Ahh, the eternal question… how to be truly happy. Of course, there really isn’t one answer, but depending on your life situation, at least one of these six points might just hit the mark… and that should be enough, right? This was inspired by an article I read in “Good Housekeeping” (yeah, yeah! hehe), and there were a few points there that were quite applicable and really helped me. So I hope to be able to do the same thing for the readers here.
Sadly, I’m part of the darker, gloomier side of things, thus the title of the blog. I guess the situation I’m in now won’t allow me to be happy… just yet. But I am optimistic that very soon, everything will fall into place. Here’s what I have in my Happiness Loot Bag: I have a great job that I love, but I’m annoyed at how I need to be hands-on with everything for something good to happen. I’m my mom and dad’s favorite and they would do anything for me, except support me in the most important event in my life. My fiancee is the love of my life, but we sometimes argue like crazy about the smallest, most irritating things.
My happiness inhibitor is that I easily get dragged down to that sad state when people who are closest to me are really down. It indirectly affects my mood because no matter what I do about it, I can’t seem to alleviate the situation. So even if I try to be happy when I open my eyes every morning, it just won’t work. I’m a pretty optimistic and realistic person, which is the best mix in my opinion. You don’t sell yourself short but you don’t expect miracles to happen either. So I think I still have hope in trying to achieve the happiness that I’m longing for. And there really are strategies that can help you along the happy road to life, and here are six of them:
1. LIMIT YOUR FOCUS
It’s been said that if you strive to attain too many out-of-reach goals, such as trying to be the most loving parent, the most loyal friend, and the most successful employee, all at the same time, then the chances of you being able to be just one of those things gets smaller and smaller. You put too much pressure on yourself, so your “perfect plan” backfires and you blame yourself when you fall short of your goals. But the real reason you did was because you tried to juggle everything at the same time, and instead of achieving even just one goal, you achieved none. The end result is that you feel like a failure, and that really won’t help you be happy now, does it?
Manage your Expectations. By concentrating on being great at one thing first, and then being able to achieve it, will give you a greater sense of self-worth. Back in 2006, I wanted to be able to do something that would make my parents proud, be a perfect boyfriend, and be able to hit over my sales quota for the year. I killed myself every single day trying to achieve all of those things at the same time. The end result was that I wasn’t able to do anything that significantly made my parents proud, my girlfriend felt I put so much effort at work that I had zero energy when I was with her, and of course, I wasn’t able to hit over my sales quota. That was a pretty depressing year. So if you are in this scenario, do yourself a favor and focus on the most important goal first. Once you have achieved that, then you can move on to the next. One of the best ways to be truly happy is to have a deep sense of self-worth, and it all starts from achieving your goals in life.
2. FIND YOUR “COMFORT ZONE”
This is probably the most difficult strategy because not everyone has one that they can run to. The first thing you need to do is find your peaceful place, your haven, and once you do, it will always be a place you can go to anytime you are in that unhappy state.
Try to find your “flow.” A word defined as a state of effortless concentration and enjoyment. Some people achieve this “flow” by having a massage or taking a swim, for me, it’s doing crossword puzzles. Whenever I’m bummed out at work, or irritated by something that happened at home, I’d pick out all the crossword puzzles available and try to solve them. I usually realize that I’m in a much better state of mind after that. The trick here is to find any kind of activity that you love that makes you lose track of time. The sooner you realize what that is for you, the sooner it will be that you are able to shorten your sad moments and welcome the happy ones.
3. COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS
One of the easiest ways to feel happier is to recognize good things when they happen to you, remember them, and be able to save them for a rainy day. Surprisingly, there are a lot of people who have a very difficult time doing this, mainly because they take any blessing that comes their way as a momentary thing. They fail to savor it, and just let it pass like it was any other normal moment in their lives.
My fiancee used to be so depressed when she was still working as a flight attendant. The pay was great, but the sheer loneliness of that job was simply unbearable. I tried to surprise her by going to the Middle East where she was based to stay with her for a week. She appreciated it more than anything, but when I left, she just got back to her old depressed state until such time that she couldn’t take it anymore and came back home. If she had only realized that the people who were in the same state as she was in, didn’t have the luxury of having their loved ones go visit for a week, then she probably would have been able to savor that moment every time she felt alone. And by doing so, she probably would have been able to handle her loneliness better and have a smile on her face every time she remembered it. Wouldn’t you feel great if you heard your co-workers talking about how lonely they are because they haven’t seen their loved ones for months, while you were able to spend an entire week with yours?
