What Is Happiness
Before we delve into how to be happy, let’s talk about what happiness is. We know it when we feel it and we often use the term to describe a range of emotions, including joy, contentment and gratitude.
I believe positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky best describes happiness in her book, The How of Happiness. She defines happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”
This post was originally published on March 20, 2019 and updated on October 4, 2019.
Learning To Choose Happiness
But happiness is a mercurial emotion. It can ebb and flow our entire life. At times it feels like the harder you try to find it, the more elusive it becomes.
So, what can we do when we are on the ebbing side of happiness?
Happiness is not circumstantial. This means we don’t have to wait for everything to be perfect, nor do we have to control anything outside of ourselves in order to feel a certain way. Becoming aware of this truth is a total game-changer, because it means we can choose happiness in this moment. And something beautiful happens when we do this: When we feel happy first, our outward experience begins to shift in ways we’d only dreamed of.
How To Be Happy
1. Find Your Unique Happiness
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to happiness. You need to take time to really understand yourself and what it takes to make you feel happy and content. This means reconnecting with your values, strengths and your purpose to build a solid foundation for your journey to happiness. Let this guide you to a life that aligns with your personal happiness.
2. Practice Gratitude
Expressing gratitude is a way of being focused on the present, it’s an act that takes place in the moment, and enables you to live life in the now. By giving or saying thanks, your conscience must be aware of each of the things that is happening to you and what you have.
Practicing gratitude may be difficult when you are in a funk but it works! Multiple studies have shown it to be one of the most powerful deeds we can engage in. Sonja Lyubomirsky says, “Gratitude is a great way to consider what’s good about your life, instead of focusing on what’s not good or what other people have that you don’t. Lots of people say it’s hokey to count your blessings, and I’m actually one of them, but the payoff is tremendous.”
I practice gratitude everyday and it is so easy. I focus on the gift of a new day and my family, pets and friends. Take time to determine what makes you grateful and when life throws you a curve ball, start thinking about all of those things. For more inspiration, read my blog post–7 Simple Ways to Practice Gratitude Daily.
3. Embrace the Power of Positive Thinking
Happy people seem to have a special quality that enables them to live a better life than the average. Can you guess what it is? It’s positive thinking!
A large portion of your happiness comes from how you decide to perceive the world and positive thinking is tremendously important. You practice positive thinking by:
- Cultivating optimism
- Be mindful of and practice the “glass is half-full” mentality
- Practicing deliberate acts of kindness
- Forgiving those who may have hurt you
- Recognizing problems that you are faced with and believing in your power to overcome them
A personal example of positive thinking is demonstrated in this blog post on my autoimmune disease. Instead of dwelling on all of the negative effects of my disease, I focus on the positive: 5 Positive Ways Autoimmune Disease Changed My Life
4. Surround Yourself With Positive People
Have you ever noticed that it’s tiring being around people who complain all the time or who are just completely unsatisfied with their lives? Have you noticed that it actually puts you in a bad mood as well?
On the opposite side, when we’re around positive, grateful, enthusiastic people, we “catch” their special energy. We begin to feel more grateful, enthusiastic, etc.
A study by BMJ Group concludes that one’s happiness depends largely on the happiness of the people who they are connected to and that it can even be a collective phenomenon.
That’s why you should begin surrounding yourself with positive people and eliminate the toxic friends who tend to zap your energy and positivity.
5. Slow Down, Be Still And Connect With Yourself
Happiness may be trying to find you but your fast-paced lifestyle might be making it difficult. Take time to slow down and to simply be. Use the time to reflect and connect with yourself in a deeper way.
However, it’s not enough to just slow down — you need to be mindful of the present. Focus on your actions, on your environment, on others around you. This takes some practice but is necessary when pursuing happiness.
Make daily mundane activities—such as brushing your teeth or standing in line at the coffee house—a time for quiet reflection. In these moments, ask for guidance and listen for some clear answers. This spiritual source of wisdom will always guide you in the right direction.
In short, if you slow down long enough and reflect, practice gratitude and cultivate a positive perspective, your contentment might just come then and there.