world from black and white into color? And, what can you do to barren wasteland to turn it into a lush, beautiful garden?
Here’s three simple things that you can do today that will instantly help you find the happiness you crave.
1. Stay in the Present
Nothing sucks life out of a person quicker than staying caught in the past or constantly looking into the future. If you aren’t fully in the here-and-now, then you won’t ever be satisfied with life.
By focusing on the past, you never move forward from old issues. For instance, if you’re still angry about how your father hurt you in 1987 and it eats you up every time he calls, you are limiting your ability to find happiness by wasting precious time and energy by focusing on something that cannot be undone. What’s happened has happened. You can’t change it. You have to accept it and move on.
By acknowledging what happened and the fact that it hurt you, you can begin to remove the power the event has held over you.
Just as it’s counterproductive to happiness to focus on the past, if you spend all of your time dreaming about tomorrow, you may miss opportunities that present themselves today. Dreaming is good. But not living today because you’re just trying to make it to tomorrow isn’t going to help.
Maybe when you think about tomorrow, it doesn’t involve all of the great possibilities but maybe you worry about things that may or may not happen. This also is counterproductive to achieving happiness. If this is you, you have to ask first whether your fears are unfounded. If they are, let them go. If they’re not, do your best to prepare for them in the event they become reality and then let them go.
Worrying doesn’t make things better. It doesn’t solve problems. It only creates stress and keeps you from fully enjoying the only thing you have control over, which is the present.
Stay tuned in to the here and now. Be aware of everything around you. That’s why kids are so happy. They are the ultimate masters of living in the present.
It’s like eating a piece of cheesecake. If you’re fully present in the eating experience, you notice the creamy texture of the cheesecake itself and the grains of the graham cracker crumbs as they are placed upon your tongue by the cold metal fork. You savor the sweet flavor of the sugar and the bitter flavor of the cream cheese. You take each bite with an appreciation for this delectable dessert.
However, if eat the same piece of cheesecake and aren’t fully present, you miss out on all of this. You sit down with the dessert in front of you and, before you know it, you have an empty plate that has a few graham cracker crumbs on it and you wonder what happened. You realize you ate it, but you failed to experience and enjoy it so you feel like you missed out.
2. Count Your Blessings
Once you’re focused on the present, you can take an honest look at what you have and show gratitude for the blessings in your life. Sure, it’s easy to get caught up in what you don’t have and get angry and bitter because you lack. But, one of the quickest ways to increase your happiness factor is to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
Do you have a home? A place to lay your head at night? Do you have food in your fridge and a warm meal in your belly? Sure, maybe your house is a bit small or you can’t afford steak and lobster, but you have heat and enough food to keep your stomach from growling.
Do you have a job? Perhaps it isn’t the job of your dreams, but doesn’t it pay all or some of the bills? Does it provide medical insurance for you and your family at a reasonable cost? In this economy laced with lay-offs and being let go due to downsizing, just having regular employment is something to be thankful for.
Do you have your health? Do you have all four limbs? Are your heart and lungs in good shape? Do you have all, or most of your five senses?
Even if you can’t answer ‘yes’ to all of these questions, you could always have it worse. Maybe you are homeless right now and sleeping on a friends couch, but at least you have a couch to sleep on.
Or, perhaps you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and aren’t as healthy as you once was. It can always be worse. Remember, as bad as you think you have it right now, there’s always someone who would give anything to trade places with you.
3. Change Your Perspective
Your views on life, like being able to count your blessings despite not having everything you desire, affect your level of happiness. If you perceive your life to be worthless and bland, it will be. However, the opposite is also true. If you believe your life is full of opportunity and hope,, that will be true also.
How do you keep your spirits up when you’re faced with life’s dilemmas? This is probably a good time to use the first two ideas of staying in the present and counting your blessings. In addition, you have to learn how to change a negative event into a positive one.
Take someone given a diagnosis of cancer, for instance. They have two options. They can either focus on the negative, such as the effects of chemotherapy or the possibility of death. Or, they can choose to focus on the positives. Now, maybe you’re thinking, “What could possibly be positive about a cancer diagnosis?” While the diagnosis itself isn’t necessarily positive, you have to look at what positive aspects you have in your favor.
For example, did your doctor find it quickly enough to take measures to either remove it completely or stop it from spreading? Do you have medical insurance that will take away the financial burden that comes with high cost treatment? Do you have supportive family and friends to help you through?
It’s not always easy to have a positive outlook. Life has a way of dropping us all to our knees every now and again. The key is to not stay down. It’s important to get back up and say to yourself that you will prevail.
Happiness doesn’t have to elude you. Seek it out. Take it in. Show it what you’ve got. Before you know it, you’ll be smiling… and you’ll mean it.