Discovering what happiness means to you is an important step in finding it. Some people say they want to be happy but when asked what that means they have a difficult time defining it.
A nurse who cared for the terminally ill said she often asked her dying patients if they had any regrets. She was surprised to find that a common answer was that they wished they had allowed themselves to be happier. Everyone wants to be happy, so what stops people from letting it happen?
It may be a new thought that you are actually in charge of your own happiness. Sometimes people think it’s just something that happens without any effort on their part. It’s just a lovely thing that comes along to some deserving people. Well, that’s simply not true. It can happen to everyone. In fact, according to the U.S. Declaration of Independence “the pursuit of happiness” it’s one of our unalienable rights, endowed to all human beings by their creator. In other words, happiness is a state of being that we have the right to pursue.
The wife of the first president of the United States, Martha Washington, figured it out. She is reported to have said: “I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For, I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance, but by our disposition.”
Apparently, it boils down to our attitude. That means anyone can be happy. It’s a conscious choice.
Here are a few suggestions on how to facilitate the process in your own life
1. Capture a Memory
Remember a time when you felt genuinely happy. What were you doing? Even if it was a long time ago, or as recent as yesterday, think back and remember that feeling and figure out what you were doing that gave you that happy feeling.
2. Create a List
Make a list of things that bring out that happy feeling inside of you. It may be as simple as one of the following activities. These are just a few ideas; make a list your own.
Spending time with loved ones who make you laugh and feel blessed.
Helping someone in need and seeing the look of gratitude on his or her face.
Reading a good book.
Listening to music that makes you glad you’re alive.
Cleaning out a closet and reveling in the neatness of it.
Going on an especially fun date with your spouse.
Noticing a beautiful sunset — really seeing it in all its glory.
Praying and feeling the warmth of God’s love surrounding you.
Decide what you’re going to do this week to make yourself find that happy feeling. A fun book to help you get started is The Happiness Projectby Gretchen Rubin. Even though she considered herself basically happy, she decided she could be happier. It’s fun to read her journey in discovering how she made it happen. Her discoveries will likely fill you with ideas for your own pursuit of happiness.
4. Be Practical
It’s important to be practical in your pursuit. If it’s too complicated it won’t be fun. Happiness is fun. It’s pleasant. It’s deeply rewarding. Mostly, it’s doing simple things that put a smile on your face without you being aware it’s there. Then, you look in the mirror and, Voila! Happiness all over your face.
5. Record It
When you feel totally, completely, wonderfully happy, write it down in a journal, maybe even call it your “Happiness Journal”. Write the details so when you look back on it, you will have the fun of experiencing it again.
Happiness is catching, so don’t be surprised to see your spouse and your children laughing more and smiling more as they observe your happiness.
That great optimist, Norman Vincent Peale, gives us a parting shot: “Our happiness depends on the habit of mind we cultivate. So practice happy thinking every day. Cultivate the merry heart, develop the happiness habit, and life will become a continual feast.”