Happiness is inherent to us as humans, yet it can feel elusive at times. How is it that it can seem so difficult to attain something we’re all born with the capacity to feel?
There are all kinds of external factors that appear to have an effect on your overall state of well-being, things like finances, relationships, political issues, family, etc. They don’t have to affect your happiness, if you don’t allow them to. Life will continue to unfold around you whether or not you are happy, and it’s way easier to face challenging times from a place of calm alignment.
Happiness is an inside job – it begins and ends with you. How anyone else feels about your happiness is actually nothing to do with you, and that’s the challenging part to remember. If you’re waiting for someone else to come along to ‘make’ you happy, you may be waiting a long time. If you’re waiting until circumstances are just right to make the move towards happiness, you may be waiting a long time.
As you begin to connect with feelings of happiness in yourself, you’ll find you’re drawing in experiences that reflect that inner happiness, and changing your perspective on life.
Following is a list of 10 things that can get you started on increasing your happiness quotient. It is laid out in a way that each suggestion leads into the next, or each can be read and practiced on their own.
- Feel your way
As I said above, external factors are not responsible for your feelings of happiness (or otherwise). They are, however, excellent indicators of resonance. Being aware of how you’re feeling in every situation is a good place to start. It’s information that can be used to make choices that lead to more of the stuff that feels resonant, and less of the stuff that doesn’t.
Let’s say, for instance, you’re involved with a group of people who have fun getting rip-roaring drunk every night, and something about it doesn’t feel right for you. That’s a good thing! Now you can start from there to figure out what doesn’t feel right – is it the drinking, is it the noise factor, is it the venues, or even the connections with the friends themselves? Have you made changes in your life that have taken you on a different path? Only you know the answers, and they lie in your capacity to feel the resonance. This isn’t about blaming or judging people or situations, but about examining your past choices and understanding where you can make changes based on your current feelings.
- Disconnect… and connect
As you become more aware of the feeling of resonance (and its opposite, dissonance), you can make choices in alignment with what feels right for you. Being clear on what feels discordant presents opportunities to disconnect from that and find connections that provide more resonance. (See how it’s all connected?)
This is not just about people; activities, habits, beliefs and patterns can all act as indicators of misalignment. Does what you’re doing, thinking or experiencing light you up? Does it feel in alignment with your heart’s desires? There’s no reason to continue along a particular route that is filled with dissonance once you’ve recognised it. You are under no obligation to continue on a journey in a state of denial for the sake of appearances, or making others comfortable.
This is where the idea that your happiness is an inside job is really key. Once you’ve recognised the areas that aren’t feeling resonant, step back and see what you can change (hint: it’s also an inside job). Don’t blame the circumstances, your partner, your relationships, etc for your feelings of dissatisfaction, take action. An action can be as simple as making a choice.
If disconnecting is the action you need to take, be honest, with yourself and all involved. Work towards changing whatever in you was triggered by that situation so you don’t simply move on to a matching experience. Trust in your capacity to form new connections based on your shifting alignment.
- Be conscious – don’t numb out (or escape)
Ah, consciousness. It’s a vital component to happiness. We are offered so many ways to numb ourselves to the situations that cause us discomfort that we’ve become habituated to avoiding the sometimes ‘ugly’ truth. Sex, alcohol, drugs, work, you name it, there are ways we can avoid looking at the truth of our feelings. (That’s why I made feelings # 1).
Knowing what you’re feeling is a state of consciousness. Staying conscious is the tricky part. Once you know, it might begin an avalanche of potential pitfalls that arise as a result of that feeling, which then starts a storm of fear and self-doubt. ‘I’m unhappy in my relationship! Now I have to leave and find a new home, and my partner will hate me, and I’ll never see my kids, and my life will be chaotic! … Forget it, it’s too much trouble. I’ll just throw myself into work, or have an affair…’
Being conscious takes work. It takes courage. It takes being really, really honest with yourself no matter how the truth plays out. This is where Number 4 comes in.
