Being happy has always seemed to be the thing that us humans chased the most. The way in which we chose to try and find happiness is different for everyone but we all want to be happy. Scientists have studied the topic for years, how can we find happiness?, is there a path or a formula for being happy? The fact that this question has never been fully answered tells us that it is a difficult and perhaps some would say impossible question to answer because what we define as happiness differs for everyone.
So perhaps we need to pose a different question and instead ask “how can we live a good life?”.
This puts a bit more context onto the issue of us finding our happy place and some fulfillment which is something that interests me more, I have always felt and believed that instead of happiness, what we really need is contentment. The reason, I prefer to look at happiness from the lens of contentment or living well is that contentment is much easier for us to define and put into words. Also as a coach, it is much easier for me to help people work out what they need to be content than finding the unique combination that will give them happiness.
The truth is that for many of us, we don’t really know what we need to be happy and for others, we don’t know how to be happy. This is because happiness by definition is a transient emotion, that can be here one moment and gone the next. We cannot be happy all the time and truth be told we should not be happy all the time. Our emotions can be very varied depending on not just what is happening around us but also our own unconscious biases and perception. This is why being able to regulate our emotions is very important. Emotions can be unreliable, fickle and transient. This is why making one particular emotion our goal is in itself a futile exercise.
So apart from the fickleness of emotion and the difficulty in knowing what makes us happy, we can also have people that do not know how to be happy. There are reasons why happiness may seem elusive such as;
- Having depression and anxiety; both of these disorders can leave you feeling a sense of dread and feeling like something bad is about to happen which makes it difficult for you to enjoy anything
- Spending too much time in the past dwelling on things that went wrong and your failures can leave you feeling resentful, frustrated and unable to see the positives in anything
- You let your emotions control you. As its famously said, you cannot control what happens to you but you can control how you react to what happens to you. As I mentioned above, emotions can be fickle and unreliable so we need to learn how to regulate and manage our emotions so we can live more happily
- You’ve lost track of who you truly are and what you like. This is common when you’ve been in a long term relationship, have been taking care of others for long periods of time or you’ve spent a long time pleasing other people. You don’t know who you are and cannot identify what makes you happy. In order to find what makes you happy, you have to spend time alone and learn to rediscover your true self. This requires learning how to be okay with solitude and loving your own company
- You don’t know how to be mindful. Mindfulness is about living in the present moment and making the most of each day you have without worrying about the past or overthinking the future.
I remember when my anxiety and depression were at an all time high and people (trying to help me) would tell me to just be happy. Be happy, focus on your kids, don’t spend time worrying about what you cannot change, move on, and all the rest of that rah rah self help talk. The problem was I didn’t have a clue how to be happy and to be honest, I had spend so much time being a mom and wife, I had lost track of who I really was.
I tried my best to be happy but it just didn’t work because at that time, I thought “something” or “someone” would make me happy but of course I learnt that it wasn’t about what I bought or had or was given or whether I was alone or with someone, in fact, I learnt I couldn’t find happiness through anyone or anything. My happiness was dependent on my mindset and the way I looked at life.
What I learnt and would like to share with you is that, if I wanted to be happy, I needed to first learn how to be content no matter what life threw at me and the only way to learn contentment was to develop some essential mindset attributes, this meant cultivating a positive mindset.
I also realised that I needed to develop and work on attributes such as gratitude, kindness, selflove, wisdom, learning to love myself, learning how to be mindful, learning how to deal with anxiety and worry, being part of a loving community, finding my anchor, having good quality friendships, taking care of my healthy and living an authentic life. I cover all of these and how to attain them in my book Screaming helps.
The truth is that even when we constantly hear that money or possessions do not buy happiness, there is a part of us that doesn’t want to believe this. How many times do people say yes, I’d rather be miserable and rich than miserable and poor?.
The truth is finding out how to accept our “lot” and learning to find our PURPOSE in life is the only thing that paves the path to a life that makes us happy. Our search for our purpose is not about making 6 figures or being famous, but its about finding that thing which we love but also involves elements of compassion and service.
When we learn how to serve others and do what we truly love, we develop so many attitudes and skills which are really the key to healthy living. Attitudes such as gratitude, mindfulness, being authentic which automatically means loving ourselves as we are, living our truth, having the courage to face challenges, not worrying about what others think about us. Of course, I am not saying these are automatic gifts that we are given when we find our purpose, but what i know is that when you find your purpose or your thing, you are prepared to put in the mindset work, the self love work, the self confidence work and “all the things” needed because suddenly everything makes a lot more sense and there is something to work towards. Also when you are in this space, you are going to attract the right people to yourself which kind of brings us back to the recent study done by Harvard.
This was the longest and one of the largest studies done on happiness. The study followed over 700 men for almost 80 years to find out if they could answer the question as to how to live a good life. The answers were interesting but revealed what many of us already know or are realising.
There were three main conclusions from the data; 1) Social connections are good for us and loneliness kills, 2) the quality of your close relationships matter and 3) good relationships protect our bodies and our brains.
You can watch the TED talk on YouTube here What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness | Robert Waldinger – YouTube
Another article from the Blue zones website, highlighted the importance of having a purpose in life. The article stated “In the blue zones regions of the world, having a purpose has always played a major role in well-being and the resulting extreme longevity seen in this areas of the world (Blue zones are geographical locations in the world that features people who have the highest rates of longevity). It continues, it is also believed that the strong sense of purpose possessed may act as a buffer against stress and help reduce overall inflammation. in turn lowering the chances of suffering from Alzheimer’s, arthritis and strokes.
In my work as a mindset coach, I work with people who recognise the need for a mindset shift so they can find out who they really want to be. If you would like to learn more about how to work with me or you just want an informal chat, feel free to contact me via email or through any of my social accounts and if I could give you some advice to help you learn how to be content and lean into your purpose, it would be this; 1) focus on the good things in your life, learn from but don’t dwell on your mistakes and failures, take it one day at a time and 2) learn to love yourself.