Happiness is not a future goal for someone to aim for. It’s also not something you achieve and then you’re set for life. Life has ups and downs which can lead you to have moments of happiness, sadness and everything in between.
By chasing happiness, you’ll never get there because it’s about the process. Have you ever been having a bad day and something so simple just changes it? It could be the sound of a child laughing, or the sun coming out or something bigger, like getting a raise. You could be feeling bored, down, frustrated, and then your nephew video calls you and you can’t help it but your spirit is lifted. Or you feel like you’re pushing yourself so hard at work, wondering if it’s worth it when suddenly you get rewarded for it. On that day, were you happy or were you sad?
On that day, it wasn’t just one emotion, you had moments of both, right? So if someone is feeling sad, it doesn’t have to mean that they are sad all the time. There are moments of happiness in there too. For me, the important thing was to learn how to increase the moments of happiness and decrease the sad, or less than positive times.
Happiness is found during the path, not at the end of the journey
Nobody is happy 100% of the time. Life situations can happen which can lead to changing how you feel. A good friend of mine, Megan, a very active, lively mum hurt her knee in a skiing accident. It meant that she had to be on crutches for 6 months. It was a huge change for her, with two small children. She wasn’t able to run around and play with them like usual, she wasn’t able to go for her daily run, she wasn’t even able to cook one of her specialities now because it would mean so much time standing up and getting around on crutches in the kitchen was a challenge to say the least. And in general she wasn’t able to be her active lively self.
Over this time, she started to experience lots of negative emotions. Where normally she was a positive person, she found herself feeling down, a lot. Especially during the days when the kids were at school and her husband was at work, she’d be frustrated she couldn’t be more mobile. Of course, she tried to make the most of it by doing other activities that she loved to do in her spare time, like read and watch movies. But these activities weren’t what drove her in life. Her passion was really living life to her fullest, which meant being out and about in nature and going with her family to the park or the beach, going for hikes and of course skiing.
Learn To Love The Journey
You can do behaviours that help you be happier and help you deal with challenges. You can change your thought and behaviour patterns. But it can be uncomfortable. Happiness is not about being comfortable, some people tend to confuse that. There are times when it comes easily, but other times you need to put in effort, and sometimes it can be tough. It sounds a bit weird doesn’t it, that it can take effort and hard work to be happy. But once you learn how, I’m sure you’ll see, like I did, that it’s worth it.
Like Megan, there was a time when I felt sad more often that happy. But it wasn’t because of a skiing accident or something else that happened to me. Back then, I used to just think it was my lot in life to be less than happy. I saw other people around me living their lives, similar lives to me, and seemingly loving it. So, why wasn’t I the same? I would always ask myself, ‘Why aren’t I happy?’ I loved food and the food service industry, so I worked my way into a job managing a five star restaurant in one of the most well known wine regions in Australia. I had close friends and a good family. I had a fiance who really loved me and I loved back. Still, I was not what I would call happy.
I wasn’t happy and I didn’t know why
I realised I hadn’t yet learnt any tools that could help lead me to be happy, I didn’t even know there was such a thing, but there is. And maybe this thing we call being happy comes more naturally for some others, but for me, it didn’t. I had to work at it and still do.
These days it’s easier for me. You know how you do some daily tasks without even thinking about them, like brushing your teeth, or making a cup of tea. It’s automatic. You don’t really need to think about the ‘how’ of it anymore, or the structure of putting the toothpaste on the brush, running it under water, before putting it in your mouth and brushing up and down across each tooth and then the same again on the other side. Or however you do it, now you just do it, without really thinking about it, it’s like a habit. That’s what happiness is for me now.
Can you remember a time when you felt really happy? Whether it was for a long period of time, or for just a few moments. Even if it was just that you felt a little bit happy, you can utilise this memory. Moments like a family get together, or a great concert or theatre show you’ve been to, or a warm hug from a loved one. Do you notice that sometimes when you remember a good moment, it can make you smile? Sometimes you can even feel the same emotion that you were feeling at the time the moment was happening, even if it was a long time ago. That’s right, try it. Why don’t we do this more often?
Did you know you can do this for future moments too? What are the things that you look forward to? For me, there are small things, like taking a relaxing bath after work, or going for a bike ride to the beach on the upcoming weekend. How good does it feel imagining the warm bubbles as your muscles relax into the water. And bigger things too, like which theme I would pick to celebrate my next birthday or planning my next week long holiday. It’s so exciting planning out the menu and the costume I’ll wear dressing up as Miss Moneypenny for a 007 Bond theme. I’m careful not to be too attached to every detail, as things don’t always turn out exactly as planned, but I imagine the fun, loving, exciting emotions that these experiences will bring.
Even if you’ve had something happen which is preventing you from doing these things at the moment, like you have to be on crutches for a time, you can still utilise your mind to bring back the positive moments of past experiences to enjoy in this moment right now. And if there’s a set back, planning future moments to look forward to once the set back is over can create so much exciting anticipation. It can help you get through the set back more easily.
What’s Your Happy Routine?
I have a routine that I do everyday, that I never miss, like brushing your teeth or making a cuppa. It’s so simple I can do it on my worst day, and now it just happens naturally. I think of three things that make me feel a positive emotion. I might pull three memories of great moments, or create three future moments that I’m planning, and I imagine them as if it is happening right now. I don’t have to move around or go anywhere to feel this, I do it right where I am. When I wake up in the morning and am still in bed, or while I’m walking to work, or after my gym session in the evening.
I just sit or stand, close my eyes or I keep them open, and I pull that past or future memory to this moment. I feel the same feelings I would be feeling then, I hear the sounds that would be happening in that moment, I even visualise what would be happening in that moment. I don’t do this for long, just long enough that I can feel the positive emotion strongly inside of me. I notice my physiology changes, I usually stand up straighter and start smiling. Even my breathing changes, and it feels great!
Doing this everyday, the positive emotions seem to resonate around me and continue to linger inside for a time after I’ve done this, even if for just a few moments. When I do this at work, I notice myself smiling and humming as I’m walking around, and other people notice too. I feel fun and bubbly, even when I have to go to a boring meeting, or do something I’d rather not do. I don’t even mind going back to the office after a great holiday, because I have the memories which I go back to.
Now I have learnt so many tools and techniques to feel more positive more often than not. There’s still more to it, but if you find your Happy Routine, I think it will brighten your days.