What does happiness feel like to you?
For me, it appears it unexpected glimpses. The warm sun on my face, laughing with friends over coffee, Sunday morning lie-ins with a good book, the big hugs from family. It always leaves me momentarily speechless but with a big grin on my face.
And then it disappears.
Some modern therapists believe we should be positive and, therefore happy, all of the time. I'm not sure how you feel about this, but I don't think this is a) even possible and b) the point of life. No emotion is 'good' or 'bad'. Yes, some feel better than others, like being happy, but we need the whole range to really live and appreciate life's journey.
If life is a variety of emotions, happiness is less about feeling joy all the time and more about living a rich, meaningful, and fulfilled life, with lots of joyful moments sprinkled into it.
Do you often find yourself saying things like, "I'll be happy when I've lost weight, moved house, changed job, started a family ….?". It's common to jump ahead to the future and forget to enjoy the moment and the ups and downs of the journey. True happiness, therefore, requires a shift of mindset, and it requires you to really get to know yourself. We need to work out what we really want and, at the same time, be grateful and content with where we are right now.
The good news is we can train our brains to seek our happiness. Our brains never stop changing and adapting, so we can use this to our advantage. One way to do this is to change our thinking. Energy follows thought, and we see results where we focus our energy.
With this in mind, here are some simple ways to start doing this every day:
Don't pile on the pressure.
The pressure we feel to be happy can often lead to overthinking, anxiety, and guilt when we are not as happy as we think we should be. Instead of dwelling on whether you are happy, start collecting experiences and feelings that contribute to a happy life. Arrange a walk with a friend, volunteer, snuggle up with your pet on the sofa.
Make fun a priority
We stop playing as adults, and life becomes more serious. We forget to do things just for the fun of them. Whatever makes you smile, start planning more of this in your life. If you can't think of anything, look back to see what you enjoyed as a child, and start there.
Consider what you need.
If you tell the brain you are ok, it will delete this information. However, if you ask your brain if you are ok, it forces it to check in! In the same way, sit quietly and breathe for a few moments, and then ask yourself what you need today to rebalance. Then as Nike says, 'Just Do It'.
Accept what is
Accept what you cannot change, and change what you cannot accept! You'll never achieve happiness by wishing things were different. Identify where you might be able to make changes, and make life a little better by acting on them.
You might be dwelling on how life might have been different if we made other choices, but in truth, we will never know how this would have panned out, and neither can we change the past. There is no such thing as a right or wrong choice, just simply choices we make all the time. Own your past, but don't let it control the choices you make for a better future.
Cats and happiness
This might sound cheesy, but perhaps cats and happiness are more alike than we think. If you chase after it, it will most likely run for the hills, but keep a warm lap and an open mind, and maybe it will sit with you for a while.
And remember, you glow differently when you're actually happy.
Happiness is not about getting all you want, it is about enjoying all you have.