How To Be Happy in Life | Help & Advice
How can you increase your happiness? Is it possible? From what I have seen in life, so many people are unhappy and do not know how to increase their level of satisfaction with what they have. A lot of people use food to give them feelings of wellbeing, which can instantly give you feelings of happiness, but disappears as soon as the food is eaten.
Some people turn to drugs and/or alcohol to increase their happiness, which only lasts as long as the drugs and/or alcohol do. Others can turn to things such as sexual encounters, pornography, gambling, video games, etc.. This is not to say any of these activities or substances are unhealthy or "bad" by themselves, it's just when they are used to mask feelings of unhappiness, it can be a problem.
Why is it a problem? Because they can become addictive if used primarily to increase feelings of wellbeing and happiness (drugs, alcohol and food can be addictive all by themselves as well). It is my belief that you can increase your feelings of happiness and wellbeing all by yourself, without any outside help. But how is that possible?
I think in order to really evaluate what is making you unhappy, you have to know the truth about yourself. What are you really unhappy with? It can be easy to identify circumstances about your life that you don't like, such as a career or job you dislike, a bad relationship, toxic family, your appearance, etc., but those aren't really at the core of what is making you unhappy. They certainly add to unhappiness, but you have to dig deeper.
I believe what makes us happy is the certainty that no matter what happens, we are resilient and can make it through whatever obstacles come next. If you focus on the present moment, it doesn't allow you to worry about the future or dwell on past events. I believe we worry about the future and dwell on the past because we are looking for ways that we can control our lives to avoid pain and dissatisfaction or to look to the past to identify where we went wrong in order to avoid pain in the future. If we constantly look to the future or back to the past, how are we enjoying what we are doing presently?
Think back to a time when you were truly happy. Were you looking at the future or dwelling in the past? Probably not. You were probably living in the moment, focusing only on that moment and were free from anxiety, fear, depression and a whole list of negative feelings and thoughts. You can live that way all the time. You can learn to always live in the present moment and be free from those thoughts and feelings that cause you to live in a constant state of anxiety and fear. When you are were a baby, you weren't born to think that nothing would work out, life in general will always suck, things will never get better, you have no control over your life, etc..
It's true that we do come across challenging and sometimes devastating times in our lives. Some people do have more obstacles than others and have to be in turn, more resilient to get through those obstacles. You might say, it's hopeful to hear that I can live in the present moment, but what about when I have circumstances that make me unhappy? Well, you still have to deal with those.
Living in the present moment just means that you can deal with those obstacles when they come and you'll be less likely or not likely at all to use crutches to get through them, like food, drugs, etc., and you will feel more calm before, during and after the event(s). This will allow you to be able to handle your feelings in a healthy way and be able to realize that you can handle challenges without becoming overwhelmed.
When it comes to handling challenges, I think the best way is just to face them head-on. Don't like your job? Can you get another one? Can you go to school or go back to school or learn new skills in order to get a job you will like more? Ask yourself what you can do to change your circumstances and work to change them. Change is hard for some people and it can be a long process, but isn't it worth it if it makes you happy?
You may have a challenging relationship with a significant other, family members, friends, etc., but guess what? You can change that too. It may not be easy or something that can be changed right away, but you can do it. You have to realize that no matter what the circumstances, you do have control and there is a way to change your circumstances, no matter how difficult it seems. You have the power to change and the only way out is through.
You can't change your life by avoiding it, hoping it will change, eating, drinking, taking drugs, playing games, gambling, through sex or giving yourself a false sense of wellbeing. By doing that, you are still avoiding. If you learn to live in the present moment, you will realize that the obstacles don't seem so bad when you are looking at right here, right now.
Think of being at the bottom of a mountain. If you look up, the mountain might seem insurmountable. Look down at your feet and you see yourself and the ground. You are right where you are, standing, looking at your feet. There is no mountain, no pain, no struggle. Take a step. One step is easy, all it is one step. Take another. It's not so bad. Look up at the mountain, all of the sudden you think of how bad your body will hurt at the top, you think of how there's no way you can climb and entire mountain, no way. Look back down at your feet, take another step. You feel okay, all we are doing is taking a step. That's what it feels like to live in the present moment.
