As the start to the year is in full flow, I thought I would reflect on what I have learnt about how to live a happy life. A lot of tips about how to be happy can be found in other posts on my blog. However, I wanted to highlight one thing specifically: why being happy can be hard.
I feel as humans, we sometimes feel this sense of entitlement to happiness and that we should always feel happy. This mode of thinking can lead to dissatisfaction as it is impossible to always feel happy. That’s why often I think of true happiness as synonymous with contentment or a mindful lifestyle – an acceptance of your feelings and circumstances, be they good or bad. Acceptance doesn’t mean that you need to sit tight, rather than it provides you with stability and choice. Often, when someone is looking for happiness, they are more than often seeking contentment. There are a few characteristics that I feel each person needs to build in order to live a happy life.
Do we ever stop to realise how you need to be courageous to be happy? It’s easy to be happy when circumstance favours us, but to walk the path of happiness, one needs to be truly courageous. Along the path of life, we will encounter difficulties. It is inevitable. So we need great courage to choose the path that is right for us.
2. Having boundaries
I used to think that life could be a utopia. The reality is harsher. As a person who cares and wants to give, give, give, I often forget my own needs. This can lead to feeling depleted of energy, irritable, sad or it could even lead a person to depression. Having solid boundaries of what you can or can’t invite into your life can feel quite selfish to empathetic souls. But they are necessary and they aren’t selfish. To care for others, we need to ensure we have the resources to do so. Self care has to come first.
3. Let it go / Let it be
I made a quip about this a few years ago, how you either had to embody Elsa from Disney’s Frozen, or invoke the lyrics of John Lennon/Paul McCartney. It can be so hard to let go of things and situations that once served us but now no longer do, especially if they have been helpful or present for a long time. However, sometimes things cease to serve our wellbeing. Holding on to it can create a lot of sorrow. So we need to be able to let go. Imagine you are feeling cold and have built a fire. At first it keeps you warm, but perhaps the fire gets out of hand and begins to burn things it wasn’t meant to. Would you keep the fire burning and continuing to get out of hand, or would you put it out? Life can be like that. It can grant us blessings. But when we don’t know when to let them go, blessings can cease to be one.
I used to find letting go very difficult and near-on impossible, so I tried a second option: letting things be. Instead of forcing things to be what they cannot, working to learn acceptance can be a very powerful ability. It perhaps can require more energy than letting go, but learning to accept things as they change and as they are in any given moment allows a person to move with the changing tide rather than against it.
I feel this is a really important characteristic to develop, if it isn’t already a person’s nature. You could have all the blessings and goodness in the world within your life, but if you cannot be grateful for what you do have and are always looking for more, then you will feel a great void. Gratitude doesn’t always come naturally. I find writing down three things a day that I am grateful for can really help me notice even the smallest of things that bring happiness into my life. I’ve also posted a fun My Favourite things Challenge to help develop gratitude in a creative way.
5. Choice and determination
Granted, sometimes happiness isn’t something that can easily be chosen. I think of war torn countries and the how human interactions unfortunately can sometimes be violent. The entire atmosphere, environment and situation does not lend itself to happiness. However, we can look to individuals like Nobel Peace laureate Malala Yousafzai, as inspiration; no matter how difficult circumstances may be, choice and determination can build the bridge towards a happier life.