Life at times can be challenging and often there are unpleasant circumstances in our life that are unavoidable. Although we can’t always be in a state of happiness, there are ways of increasing the amount of time we spend each day in joy.
The key to a happy life is to have tools and people in our life to help us return to happiness as quickly as possible. When we have the necessary skills instead of fighting and resisting change and undesired events, we can put our energy into shifting back to a state of happiness.
The first tool we all need is to have a support group. Support groups consist of trusted friends and family. People who are like-minded, know us well and who have our best interest at heart. They act as a necessary sounding board to help us let go of powerful negative emotions. When we share how we feel about life with those that care about us we are keeping our power with us and not giving it away. This allows us to let the hurt go, release anger, or move beyond our frustration leading to healing and personal insights. Remember it is important not to let our talk sessions turn into a “pity party” or a list of complaints. This is not productive and hinders our happiness. When we complain it can increase our anger, frustration, hurt or pain. Instead of coming from a negative "why me?" place, start statements with “I feel ….”. This allows you to accept responsibility for your feelings and life. Asking your support group for advice can help, knowing it is coming from those who truly care about you.
The next tool is learning how to let go of guilt. As I’m sure we all know, guilt can be debilitating and is something we all struggle with at times. When we find we are struggling with guilt, it is often helpful to see where we are judging or comparing ourselves. Guilt is directly related to judgement. As children, we are often told when we are 'good' and when we are 'bad', and over time we slowly build an image of what we believe our 'perfect' self should be like and what is not acceptable about us. As this happens, we start to judge ourselves against this perfect model and continue to fall short of our 'ideal', because it is often not even possible to achieve. We tend to hold onto our guilt as a form of self-punishment because we believe we “deserve it”, which leads to increased suffering. We must learn to forgive ourselves and let go of our self-judgments.
Taking care of our self is the next essential step in our experience of true happiness. Tune in to your heart throughout the day and see how you are feeling. Are you anxious? Peaceful? Stressed? Joyful? Sad? Noticing what emotional state you are in throughout the day will help you become aware of what you are feeling and, in turn, will help you to bring yourself back to a more peaceful, happy place.
The easiest and most simple tool to help when we are anxious, stressed or feeling down is to stop and take several slow, deep breaths. In today's mindset, we have come to believe that stress, busy-ness, anxiety, and continuous activity are a necessity, and the only way for us to achieve and succeed in life. But research has shown that stress and anxiety actually cause us not to be able to think effectively or correctly, and results in us taking inefficient actions and making unintelligent choices which end up ultimately causing mistakes and failures instead. Slow, deep breathing helps to calm the mind and brings needed oxygen to the brain. Just this simple exercise done throughout the day will help us move back into calmer states and into more efficient, productive decisions and actions.
The last tool to try is while taking these deep breaths, think about and experience the following and other similar questions: How does it feel to be happy? To feel strong and confident? What wonderful people and experiences have you had throughout your life? What have you felt free and passionate about in your life? What are you grateful for?
It is only when we are truly happy within ourselves that we can effectively help, support and bring others happiness as well. As we find support, let go of guilt, stop and focus throughout the day on what we are feeling and ponder and reflect on the positive experiences and feelings we have had in our lives, we will be able to strengthen the happiness and peace in our lives. As we make our personal happiness a habit and priority, these positive inner emotions will become more and more frequent, longer-lasting, and the world around us will reflect our inner joy.