- Learn to be okay with NOT feeling happy (accept what is)
It might sound counterintuitive to you to say that being okay with NOT feeling happy is an aspect of happiness. It’s part of the understanding of unconditionality, which integrates all aspects of a thing as part of itself. In other words, unhappiness is a part of happiness. It’s a way to increased happiness.
All states of being are temporary, and knowing it’s okay for you to feel whatever you are feeling, honestly, truly will allow you to not resist the discomfort that is part of being human at times. It leads to emancipation. It leads to increased happiness because it allows you to identify and acknowledge your needs and to give yourself permission to find ways to meet them.
If you accept that there will be times that you feel unhappy, angry, exhausted, frustrated, etc you’ll find you’re more present. You can say, ‘hey I feel unhappy right now,’ and identify what discordance exists that may be indicating the need for a change (even a very small one). You can know in that moment that happiness is increasing as you let yourself experience what IS, instead of striving to escape from it. These moments are excellent teachers.
- Learn to love spending time with you
This ties in beautifully with the first four points. If you can love to be alone with yourself, you’ll really get clear on the happiness as an inside job idea. When you’re alone, do you want to escape from you? That’s a pretty good indicator that what you’re feeling is only and always internal.
Spend time doing things you love, alone, even if it’s only a few minutes a day to start. Feel the joy of being creative, dancing, walking, singing, just for the sake of it. Joy is the only reason you need to exist! We all need connections with others, just not as a means to escape our inner worlds. When you find happiness within, your connections deepen and open up channels for happy people to come into your experience as reflections of you. Happy begets happy!
Stretch yourself to do things alone you’ve never done before. Enjoy a meal at a restaurant. Go for a moonlight walk. Feel whatever you feel; the object is not to fake happiness if that’s not what you feel, it’s to be honest. Allow yourself to express the truth to you. Ask what you’d need to make the experience more comfortable. Figure out how you can give that to yourself.
- Commune with Nature
Yup, I said commune. You are a part of nature – a part of ALL that is. You are not separate. As you spend time outside, being with yourself and the world around you, you begin to appreciate just how natural the highs and lows of life are.
We are constantly surrounded by examples of light and darkness, joy and pain, birth and death. They are all aspects of life, providing a divine balance to everything in existence. Without death, there is no rebirth. Without light, darkness would not have a counterbalance. The world of duality in which we’ve lived for millennia is one of inherent balance. Experiencing this diversity leads to our growth and expansion.
Observe the world around you without judgement, and insert yourself into the scene. Get dirty with nature. Remember your own nature as part of a larger whole. Happiness begins to feel more attainable from that attitude of acceptance, feeling your own ebb and flow as inherent to a natural state of being.
- Hang out with children and animals
Animals and children are sort of ‘unadulterated’ manifestations of universal energy. They are closer to the knowledge of their natural state than human adults are.
They remember the value of play and of adventure. They remember their purpose as the act of simply being. They know what it means to live from a state aligned with feeling their way through. They can teach us wonderful things about life and about happiness in particular.
Children find joy in the smallest things. They can spend hours watching a stream filled with swimming creatures or reading the pictures in the clouds as they roll by. Animals find joy in being exactly what they are – no excuses, no judgement – they know how to accept themselves.
As humans grow and take on information from the world around us, we become entrained to certain ways of seeing, being and believing. We lose sight of the joy of being ourselves, whatever that means for each and every one of us. And it IS a joy. It is connection to the wonder of life, the beauty that exists in each moment, and the act of living at its simplest and most complicated.
- Get Creative
Ah, these are all connecting up beautifully. It could be summed up so far as: feel your way to resonance, connect, and create from a place of natural, joyful, alignment.
