The Declaration of Independence mentions 3 unalienable rights: “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Notice that the founding fathers say pursuit of happiness.
There are probably a few reasons they chose to imply that people inherently chase contentment, but are not guaranteed to find it. For one thing, our own definition of happiness is constantly evolving: what makes us merry one day might not be important at all at a future date. Each person also seems to have a genetic predisposition to happiness or a range of emotion that ultimately ends up at a certain level. Think about all the rich and famous people who still don’t seem to obtain the bliss they desire.
Absolutely. The problem is that most people search for external things that make them happy. A bigger house, a prettier girlfriend–you get the picture. Instead of looking outward at the world, you must first search within.
Finding happiness is a state of being rather than a state of permanence. It’s not something that you come across one day sitting at the top of a mountain and keep forever–it constantly changes. Each day, we need to work towards happiness much like we would work towards getting stronger by going to the gym. In order to practice being happy, there are several actions we must perform regularly. This post outlines several actionable steps that you can take to be happier starting today.
When life throws obstacles your way, how do you respond to them?
No matter who you are, unfortunate things are going to happen to you. A loved one might get sick, you might say something you regret after the fact, or an unforeseen event could occur that changes your outlook on life. The first step to finding happiness is knowing that you are in control.
You might not get to choose what happens to you in life, but you are always in control of how you respond when the going gets tough.
Imagine spending most of your adult life in jail. It’s easy to see how someone in this situation could be unhappy and full of resentment. Rather than letting this resonate, Nelson Mandela went on to end Apartheid in South Africa and went as far as forgiving those who had wronged him. Harboring resentment only stirs up the past, but doesn’t move you forward towards something better.
If you want to be happy, you need to let the past go. Think about the way things are, not the way that they were. In doing so, you can decide how to approach the situation and find a solution that makes things better at that moment and in the future. This comes back to mentality: playing the victim card might initially help you obtain self-pity or the sympathy of others, but in the long run it stagnates your growth as a person. It does nothing to help your cause because you are wallowing in the past. To overcome unhappiness, we need to exert control and take accountability.
When you realize that you control much of your life, it becomes a lot easier to make things better. Instead of complaining the next time something bad happens, take a moment to see what you can do to find a solution. DO NOT fixate on the problem. If you practice this on small things, you will eventually be able to work your way up to more difficult situations. When you practice enough, you will find that big problems are a lot less scarier because YOU can influence the outcome and find a solution that makes it more favorable.
Starting today, practice taking accountability. This will lift the feeling of uncertainty in life and give you the empowerment you need to be happy.
The mind and the body work together.
We can read all the self-improvement books in the world, but without physical well-being only a fraction of your potential happiness can ever manifest. Think about it: you can wash and wax a car, but it won’t go anywhere without gas in the tank. Like cars, our minds need fuel to help propel our happiness forward.
There is scientific evidence that proves exercise decreases the likelihood of many physical ailments and also decreases the likelihood of depression. In contrast, less exercise increases your risk of depression.
During a time when people are drawn to video games, social media, and Netflix, it can be hard to prioritize working out over other distractions. People who neglect working out usually claim to be too busy or get discouraged by a lack of physical results. The truth of the matter is that you can’t run a mile once and expect to be in peak shape forever. These things take time, but once you get to a certain threshold, you will begin to look forward to working out. You will see physical and mental results if you keep up this habit long enough.
If you have as little as 30 minutes to spare, you have enough time to be happier and healthier.
You are what you eat.
It doesn’t take a PHD in nutrition to know that McDonald’s, buckets of ice cream, and soda are bad for you. Have you ever craved something unhealthy, then eaten it, and felt worse or not satisfied?
These unhealthy foods are taking a toll on you both physically and mentally. They make you lethargic, don’t digest properly, and have serious long term impacts.
Here’s the good news.
By having a healthy diet, you can greatly improve your happiness. Start to research healthy foods and start preparing things for yourself. This doesn’t mean you have to become a vegan or never eat anything unhealthy again, it simply means that being aware of what goes into your body can have mental and physical benefits. Try it out for a week and see if you can identify any difference in energy or your mindset.
Think back to the last time you stayed up too late. How did you feel the next day at work?
Chances are, you weren’t at your best if you didn’t have a good night’s sleep. Sleep is the fuel that helps your body run. Having less fuel (sleep) in your tank, means that you are running on fumes the next day or at a limited capacity. This means that you’re more likely to make a mistake, you’ll feel groggy, and probably not be in a good mood.
Quality sleep is extremely important for our mental health and pursuit of happiness. When you’re well-rested, you will feel better. Take care of your body by getting the right amount of quality sleep and your reward will be more happiness.
People are very social creatures.
Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, all people feel the need to interact with others at one point or another. Yet, when we become depressed, our first inclination is always to withdraw. Instead, we should be interacting with others: friends, family, and even strangers.
Another great way to improve your happiness is to be kind to others. It might seem counterintuitive that you reaching out to other people will actually make you happy, but it’s true. Think about times when you’ve given gifts and when you received them. Which made you feel better? Why?
Giving in one way, shape or form is one of the easiest ways to make yourself happy. Make time every day to do something kind for another person. This can be holding a door for a stranger, calling a relative you haven’t spoken to in a while, or giving someone a gift. Seeing how happy your actions make other people will make you a happier person. It will boost your confidence and make you proud.
Just remember to give and you shall receive. Try spreading kindness to others starting today.
All people want to be happy. To find true happiness and contentment, we need to work at it on a regular basis. By trying to maintain control, enhancing our physical well-being, and being kind to others, we can achieve happiness. Get started today.