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3 Tips for Seeing the Happiness You Already Have

Posted on October 18, 2018

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Have you ever stopped to think about what it means to be happy? It’s not an uncommon thing to ponder. After all, most of us are pursuing happiness in one form or another. And if we are pursuing something it should mean that we have defined it, right?

When asked if they are happy many people will hesitate before answering. They will begin mentally cataloguing their lives and considering in which areas they are satisfied and in which they are not. Then the answer starts to become complicated and often nets out to some form of  “kind of, not really, maybe, or I will be when” type of answer. The answer most of us would like to give when asked, “Are you happy?” is, “Yes”, plain and simple. So why can’t we do that?

Part of the problem is that many of us create benchmarks for our happiness. We assume happiness is contingent on attaining certain goals. We tell ourselves, “I will be happy when (fill in the blank),” or “I will be happy if (fill in the blank).” And then one of two things generally happens.

  1. We attain that “thing” that will bring us happiness (job, money, relationship, etc.) and the resulting happiness lights up our lives — then fades.
  2. Or, we exist in a constant state of waiting to be happy while we work toward that “thing” that will bring happiness into our lives.

Clearly there is a problem here since, whether we achieve that “thing” or not, we still end up at some point waiting for happiness. This continual waiting and pattern can instigate depression in some. If you are depressed it will be even harder to find your pathway to happiness.

Another issue is that we too often look at happiness as something off in the distance. It’s like a mirage in the desert. We keep running towards it and it just moves farther away. And if you do actually find water in the desert and quench your thirst, well, later you just end up thirsty again, right?

Instead consider looking at happiness as something that can precede those benchmarks you are trying to achieve. It is what is happening now and what will propel you forward towards those things you are trying to accomplish.

It’s not an impossible task. Happiness often hides in plain sight. Seeing it, however, will require a different approach than many of us are accustomed to taking. Check out these three tips for finding the happiness that is likely right in front of you.

  1. Enjoy your day. Each day has the potential to be a good one. Where we get in trouble is by placing too much importance on what we expect to have happen on any given day. These expectations can be either good or bad, but either way they influence the way we approach things. Some might ask, “Shouldn’t I just expect every day to be a good one?” Well, no, not necessarily. Predetermining what each day will be like leaves you open to disappointment should things not go the way you had planned. So give yourself permission to take every moment as it comes. Some of those moments will be good and others not so good. However, by not focusing ahead of time on how you think they should feel you will find yourself better able to enjoy each moment for what it is.
  2. Smile at your half full glass instead of scowling at your half empty one. In other words, change your approach. It may sound silly or seem forced, but by making yourself smile and purposefully notice the good things around you will automatically increase your feelings of happiness. As an exercise try jotting down a list of positives around you every hour or so. Requiring yourself to pay attention will create a pattern of awareness. Eventually these actions can become habitual and result in a more constant, positive state.
  3. Take pleasure in people. Whether you consider yourself social or not, being surrounded by others, especially those you love or enjoy will drive up your happiness. Even just being in social environments rather than isolated ones will improve your outlook. Try smiling at people when you are out and offering a hello whenever possible. You are likely to get smiles and hellos in return. Even this small exchange offers a human connection and those connections automatically increase feelings of happiness.

There is no magic formula for finding happiness. But with a few adjustments in your approach you may find that the happiness you are trying to “get” or “find” is something you already have.

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Author: Kurt Smith, Psy.D., LMFT, LPCC, AFC

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