Written for & published by Fitbug (Dec 2014)
By Melissa Doman, M.A.
A title change at work? How your butt looks in the mirror? The type of car you drive? Do these things make you truly happy? If they do, how would describe those feelings of happiness? A sense of deep fulfillment, gratitude, or contentment? If you’re having trouble answering these questions, or the answer is no, then please read on.
My dear friends, happiness is more than a promotion at work, your jean size, or how others perceive you. In this precious thing we call life, we all chase after this mystical “happiness,” but have you ever reconsidered what it is you’re chasing?
I hate to break it to you, but there’s nothing guaranteed in life. Work structures change, material things falls apart, and guess what, the way your butt looks in the mirror may change over the years. However, when it comes to personal development, rich friendships / relationships, and appreciating the little things in life, those things are constant works in progress and can’t be taken away from you. More importantly, they can satisfy you on a deeper level than you may have realized.
I’m not saying you have to become Buddha-like in your perception of happiness, or a material minimalist. There isn’t an exact prototype of what to strive for, but rather, some ideologies that can be useful to adopt in life.
Try this: learn to pursue things that matter, and forget the rest. Odds are, the things we typically pursue to try to make ourselves happy, based on what people tell us to go after, may often leave us feeling unfulfilled, or even let down.
I challenge you to try to pursue a different kind of happiness. Here’s a few to get you started:
1. Are you happy with who you are? Why or why not?
Challenge: what are 1-2 traits about yourself that you want to improve? Working on narrowing the gap between who you are now, and who you want to become, can improve your overall happiness and sense of authenticity.
2. Which friends add positivity to your life and how?
Do you find those relationships to be reciprocal two-way streets, are those people there for you when your chips are down, and what needs do those friendships fulfill for you? If you have a hard time answering these questions about certain folks in your life, it may be impacting your overall perception of happiness and you don’t even know it.
Challenge: Focus your energy on investing in the friendships that encourage you to grow and enjoy you for you. By building a solid support system around you of people who add to your life, instead of detracting from it, you’ll notice that you feel more encouraged and motivated by those around you who value similar things that you do.
3. Name 3-5 little things that happen every day that make you truly happy and why.
Conversely, name 3-5 things each day that irritate you.
Challenge: Those 3-5 things that irritate you each day, ask yourself, are those annoyances something you’ll care about in 1 week, 1 month, or 1 year? Does being irritated by those things help you in any way right now, or just raise your blood pressure and make you feel irked? See if you can learn how to let those annoyances pass you by like water off a duck’s back. You may come to find that getting a smile from a stranger, the mini victory of completing a small goal, or just being happy you have your health will be so much more gratifying on a deeper level.
By challenging yourself to the above-mentioned items, you may find that you gather a new perspective on what you value and what can truly make you happy. What’s even better is that you may find that you’ll be able to find happiness in simpler things. It’s all about readjustment of expectations, finding what’s important, and finding things that can give you simple happiness and pleasure throughout the years. This will especially serve you well when you go through hard transitions in your life.
For those of you are interested in the more theoretical side of this, you can check out books on Positive Psychology, specifically The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt. For those of you who want to pursue happiness by decluttering their lives from a material perspective, check out The Minimalists at www.theminimalists.com. No matter how you choose to change how you find inner happiness, there are innumerable resources available at your disposal. It’s just up to you to go out and get it.
P.S. – a good way to jumpstart this process is by watching the YouTube video of Neil DeGrasse Tyson talking about “The Most Astounding Fact.” It’ll leave you truly inspired and connected to something larger than yourself. Here’s a taste: “That’s really what you want in life, you want to feel connected, you want to feel relevant, you want to feel like you’re a participant, in the goings on of activities and events around you.”