Five Ways to Have a Happier Life
In talking with clients, friends, and family over the last few years, I’ve learned that one of the most common things people want more of is happiness.
We all want happiness.
But, happiness looks different for each of us.
And, happiness seems to escape us far too easily.
The good news is there are ways to become happier. Don’t think of this list as a “To-Do List” of behaviour modifications. These are simply suggestions, from one friend to another, so you can begin thriving in life, instead of merely surviving.
Get Curious about Everyone, Everything, and Every Idea. Your brain cannot be curious and angry at the same time. So, if you want to experience less anger and more happiness, the first step might be getting curious! As adults, we tend to put people, things, and ideas into boxes. We say things like, “This situation SHOULD BE this particular way.” Or “My emotions will be limited to these 'acceptable' emotions." And, "That person will ALWAYS act that way.” It’s easy to assume you know how someone is going to show up or how a situation will work out based on past experiences. Now, put yourself into the mindset of a child again. Children don’t have boxes around things or cubes to fit things into. They simply take the world at face value and ask beautifully innocent questions like “Why is it like that?” or “I wonder what that person is thinking about.” They ask these questions with no judgments or shame, because they are simply curious about what could be. Give it a try sometime!
Let others off your metaphorical hook, which is another way of saying, “Forgive others.” When someone does something that ticks you off, you may want revenge or justice. Maybe you want the person to admit that what they did was wrong and you were right. (See #3 next!) We expect them to make up for how they disappointed us, so we hang them on our “hook” until they do. The trouble is this is similar to hanging a piece of raw meat up on a hook in your house. The longer it hangs, the more rotten it becomes. The meat is not the one that suffers from the bad odor and pesky flies. It’s the person who hangs the meat there. Letting others off your hook for what YOU think they SHOULD do can open the door for a flood of happiness.
Let go of being right. Whew! This is a tough one for some of us! As a child, it was ingrained in me that you must ALWAYS be right. That’s a lot of pressure for a kid! I believed that parents and other adults were always right, and I should grow up to be an adult who was always right. And, until recently, I thought I did a pretty good job of that. I would have fought to the death to prove my point. (An example of how needing to be right steals my joy!) After what felt like a thousand fights with my husband about his opinion being wrong simply because I thought so, I realized I was not offering happiness to me or to him. I thought to myself, “What’s the worst that could happen if I consider that I MIGHT be wrong about this?” The moment I was willing to have a look at that question was the moment happiness began to replace bitterness, resentment, anger, and discontent.
Embrace Opportunities. This one seems weird and might bring to mind the 2008 Jim Carrey movie, called Yes Man. But, let’s face it, there were a couple of good points in that movie! (For a refresher, click here) One of the biggest stealers of happiness is shutting down possibilities. Here is an example. You find out your car must go into the shop for two weeks. You tell the mechanic this is absurd, and you will just keep driving your car without fixing the problem. But, what is that decision costing you? Besides your potential safety! What if there were a great opportunity available, like carpooling to work with someone? What if that person becomes your new favorite person at work? What if the relationship blossoms into a lifelong friendship? Your kids become best friends, you go on joint vacations, and you have so much fun together? All because you stayed open to possibilities in the midst of the crappy situation of your car being out of commission for two weeks.
Change Your State of Mind. I could give you the perfect formula for creating happiness in a lab, but it wouldn’t do you any good until you accept that happiness is a state of mind. Tony Robbins tells a story, in which a woman came in for her counseling session with him. She sat down, started crying, and began telling him all the terrible things that had happened to her that week. He says he stood up abruptly and shouted: “Excuse me, the session hasn’t started yet!” Almost immediately, she regained her composure, stopped crying, and went from whining to saying, "Oh, sorry!" in a normal voice. The point of this story is that you can shift your state of mind if you want to. This woman's state of mind was sad and depressed, and she was focused on all the things that went wrong. To her, it seemed that everything was falling apart. But, after an external interruption, she immediately shifted her frame of mind. Another great example of this, and a great experiment to try if you have small children, is to interrupt a crying child by asking them if they want ice cream. Almost immediately, they stop crying and get a smile on their face. It’s truly fascinating to observe as they prove the theory that the shift to happiness is available.
I think it’s safe to say most human beings want the maximum amount of happiness in their lives, yet we tell ourselves we can’t have it. Would you interrupt those thoughts and put one of these five steps into action this week? Remember, this is not about behavior modification. It is more about using the resources available to you to UnLock the life you’ve always dreamed of.
Please share in the comments below which step above speaks to your heart the most.
Need more evidence? Here is a great article from Harvard researchers on the connections between happiness and your health.
Standing with you,
PS. Time is another big thing that people want more of, which Julia beautifully addressed in an earlier post titled “I Don’t Have Time To Read This BlogPost!.”