Decide to be Happy Now
It is not unusual for me to come across people who feel unhappy with themselves or their circumstances. These individuals tend to have a higher propensity to look for external approval or solutions instead of inner dependence and resiliency. This continuous attention to the external pressures of achievement often leaves us feeling sad, lonely, and inadequate.
Unfortunately, we often are not conditioned in our early years to find satisfaction in life’s simplicity.
It is common for us to grow up with the ideology that we have to be more, do more, or expect more to find contentment. It is rare to meet fellow humans who believe that existing as you are is enough. The trouble is, when you look outside of you for what it seems you must be missing, you are met with more disappointment.
The typical human mind focuses on negativity and worst-case scenarios as part of our survival nature. The very thing that keeps our species surviving is also one of the main factors preventing us from enjoying ourselves mentally. By nature, these survival tendencies are tremendous blockers to the ability to perceive joy and optimism.
I often tell my clients happiness is a state of mind, not a condition of your life.
Generally, happy people can find the silver lining. They understand that bad things happen but choose to feel good despite them. Happy people cultivate their relationship with themselves, understanding at some level that you alone can never truly make others happy or vice versa. Instead, happy people choose to find ways to create their own happiness, perhaps noticing the small things in daily life that make them smile: acts of kindness, animals scurrying in nature, or finding humor in trivial mistakes or happening.
Socrates said, "The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”
In pursuing a goal of happiness, it is helpful to acknowledge that there are always many ways to look at the world and your life circumstances. Happiness is not fixed. It is one of many emotions that ebbs and flows through life. Creating realistic perspectives by realizing that happiness comes and goes just like any other emotion can help you begin to perceive life more positively. Taking the time to enjoy the good things in life, regardless of how trivial they seem, rewires your brain to focus on positivity. While it is unrealistic to expect constant happiness, you can become more optimistic by permitting yourself to enjoy what is in front of you.
If you always worry about the future, external perceptions, or guilt surrounding self-indulgence, happiness will continue to elude you. We may indeed have many challenges in our daily life to overcome. This feels even true now more than ever, but we can rewire our brains to see things from a different perspective. We can choose to find the good in others and life. We can give ourselves permission to explore the what-ifs instead of staying hidden in fear. Most importantly, we can take time out every day to participate in, acknowledge, and affirm the good in our lives.
When I ask my clients what makes them happy, many cannot even think of three things—regardless of their gender identity, age, or economic status. I encourage you to start making a daily list of what you are happy or appreciative of in your life. No mention is too small. Maybe you like your eyes, your hair, your house, the deer on your lawn, your children, your health, your home, your car, your freedom, or your ability to read and write. Maybe you're happy you have a warm home to live in, good food to eat, or a nice pair of shoes. Whatever draws your attention, list it. Repeat the process over and over every day for several weeks. You may be surprised by how quickly a shift occurs.
It can be extremely challenging to balance raising a family, working, and trying to do self-care. Add to it a pandemic, unpredictability, and a lack of control over important life events. It is not uncommon or abnormal to feel more anxious or depressed. A series of physiological effects may be getting your attention.
Some of these symptoms are:
Frustration or anger
A change in appetite
Loss of motivation
Higher levels of self-criticism or criticism of others
Digestion and bowel changes
Difficulty waking the morning
Trouble falling asleep
Waking up in the middle of the night
Changes in libido
Greater fatigue or exhaustion
Difficulty in decision-making
Restlessness and poor attention
The list is not comprehensive, but it highlights some of the most common symptoms. If you can check off several of these items, it might be time to get help. While I am a huge proponent of self-happiness, if you are struggling with your mental health, please seek out a trusted healthcare professional for support.