How to be Happy

I often talk about finding fulfilment through growth and contribution. Today, we will look at how to actually find happiness.

You can't buy happiness -- this isn't actually true. Scientific studies have shown that you can actually buy happiness. The truth is actually pretty close. You can't buy lasting happiness. The happiness you get from things you buy, whether it is a car, a house, jewellery, a new computer, or anything else will only last a relatively short period of time. Then there are the studies that show people in third world countries living in poverty who are happy all the time… much more than rich North Americans. What gives?

While having money can definitely help, how long could you really be happy if you could buy absolutely anything and as much as you wanted anytime you like. Things can't make you happy in the long run.

So how can you be happy? Give this a try -- it won't even cost you a dollar:

Step 1: Start by watching this video (about 2 minutes). For a more in-depth explanation, see How to solve for happy: Engineer a Path to Joy (just over an hour).

Step 2: Practice trying to see things in a way that allows you to feel grateful for what you have and your life experiences. It isn't always easy to find that perspective, even for the best of us. If you're been unhappy for a long time, it will take practice because you've got yourself into a bad habit. Think of happiness as a muscle that you need to work on each day to make it stronger.

Can't find anything to be grateful for? Be grateful for the journey and the trends in your life.

Step 3: See things as they are now. Are they better than they were a year ago? Notice trends in your life instead of specific situations. Are you heading in a positive direction? If not, it is time to change course and try something new or different.

See things as they really are, not worse than they actually are. When travelling from one place to another, it is always important to know from where you are starting. If you want to make positive changes in your life, it works pretty much the same way. Next get a clear picture of where you want to go and how you could improve specific things in your life. Finally, make a list of what you will need to do to get there. This is seeing things as they really are.

It may seem overwhelming at first. Be patient and consistent.Things rarely change overnight. Even the smallest positive change each day will accumulate over time.

Step 4: Focus on what is good in your world and build on it. If it means being grateful for your next breath, the water that comes out of the faucet when you turn it on, or the light that is at the command of a switch, then focus on that. Once you have found something to be grateful for, don't just acknowledge it -- celebrate it! Have a gratitude party with your friends. Celebrate sunshine, rain, drinking water, friendships, a bed, food, healthy parts of your body, memories, challenges, being able to help someone and opportunities to learn and grow… just to get you started. Reward yourself for making progress. See setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow.

Unhappiness and stress occur when your view of your world is different from your internal blueprint of what you think or wish life should be. This brings me to the next final step:

Step 5: Accept the things you can't change. Keep in mind that, just because you can't change something today doesn't mean that you won't be able to tomorrow. All you really need to acknowledge is that you will not let something in your life bother you anymore for 5 minutes, today… maybe not even tomorrow. It need not be a life long commitment to abandoning your dreams or desires.

Allow yourself time for unhappiness but agree to put a maximum time limit on dis-empowering self-pity parties. Of course you always have the option of opting back into a state of happiness early.


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