Happiness is hard to hold onto. Sometimes we speculate that people who are rich and famous must always be happy, but studies show that’s not true. In spite of what people post on Facebook, when you really get to know someone you quickly discover they’re struggling to deal with some problem.
There’s so many challenges that can make us unhappy: A miserable marriage. Not being married. Kids concerns. Substance abuse issues. Being overweight. Health struggles. A bad boss. Money problems.
We all want to be happy. But it’s hard when there are always seems to be some problem that causes us to worry, to get frustrated and angry, or to become discouraged.
So is it really possible to be deeply satisfied with your life? The simple answer is yes. The challenge is that you have to know how to create a happy life. Positive psychologists study people who are able to flourish in all aspects of their life.
Here’s a clue: happiness cannot be attained from any external source. That’s why it doesn’t work when we tell ourselves, “I’ll be happy when…my bank account is big…my marriage is better…I get promoted…my kids are more responsible…etc.” Even if we achieve these goals, the good feelings we experience turn out to be fleeting. No sooner do we get one part of our life working well when problems in another area flare up.
The first step to becoming happier is to focus on how you’re doing internally. Happiness springs from the attitude you have about life. Therefore, you are the only one who can bring happiness to your heart and mind and soul. Your happiness hinges on how well you manage your mind when you’re in the midst of living your stressful life, for that’s what ultimately determines your sense of well-being.
If you train your mind to use the principles of positive psychology, then you will have the tools you need to think clearly about what will bring you the joy and serenity that you’re seeking. Then happiness can become a relatively stable state of being because you’re always capable of regaining control of your mind and your emotions when external events threaten to disrupt your well-being.
This brings us to the second step to becoming happier – understanding that there’s nothing wrong with you. Like all human beings you’re hardwired to have fight-flight-freeze reactions in stressful situations. The problem is that no one has ever taught you how to successfully use your mind to overcome the negative emotions of anger-anxiety-depression that accompany these reactions. In fact, our society inflames our negative emotions by repeatedly showing us images of death and destruction and talking about the horrible possibilities that await us.
If you learn to spot the flaws in your thinking that intensify rather than diminish your negative reactions then you can keep yourself from derailing into a downward spiral. For example, learning to look at problems optimistically rather than pessimistically allows you to find solutions rather than wallowing in feelings of unhappiness. By thinking that a negative event such as an argument with your spouse is a temporary, specific situation, you can avoid taking their comments personally. Telling yourself that your mate was upset about one specific topic will enable you to believe that the relationship will be good again once the two of you agree on a solution.
The third step to becoming happier is to accept that the world has both bad and good elements. If you wish to have more joy than suffering in your life, your task is to focus your mind on the good. Your past is filled with positive and negative experiences. How often do you recall times that you were at your best? How much insight do you have as to what personal qualities you were using that enabled you to create those peak experiences? How effectively are you deploying those strengths to create good times for yourself right now?
The fourth step to becoming happier involves becoming committed to being happy. Not simply wishing you were happy, but taking the responsibility to do what it takes to bring happiness into your life. You must learn what creates authentic happiness. You must choose to detach from negative and remain positive when facing problems. You must practice doing things to make yourself and others happy every day.
If you cannot take these steps on your own, then call schedule an appointment with a therapist who specializes in positive psychology – the science of success and satisfaction.