Things don't seem so insurmountable when we are thinking about what we are doing now, focusing on what is instead of what we think it will be. The thing is, we don't know what will be. A million things could happen on the way to the top of the mountain, but we don't have control or knowledge of what will happen. All we can do is focus on what we are doing now. That's all we have control over.
It always feels a lot better and we feel capable when we are looking at now, versus what will be or what was. You cannot change what was and you cannot predict nor control what will be. If you always focus on what will be or what was, how in the world can you enjoy what is? Every time you go forward or backward in time, you are taking away from yourself and anything you enjoy.
Think of when you eat, do you focus on the present or do you focus on the past and/or the future? Do you eat and do other things to distract you from thinking of what was or what will be? How can you enjoy the process of eating, tasting the food, knowing when you are full, enjoying time with others if you are simply working to avoid what was or what will be? Focusing on the past and/or present affects every single part of your life and can ruin any happiness and joy you could feel.
I used to be extremely anxious and found I was always living in the past or focusing on the future. What will happen? How can I control this so it doesn't happen again? What did I do wrong? How can I avoid this pain? I couldn't focus on the present and I was miserable. Despite being extremely resilient and getting through innumerable challenges, I couldn't see it. All I saw was more problems to avoid, more pain to avoid, and my primary focus was on how I could control my life.
Controlling your life is impossible. I think focusing on control is a huge mistake, but completely understandable if you are avoiding pain. Unfortunately, all it results in is unhappiness and the inability to enjoy the present moments, which is where you will actually find happiness.
The way you learn to focus on the present is mindfulness and meditation, which is a skill you will have to learn and work on. Once you learn how to do it, it will feel natural and you will wonder how you lived without it all of your life. I have felt such a sense of peace since learning how to live in the present moment. I still have challenges and face challenging people regularly, but I have learned that those moments are temporary. I am able to face them and deal with those challenges and able to stay in the present moment. I know that feelings are temporary.
I may feel sad one moment, frustrated, angry, or anxious, but I don't always feel that way. Feelings are temporary, unpredictable, yet never go away as a whole; we will have times where we feel sad, happy, anxious, angry, frustrated, excited, etc., but we have no idea when those times will be. I have to say, most of the time I feel peaceful and happy and focusing on the present moment allows me to feel that way. I'm no longer afraid of feelings of sadness or anxiety, I just know I can deal with anything that comes my way.
Yes, for me, it did take time, but it changed my entire life. I would say it took about three-four months to realize I had mostly moments of staying in the present and could acknowledge recurrent or intrusive thoughts and let them go. I went from an anxiety level of seven to an anxiety level of two. Now I would say most days, my anxiety level is zero. Can you get there?
Yes. You do have to put in the work. Just as when you want to change circumstances in your life, it may be difficult, but you can change. If you knew that in a few months, you could be happier, less or not reliant on substances or activities to make you feel happy, wouldn't you do that? Wouldn't it be worth it?
The first thing I did was start with meditation exercises and mindfulness exercises. There's a great video on YouTube that's about five minutes long where you focus on a bell. You focus on the bell and the reverberations, which get further and further apart. You acknowledge any thoughts and let them go. If they come back persistently,, acknowledge them and let them go, go back to focusing on the bell.
YouTube Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGFog-OuFDM
I did this exercise every day for two weeks, first for five minutes, then building up to fifteen minutes (I used the bell sound at first, then completed the exercise in silence). After that, every night I practiced for half an hour before bed, then for 45 minutes. This went on for about two to three months when I realized in life, when I had recurrent or intrusive thoughts, I could easily let them go and focus on the present. This became a lifelong skill and something I use every single day.
It is something that will change your life for the better and allow you to focus on what is happening in the present moment instead of the past and/or future. It can allow you to face obstacles in a healthy way without the help of substances or activities that give you a false sense of wellbeing. You can get to a point where you won't be afraid to face obstacles and painful situations because you know everything will work out and you will get through them.
What do you think brings you happiness? Do you find living in the present moment easy or difficult? Do you find yourself avoiding your feelings or facing them without fear? What is key in allowing you to live in the present moment?