So if you have trouble counting your blessings, try keeping a gratitude journal. People who take note of the things they appreciate experience greater happiness, less anxiety, and even better sleep. In this case, being able to have an experience that few people have should give you an edge. Sometimes, all it really takes is for you to recognize that to be able to appreciate what you actually have. And in doing so, you feel loved and more blessed.
4. HAVE A STRONG E.I.R. (ESSENTIAL, INDISPENSABLE RELATIONSHIP)
Being able to positively connect with someone is a good thing, but having a really strong connection with another is even better. Life is built on different levels of relationships, whether you are acquaintances, friends, lovers, enemies, parents, and the like. Researchers have discovered that majority of the very happy people in the world have very good relationships. It did not matter if the strong bond was with a partner, a parent, or a friend. The important aspect was that the person had at least two out of the three essential relationships in hand.
All it takes is to be able to depend on one friend, one partner, and one parent, to be truly happy. Simple enough right? Well, if you’ve got more than that, congratulations. Because as easy as this sounds, it really is a daunting task. True relationships are tested through time. You may think you’ve got the best buddies in the world right now, but until the time comes that you’re in the lowest of lows and you are utterly miserable and needy, that’s when your true friends come out of the woodwork. And you will be surprised just how few you actually have, or any for that matter.
If you have such a relationship, treasure it, and nurture it. It’s going to be your ray of light when you are down and out and you feel like the world has crashed down on you. And when you think nothing can get you out of that state, they most definitely will. People naturally benefit from having a reliable emotional partner in their lives, and the fastest way to improve on this is by spending more time with them. These are the most important people in your life. When you think back at your happiest times, you will be seeing the same old faces.
5. PAY IT FORWARD
If you haven’t watched this movie… well, you should hehe The story revolves around a 12-year old boy who believed in the goodness of human nature, and was determined to change the world for the better. The concept was when someone does you a big favor, don’t pay it back… pay it forward. And he had 3 simple rules: #1 It has to be something that really helps people; #2 Something they can’t do by themselves; #3 I do it for them, they do it for three other people. It’s actually a very utopian concept, and if everyone just practiced it, the world would be a much happier place to live in.
A good deed a day keeps that frown up-side down. Helping others makes us feel capable and full of purpose, and somehow, it allows us to stop stressing about our own little problems for a change and concentrate on helping someone else who needs it more. It doesn’t even have to be at the level of what the kid is trying to achieve above. If you have done a good deed before (you should, otherwise you’re a really horrible person), you would know how great it feels to be able to help someone out. These are simple acts like helping someone with directions, pointing out to the person driving the car in front of you that his trunk is open, donating to charity, and the like.
Two weeks ago, I was on a flight back home from Cebu and there was an old lady who was having a really hard time walking down the flight of stairs to the baggage area in the airport. Instead of just walking past her like everyone else, I asked if she needed help and put her hand on my arm. It was a simple act of kindness that cost me absolutely nothing, but made me feel like a million bucks when she looked at me and said “salamat anak.” If that doesn’t put a smile on your face… nothing will.
6. DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF
There are a lot of people who are affected by the smallest, most inane things in the world. Unfortunately, I’m one of them. I get easily irritated by really slow drivers who cause traffic; people who talk so loudly in public like they’re in their own houses; street kids who intentionally smack their faces on your window just to leave a mark because you refused to give them coins; people who throw trash out of their cars like the street is a giant trash bag… you get the idea. And studies show that having a conciliatory attitude about these things can help counteract feelings of depression, powerlessness, and anxiety. But how do you let go of all this anger and resentment you have towards others?
Learn to just let it go. Instead of focusing on how annoying things are, simply switch to something else that actually matters. When a bus driver swerves from the bus lane to my lane and causes an abrupt reaction on my part, I can simply shake my head and go on driving instead of rolling down my window and throwing a glass bottle to his face. Shout if you have to, curse if you have to, but let it all out right then and there, and move on. You will realize that by letting things go, you actually become more disciplined and your patience is actually practiced. You become more at peace with the world, and what used to quickly affect you would just become one of those trivial things that pass in an instant. If your motivation starts to falter, keep in mind that forgiving and forgetting is actually a really good gift you give yourself. And when you succeed in doing this, you will realize that you have become a much more pleasant person in the end.
These strategies are by no means the only ways to be happy. So if you have your own, please feel free to drop a comment in and help pay it forward