Over the last year I’ve made huge changes to my life, because I realised a lot of the things I thought would make me happy didn’t. I can honestly say I’m happier now than I’ve ever been, despite being essentially homeless, having no permanent job and no boyfriend. If I can learn to be happy, I reckon you can too! Here’s how to be happy…
- Choose to be happy. Once you realise that you have the ability to choose your thoughts (meditation helps a lot with this), you discover the extent to which you can also choose your mood. I used to have constant thoughts that life is difficult. I thought that every day was a struggle, and I was right. But I realised that this thought was not serving me very well. Sometimes life is difficult. But the more I think it, the more that becomes my reality, regardless of what’s actually happening. So now every day I make the deliberate choice to think that life is beautiful. This makes me happy.
- Let yourself be sad sometimes. This seems to go against the previous point, but you need both I think. There are times in life that are genuinely distressing. You lose someone close to you, go through a relationship break up, or crash your new car. So allow yourself to be sad. Tell people that you are feeling sad right now if you want. Sit with the feeling. Notice that you can experience sadness without becoming consumed by it. Take a step back and observe its effect on you, your body and your mind. Much of the suffering comes from our resistance to the sadness, rather than the sadness itself, and the only way out is through. Then, after a time, you can begin to…
- Find the positive. Our brains have a “negativity bias” for evolutionary reasons. We are have evolved to focus on negative experiences because in life-threatening situations, avoiding danger keeps us safer than pursuing pleasure. Fortunately our brains also have tremendous plasticity, so we can learn how to be happy. We can create new habits, and practise choosing more positive thoughts. Even if this positive thought is as simple as, “At least now we’re not together I don’t have to put up with his terrible taste in music/ clothes/ films,” it’s a worthy start. Essentially we are teaching our brains how to be happy.
- Be grateful. One of the ways to find those more positive thoughts is to get into the habit of actively noticing things that you are grateful for. As an example, I was woken up 3 hours before my alarm this morning by an over-enthusiastic cockerel… I could have been annoyed by this (and admittedly, my first thoughts were not saintly). But instead, mindful of my understanding now about how to be happy, I chose to be grateful for the chance to get up early and write while my mind was at its most productive.
- Grow. I learnt this from Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project and it makes so much sense to me. We are happiest when we live in an atmosphere of growth. It actually doesn’t matter too much in what way you believe you are progressing – it could be fitness, learning a language or improving your wine tasting skills (now there’s a thought…). The main thing for learning how to be happy is that you believe you are getting better.
Perhaps the biggest thing though is remembering not to make happiness dependent on something . Too often we think we’ll be happy when we lose weight, get a new boss, find a partner or finish a project. Ban yourself from the phrase, “I’ll be happy when…” It’s not true. You have to chose to be happy now.
Wishing you all lots of love and happiness – let me know how you get on with these!