Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.
I was shocked to read a recent study that reported less than 30% of people interviewed said they were deeply happy, and that 25% of Americans and 27% of Europeans claimed they are depressed. As a naturally happy person, I was amazed at how many unhappy people there are. Generally when I work with my coaching clients, they are not unhappy about everything in their life; they usually just have one area they are working on or one challenge to overcome.
So why are so many people unhappy? And why are so many people just going through the motions, appearing to be happy, pretending to be happy, when they’re really not?
The first step in determining if you’re happy or how happy you are is to define happiness. To some, it means doing what they want, having what they want, and being who they want, that is, fulfilling their dreams and desires. To others, it’s a state of mind that is not dependent on the outside world, but more on an inner contentment. And to still others, it’s about being responsible for their choices and accepting responsibility for whatever shows up in their lives, even if it didn’t seem like a conscious choice.
Ultimately, happiness can be defined as an emotional state, a feeling of peace, contentment, well being, joy, and connection. Most people have felt happy at some point in their lives, maybe under certain circumstances. They started a new relationship, won a valuable gift, or reached a worthwhile goal. The secret to continuing and lasting happiness I have found, is in knowing you can CHOOSE to be happy–in any circumstance, for any reason, and for no reason.
Have you ever taken a “time out” to check in with yourself to see if you’re really happy or just going through the motions? You know what I mean. People ask you every day, “Hi. How are you?” and you unconsciously say, “Fine,” when that may not be the case at all. Or you “put on a happy face” at work or with your family, just to “keep the peace,” to avoid conflicts or explanations. Or to avoid looking inside to figure out why you’re not really all that happy–at least not as happy as you appear to be. What I notice with people who are just going through the motions, is that they’ve become disconnected from their feelings. For whatever reason–traumas, upsets, frustrations–they’ve shut down and are walking zombies, the living dead.
Once you’ve shut down your feelings, it will take awareness and desire to reignite them and reconnect to your feelings. So how can you determine if you’re really happy or just going through the motions? And how can you choose more happiness in your life? Here are some ideas that I’ve used successfully with my clients.
1. Define happiness for yourself:
Knowing your own definition of happiness can help you assess your level of happiness. Some people have described happiness as lightness, aliveness, flow, love, passion, gratitude, being present, being responsible, open, accepting, optimistic, free, and connected. Until you establish your own definition, it will be difficult to determine how happy you are.
2. Examine your lifestyle:
Are you doing what you love, living where you want, hanging around people you enjoy? If not, why not? Although happiness starts from within, a lot of people gauge their level of happiness on what satisfactions they receive from the outside world. If you’re not enjoying the work you do five days a week, it’s no wonder you’re not happy! If you hate the city where you live, the house you live in, or your neighbors, you have good cause for unhappiness. And if you’re surrounded by a lot of negative people, that will drain anyone’s ability to be happy. Change the circumstances of your life that you can, so you can start bringing in more reasons to be happy.
3. Check your attitude:
Although the nice things in life bring us happiness, like our home, car, clothing, job, and people, if we have a negative attitude in general, we won’t even find happiness in the things we love. The happiest people are loving, accepting, giving, positive, optimistic, and live in the present rather than the past or future. Happiness is a moment-by-moment choice, which can only be made in the present. And yes, happiness can be a choice. I’ve seen some of my clients turn their attitudes around once they decided they could and they would choose to be happy–regardless of life circumstances. I know that sounds like a big leap, but just know it is possible.
4. Look at your relationships:
Relationships are one of the most common sources for our happiest times. Intimate relationships especially provide us with a deep connection that in most cases allows us to feel loved and appreciated. We can also have satisfying relationships that add to our happiness with our family, friends, associates, pets, and most importantly ourselves. I also notice that people who give to others, especially through charity work, are deeply happy.
5. Set happiness goals:
Are you committed to being happier? Do you want to get to the bottom of why you’re just going through the motions, why you’ve buried your feelings? Then it’s time to take action. Read some books, take some classes, work with a coach, meditate, journal, spend time in contemplation. Create your action plan for building a happier life. It’s your choice!
What Does Happiness Mean to You?
Explore the possibilities with the Happiness Trilogy from Slow Down Fast. Self-Coaching in electronic format. Includes tons of tips, tricks and exercises designed to help you become the master of your own destiny and orchestrator of your personal well being!