“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
"Happiness is a choice" -- We hear the cliche saying all the time. But no matter how many times I hear that, I can't deny its truth...Happiness is, in fact, a choice. Every moment we're making decisions, consciously or subconsciously, and we have the choice to make decisions that will make our lives better or worse, even in the most simple regards.
With this being said, these decisions are crucial to not only our own happiness and the course of our lives, but for others as well. One happy person creates the freedom for many others to be happy, too. We don't often see the "small" effects of our actions or decisions, but everything we do creates a ripple effect for the universe, simply by emanating positive or negative emotions onto others, which can (and often will) change the course of another's emotions as well, and subsequently another and another...and another.
We're told to think of others before ourselves and in turn are led to believe that everyone else's happiness is more important than our own, creating an unfortunate pattern of pleasing others before truly connecting with our own depths of happiness. We are criticized (and often even punished) for not holding to others' expectations that we contribute to their happiness, at all costs. If I do something that you don't like, I get criticized as though I'm somehow supposed to do all the things you like rather than the things I like. It sounds so absurd, doesn't it? But this is how most of us live our lives (on both ends, as the the person who expects others to make us happy and as the person who is expected to make others happy).
When we spend time "following our bliss" we give ourselves permission to pursue happiness moment by moment, and this will lead us to more happiness, even in the most simple ways.
I've spent years seeking out my own happiness, to the absolute benefit of everyone who is supposed to be in my life (and of course attracting other amazing people along the way...because happy, amazing people are always attracted to other happy, amazing people). These years of seeking out my own happiness has also disconnected me from many people who aren't in alignment with their own happiness, and while uncomfortable at first, this has been one of the single most impactful changes in my life, opening up space for much needed peace and ease.
Along this happiness journey, here are some key things I've learned about how to connect to my own happiness:
1) Disregard all judgements and criticism from others. Regardless of what others think or say of you, whether positive or negative, let it brush right past you. There is no need to attach to the thoughts or opinions of others, and letting their criticisms take up space in your mind will only lead to insecurity and unhappiness. We can't let anyone define who we are, and this is what we do when we nurture their thoughts toward us.
2) Disregard all judgements and criticism toward yourself. We've spent a lifetime being flooded with views from society, media, family and frenemies that encrypt both subtle and harsh images and affirmations of what is acceptable, what is good, bad, right and wrong, and who/what we should be and believe. Delete it, delete it all. Reprogram your mind with positive words, thoughts, beliefs and affirmations of yourself. Focus on the great attributes that you were either born with or developed until now. Shed light on those things only and the truth of the amazing being you actually are will come to the surface powerfully. And when you make a mistake, take responsibility, learn and move forward...don't dwell in guilt or judgement.
3) Disregard all judgements and criticism toward others. Note: We must master #2 before we touch the effects of #3...While our minds will be freed when we no longer focus on others, we can't truly let go of what we feel toward others without first healing those things within ourselves because...
"The only enemy is the enemy within" - African proverb
Okay, now that those 3 are out of the way, we can move on to the steps that are a little more fun and a lot less intense:
4) DECIDE to be happy...and then do all the things it takes to make that decision a reality (we just learned 3 of them above, we'll learn more below). Decide that you want to be happy in the first place. Some people are more comfortable in their misery and don't actually desire to feel happiness because their ego needs to hold onto drama and pain in an attempt to feel powerful and alive. Decide not to be that person. Decide to be the person who wants happiness and pursues it with a lighthearted and childlike passion.
5) Be grateful. This can be hard for some people, especially if you're going through a dark or lonely place right now, but a great start is thinking of a few things you're thankful for each day. Even the thought of waking up each morning can seem more like a curse than a blessing to some people, but somewhere throughout the day, something will reveal itself as worthy of gratitude (for example, a friend/family member you care about is alive and safe; or you had a delicious cup of much needed coffee; or your favorite song came on the radio...no, no, better yet, you have Spotify and can play your favorite song whenever you want to). If you've mastered the simple "grateful thoughts" thing, you can make a list each morning or night of things to be grateful for, and if you have/make the time to write until you can't possibly think of anything else, that's great...Do this whenever you feel down. However, if you do this daily, you won't feel down nearly as often, so I suggest making this an constant habit.
6) Everyday, think of at least one simple thing that you like to do...and do it. It can be as simple as taking a walk on your lunch break or setting aside 15 minutes to read a book. Even things as basic as painting your nails, watching hilarious online videos or laying on your couch creating fancy images out of the patterns on your popcorn ceiling. Do whatever floats your boat, it really doesn't matter what it is.
7) Set an INTENTION to do more things that make you feel happier. Make a list of all of the things you love to do, wish to do, look forward to doing, make you feel good, put you in a better mood, make you smile, make you feel relaxed, give you peace, and so forth. Then categorize that list into things you can do a) now b) soon and c) a little later. And then, begin planning how to cross things off the list...and actually do it.
8) Disconnect yourself from things, people, thoughts and beliefs that no longer contribute to the most happy environment possible. This is different for everyone and will refine itself as your happiness grows, making you more apt to recognize the necessity of exiting unhappy situations immediately, even if only in the mind. This is also a key step to creating the best life possible. We have to create space for the great things that generate the most happy feelings to enter.
9) Learn to meditate...and then do it often. Like, daily. The overall, powerful benefits of meditation are still being overlooked by most people, but studies have proven connections between meditation and a stronger sense of peace, happiness and well-being amongst many other benefits. Simply learning how to clear your mind will help you control your mind, and once we can truly control our minds we stop allowing negative thoughts, worries and fears take up space and time that shifts us toward unhappiness.
10) Choose positive thoughts in every situation. As our meditation allows us to clear and control our minds, we become more able to deliberately choose the thoughts and perspectives we will hold in all situations, including what we perceive to be "bad" or hurtful situations. If you're unable to choose a happy thought, at the very least keep choosing less unhappy thoughts until they're (sometimes slowly but surely) replaced with more ease and peace. Changing your thoughts will change your perspective, and once you can see things in a positive light, most of what you choose to see will be full of positivity and light. As the saying goes, "Change your thoughts, change your life." Whatever your reality is, so is your life.
While these 10 tips seem simple and basic, happiness itself is a simple and basic thing, attainable for all, with the power of none but ourselves and the decisions from no mind but our own. Once you shift your energy toward happiness, you begin to experience more happiness, and then more, and more until suddenly you're happy and everyone wonders why the hell you're so happy, how the hell you got so happy and what the hell they can do to be as happy as you. And then they'll ask you, and you'll tell them. And BAM, you've helped others be happy, too. Perfect!
“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” - Buddha