Are There Ways to be Happy?
Raising this type of question can appear so simplistic, but it is probably one of the most philosophically explored topics since the discovery of brainwaves in humans.
“Is There a God?” may be the number one most asked question.
“Can I be happy? And how do I achieve that?” are likely the next most-popular queries. Those answers cannot really be solidified by anyone but you. Introspection, education and other ideas (see below) can help you find your answers.
More Questions Before Answers
What ways can you, or I, my mom, or your brother, or anyone for that matter, be happy? It is such an absolutely nebulous question because, truly, is anyone continuously happy? If we were content all the time, how would we know it? We wouldn’t be able to identify it. If we had no other feelings in which to juxtapose our state of being, there would be no contrast informing us of our actual state of glory.
So for the sake of realism and to legitimize the information in this article, we have to assume that the term “happy” is a blanket. It’s an umbrella that covers a spectrum of delight and overall feelings of satisfaction intertwined with sprinkles of anger, fear, sorrow, and maybe several other experiences that help house and describe the gamut of human emotion. But let us assume that the happy element exists as the majority.
Happiness is Not For The Forever-Unhappy
The other assumption that must be made in this experiment to encompass definitive determinations of happiness is that this information cannot be retrieved from nor geared towards the perpetually unhappy. Happy for the “typical” is not necessarily something like your shoe staying tied all day or a plane not crashing into the house. There is a lot of relativity packed into this topic.
So again, for the sake of this particular piece, let us accept that the term happy will be relative to the “average” sort, one who perceives happiness as a feeling of inner bliss (for perhaps 60-85% of awake time), as opposed to a one who experiences it as a completely unusual occurrence or a manic episode.
To feel happy or to want to feel like a happy person, you have to want it. It is a state of mind as well as a desired state of experience. Someone who wants to be miserable shall be. Another who finds solace in unhappiness, won’t gravitate toward the positive. If you are currently unhappy, but want a change and you seek the unfamiliarity of joy, then read on.
Materialism Is Not An Answer
Most findings show that in order to create an overall happy feeling in humans, materialism plays a minute part. In fact, Carey Goldberg, in his New York Times article states, “…materialism is bad for your emotional well-being.” Studies point to divorce, depression, and illness as a result of attempting to obtain an abundance of material objects; the stress becomes overwhelming.
Obviously, in order to survive in modern society, it is expected we will maintain a job, a shelter in which to live, and sustenance such as food and clothing. So it is too absolute to suggest that we do not need certain material objects. The point is, however, that those objects are truly necessary. (And by the way, being grateful for those few necessities helps us on our quest to live happily.)
Nonetheless, possessions of interest, which in the scope of life do not a happy person make are: many or fancy vehicles, an overabundance of clothing, excessive jewelry, and the list goes on… It may look nice and it may add comfort, but materialism does not equal internal satisfaction.
We Have The Tools
The majority of good feeling is derived from within— a positive attitude, an optimistic outlook, a healthy lifestyle, and a generosity of spirit. The other elements (outside ourselves) generally consists of things we share with other humans (again, not materialistic) — touching, laughing, conversing, sharing ideas, listening, and giving.
The tools we need to explore and achieve our unlimited ability for happiness are within our grasp; we either have them or can develop them. The number one essential is desire. Once you have decided that you will do all in your power to create joy, you cannot fail.
Now that you’ve established an overall goal, putting the following 10 lifestyle-behaviors into practice should help you gloriously on your way.
1.) Positivity: How you perceive the world affects your being. Your brain tells your body how to feel. If your brain sees things as ugly, hard, miserable, cold, bad, unfair, etc., that is how you will feel in relationship to your life.
Watch how your brain works. If it starts to slip into negative mode, switch-up those thoughts. Positive thinking is key. The glass IS always half-full, period. Don’t doubt it or deny it. And, once in a while, it actually may be completely full.
It is essential that you embrace this fundamental practice. Optimism and positivity are your choice to make. Find something good in everything, even the littlest of things. When you do, you will see and feel that the world is a brighter and nicer place. Experiencing things that way will bring you a sense of joy.
