by Barry Kerr and Kristine Gay
How can you have a happier life?
Ongoing happiness requires that we not only understand how to proactively create happy moments, which everybody does at times, but also achieve a level of self-awareness and skill to be able to create an abundance of those happy moments, on a continuing basis. Some of us were taught how to do this by our families; most were not. But we can learn.
It starts by disconnecting our minds from all the old and current messages we receive from the world. Advertising thrives on our tendencies to look outside our “selves” for happiness. Many of the most popular religious and spiritual influences do the same. Our culture is built around this, and the majority of us have probably never questioned it.
For many of us, the occasional happy moments, as well as the negative ones, seemingly come along from out of nowhere; beyond our own control, a matter of temporary fortune or someone else’s actions. Our own feelings seem to happen “to” us. We say things like: “You made me angry!” “This promotion makes me so happy!” “This is so boring.” All of these expressions assign the cause of the feelings outside of the self. It’s as if we are only passive receivers of life’s feelings, unable to generate our own emotional experiences and dependent on other people, events or deities to do so.
When we are just waiting for happiness to happen to us, it seldom does. If we look outside of our “selves” for happiness, it also seldom happens.
To cope with this, we create hope. We might say things like: “If I can just make more money, then I’ll be happy.” “If I can marry a good man, …” “If I have a child, …” “If I can just get caught up with my work, …
Well, it doesn’t hurt to have desires and goals, but the trouble is that we can accomplish any or all of these things and still not feel any lasting happiness. Yes, it can be a happy experience, but it’s not these outcomes that cause the happiness; the real source is deep inside our “selves.” It starts with gratitude. It’s all in the attitude. And based on attitude, even if none of our goals happen, we can still create happiness.
For example, let’s say you’re not happy with your current job. You look around at other possibilities and find a couple things you think might bring you more fulfillment. You decide that if you can get one of those jobs, THEN you’ll be happy. You see, you’ve set it up so that your happiness depends on an external condition, perhaps outside your control. Indeed, if you don’t get that new job, you’ve already destined yourself to be unhappy.
However, if you know your happiness comes from within and how to access it, sure, you can remain totally aware of the shortfalls of your current job, but you can also remain open to all the ways that you can create happy moments in your current job while looking for a new one.
How? Well, instead of focusing on what doesn’t feel good, focus on how you can create better feelings. You proactively make good feelings for yourself. For example, you bring a little sunshine to someone on your job. When that annoying colleague keeps complaining about her mother-in-law, you change the subject to something you enjoy. You take a little more pride in the quality of your work and celebrate your improvements. You learn to sing a song inside your head while you’re working. These are all things under your control. It may not be enough to help you feel like you’ve found the perfect job for your life skills and passions, but it does put you in charge of your happiness, not the outside world, and makes you a more desirable candidate for any new job that might appear.
Of course, this can sound “simpler said than done.” And at first, it can feel similar to being in denial. Old habits can be hard to break, but the world is full of people who have turned this one around. To learn how to do this in a genuine way, beyond superficial affirmations, many of us need help from life coaches or therapists. There is a synergy of energy with experienced helpers that can accelerate our ability to discover and access our own deeper and profoundly abundant source of divine strength and happiness. All it requires is our sincere longing and an open willingness to look within. We can sense the difference when we are with someone who is happy from within. These are the people who can teach us.
This article was first published in Natures Pathways magazine in October, 2013.