Happiness is an elusive thing that remains out of reach for many of us. We look outward for someone or thing to provide the missing piece in our lives. “If only I had more money… I would be happy” or “If I was in a relationship, then I would be happy”. The reality is that true happiness comes from within, and because of the negative nature of our world, it takes constant effort to maintain. You can talk yourself into happiness and here are some simple practices to improve your outlook. It begins by saying “I am happy!”
“It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.” -Dale Carnegie
“I am happy!” That statement, even if it is not absolutely true, is the basis for changing the way you think. Most people have a constant monolog of negativity running through their head, myself included. We are conditioned to focus on the worst aspects of a situation as a means of self-protection. We go through life expecting the worst and creating problems where they didn’t previously exist. I believe the more creative a person is the larger they can make an imaginary problem. This initiates the fight or flight response, and we make decisions based on those emotions.
Self-talk is both a problem and an answer. We need to overcome the constant stream of negative self-talk with positive self-talk. It takes a conscious effort to silence our inner pessimist, but we can change our personality. By emphasizing positive words we become tuned to positive things. Words such as like, love, hope, dream, and achieve create feelings of purpose and meaning in our lives. Words such as hate, can’t, tired, poor, and broke create feelings of despair and futility.
Our lives are generally surrounded by negative people and media. We get a constant barrage of gossip, jealousy, death, and just plain bad news. These things have a cumulative effect on us, building up and influencing our thoughts and actions. Bad thoughts then bring bad words, and bad deeds are not far behind. The only total that this adds up to is a bad life. To clear the tainted lens that we observe life through, we must develop a mind that seeks out the good and beautiful things.
“You can not have a positive life and a negative mind.” – Joyce Meyer
Take time every morning to read an uplifting quote, watch a motivational video, or listen to an inspirational podcast. Then look in the mirror and remind yourself of the blessings you are grateful for. It is easy to forget what things are going right when we constantly complain about minor discomforts and inconveniences. Starting the day with gratitude and a positive mindset will set the tone for that day, but you must remain vigilant against negative thoughts.
Avoid depressing or hateful journalism. All too often the mainstream media only shows the most gruesome and disheartening stories. They can’t get the viewing and ratings by sharing news with a positive or uplifting message. Miserable, pessimistic people want to receive messages that reinforce their view of the world.
Create a habit of self-improvement. Personal growth and education will help you overcome any fears or difficulties you may have in your life. It will give you the tools and confidence to follow your own path to happiness. I believe we are the most fulfilled when we are growing and moving forward every day. Accomplishing goals and overcoming adversity helps to improve our self-image and contributes to our overall happiness.
“The only way to have a friend is to be one.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
The most important things in our lives are often the most neglected. Our relationships help define us and contribute to our happiness and satisfaction. Our interaction with friends, family, and partners brings both the highest highs and the lowest lows. Be the type of friend that you want to have. Take an interest in the people around you, and be a positive influence in their lives.
We all know toxic people. They are the ones with nothing but complaints and negativity. They are unwilling, or unable, to notice good or positive things. Get them out of your life. Their negativity will have much more influence over your mood than the reverse, especially if you struggle with happiness.
Doing things for others helps to build relationships and will give you a feeling of joy. Placing your loved ones first shows them that you care and they are important. It is hard to maintain a meaningful relationship if we only concentrate on our own problems and well-being. Practice listening and understanding without judgment or advice. Truly hear what people have to say, from their perspective, and let them know you value their opinion.
“Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.” -Napoleon Hill
Satisfaction comes from learning, growing, and improving. If we stay in our comfort zones we are allowing exterior factors to control the tempo of our existence. Then the illusion of security is shattered by the reality of the loss of control. If we are constantly striving to make ourselves and our environment better, we become the master of our own destiny.
Fear is a major obstacle to happiness. It comes in many forms and affects the way we live and respond to the world. We all experience it in one form or another. It might keep us from asking for a raise or applying for a promotion. It may prevent us from trying new things or meeting new people. By facing our biggest fears, whatever they may be, we create the opportunity for the biggest growth and open fresh avenues for success. Identify what fears are holding you back and work on them every day. Any problem can be overcome by persistently working at it; small steps forward will cover tremendous ground over time.
Personal growth is about improving all aspects of an individual. We are complex beings with habits and characteristics inherent and learned. We have a mental self, a physical self, a spiritual self, and a social self. All of these parts intertwine and compose the unique person that we are. Being physically fit and eating healthy are just as important as confronting our emotional issues and expanding our personal network. Attention to all areas of our life and character will help in maintaining happiness.
Overcoming negative tendencies and achieving happiness must come from within the individual. Positive self-talk and input, healthy relationships, and persistent personal growth are important keys that will help, and best of all…they can be done with very little pain and no cost. Get started today.