2.) Exercise: There is no place for denying the need for exercise. You can learn to love it and even crave it, if you find the right activity. The gym may not be your spot. There are outdoor sports (swimming, basketball, softball, running/jogging, Frisbee), small group activities (hiking, biking, yoga, martial arts, dog walking), and individual ways (brisk walking, stretching, weight lifting) to get your heart-rate up, tone your muscles, and maintain bone density.
Keep in mind, it’s great to look good, but that’s not what we are focusing on at this point.
The idea is:
- to release endorphins—those feel-good hormones;
- detox your body (release toxins from your organs); and
- create an achievable goal so you can feel successful. According to the Mayo Clinic, “…the psychological and physical benefits of exercise can also help reduce anxiety and improve mood.”
3.) Eating Properly: We’ve all heard the expression, “you are what you eat.” This is true in every sense. Three different studies of eating Fast-Food collectively concluded it “can inhibit savoring, producing negative consequences for how we experience pleasurable events.” The bottom line is to eat fresh foods. Avoid saturated fats and processed foods, decrease sugar intake, and that will be a great start on the road to happy feelings.
4.) Sleeping: When we don’t get enough sleep we get cranky. Cranky does not equal happy. The benefits of sleeping a proper amount reduces stress, allowing us to feel rested, relaxed, and hence, joyous. For youngsters (those still growing) and the elderly, between nine and eleven hours per night are recommended. For the ages in between, eight hours is ideal.
5.) Touching: The sense of touch has been proven to decrease feelings of anxiety. Anything that decreases stress increases relaxation. Calm, peace, and lack of tension equals a feeling of bliss.
6.) Smiling: Physiologically, the movement of the corner of the lips moving upward improves one’s mood in a positive direction. Smiling genuinely feels really good; however, if you are in a rut, fake it. Try it—force a smile—it is guaranteed to make you smile again or even laugh. Smiling = Happy.
7.) Giving: Pleasure centers in our brain are active when we experience things like dessert, sex, or acceptance of money. One important study showed that the “pleasures centers” are equally active when we observe someone giving money to charity. Giving to others increases well being above and beyond spending money on ourselves. Giving gifts, a helping hand, time to listen, anything that offers assistance to another selflessly, creates a feeling of joy for the giver.
8.) Gratitude: A positive-effect proven as a direct practice of gratitude is the diminishing effects of depression. In The How of Happiness, Lubomirsky writes, “Grateful responses to life can lead to peace of mind, happiness, physical health, and deeper, more satisfying personal relationships.”
Being grateful for large experiences or acceptance of gifts is natural (or naturally taught). Being genuinely grateful for the little things is an acquired skill. This skill is fundamentally essential in feeling happy. Some examples are: grateful to wake up; grateful you have hot water; grateful you have shoes; grateful your children are healthy; grateful you can see…get the picture?
9.) Loving Others: When was the last time you honored your best friends or told them you love them? We get shy, for some silly reason, when we want to verbalize our love directly to our friends, siblings, parents, grandparents, and sometimes even our children. Instead of texting, “Luv ya”, try vocalizing, “I love you.” It will go a long way, both ways. Even if the other person cannot respond, you will have expressed yourself fully.
10.) Loving Yourself: It sounds so corny and cliché, but embracing your strengths and weaknesses will empower you. Knowing who you are, your capabilities, and your ability to improve allows for a relaxed sense of oneself. As mentioned many times, the absence of stress will nurture joy. Make time to be alone: in nature, meditating, breathing, reading, looking at old photos, observing others … Whatever beckons you to an environment of tranquility/inner excitement will ultimately guide you to a happy place.
Let me know what you do to improve your happiness, along with your advice on how to be happy today in the comments below.
Goldberg, Carey. (February 8, 2008). Materialism is bad for you, studies say. The New York Times. (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/08/health/08iht-snmat.html)
Lubomirsky, S. (2008). The How of Happiness. Sphere.
Seppala, Emma M. Ph.D. (November 5, 2012). Psychology Today: Emotional expertise for happiness and success