Creativity and feelings go hand in hand. As you lean into living through your heart and soul, life becomes a creative endeavour. Release ties to defining creativity in specific ways (drawing or painting, for instance) and see how life unfolds as a magical adventure. When you are present to what arises and comfortably in tune with your feelings, needs and desires, you are able to respond to each situation using the true essence of creative energy.
All things are creations of collective or individual imaginations. We are powerful beings capable of defining the trajectory of life by the way we engage with it. As we become more conscious, we create new pathways, new experiences and new relationships. This is the nature of living creatively.
How does creativity tie in to happiness? If you are trying to control or define the way your life evolves, you’re operating from a state of worry or fear. If you allow for life to flow in a more natural way, you’re open to creative solutions in every moment. It’s responsible as in ‘the ability to respond.’ It means you can feel at ease in each moment, knowing you have the capacity and opportunity to face whatever arises, flexibly and openly.
If you’ve tried to control the flow of life, it is easy to fall into a state of disappointment or regret when things don’t meet your expectations. Control is a constricting energy, and it is challenging to be creative from that energetic state. It’s easy to feel powerless or thwarted at every turn, feeling like you’ve tried SO hard to make things work. Those are not happy states of being, and they are, you guessed it, an inside job. And that’s okay. All of this is information that leads to increased happiness.
Where can you relinquish control and allow for creative solutions to arise? Where can you incorporate flexibility and flow into your daily activities? Let go, and trust. See what plays out one small step at a time.
- Move your body
Dance, walk, run, skip!! Shaking things up really gets things flowing.
Physical movement has a way of shifting internal ‘stuckness.’ And it doesn’t have to be huge, a few dance steps here, a short walk before work; whatever you can incorporate into your day. Work with the limitations of your body, and incorporate movement. Wiggle your fingers and toes. Stand up and stretch for a few minutes, right now.
There are ways to make it possible, even when it feels impossible. Get off the bus two stops early and walk the rest of the way. Set a timer on your desk to go off every hour and find a place to bust a move for a few minutes. Park further from where you’d normally park and skip to work.
You don’t have to go out dancing if that’s not your thing. I LOVE kitchen dancing, sliding around on the linoleum like some crazed Risky Business wannabe. This is another one of those things that can easily be done alone. The happiness factor is not diminished by whether anyone else is present. In some ways I prefer dancing alone; I am a spectacularly bad dancer, and feel freer when no one is around. I also get to pick the music, the louder the better.
Find whatever movement works best for you, and let yourself really enjoy it. That’s the key. This is about your own state of mind, feeling your way to balance. It is not about punishing yourself for hours at the gym every day for the sake of appearances, especially if you dislike every moment of it. While exercise raises serotonin levels (the happiness hormone), it defeats the purpose if the entire experience of exercising feels like a massive chore.
Combine exercise with time with animals and children for an extra boost. They don’t judge. They move freely and express their joy in spontaneous bursts. Watch, learn, and join right in.
- Do something kind for others
This can feel like a challenge when you’re feeling down yourself, yet it has an immediate and uplifting effect.
There’s something about sharing a moment of connection with someone from a pure and loving place that feels joyful. The wonderful thing is it most often brings joy to others as well.
Start small, if it feels easier. Smile at a stranger as you pass them on the street. Say hello. Ask how someone is and be prepared to really listen to the answer, with your ears and your heart. Pay for a stranger’s coffee or lunch. Leave an anonymous love note where someone will find it.
Make a donation to a charity you love, in your name or someone else’s. Foster or adopt a pet from a shelter, or sponsor a child through school. Send hand-written letters to people you love, whom you haven’t spoken to in a while. Send care packages. Become a volunteer. Help an older person cross the street or climb the stairs, or offer to carry their groceries.
There are infinite ways you can connect and offer kindness. It can take a moment, or it can last the rest of your life. It can cost money or be completely free. Be creative. Let go of the need for reciprocity and simply give. As you open your heart to others in this way, you’ll find it is filled with the joy of feeling your gift received.