Most people tend to think that happiness is about what is happening externally. They think that when they have attained all that they desire, then they should be happy. So why would you not be truly happy once you’ve reached your milestones, found the love you’re looking for, and achieved all your successes? What are you missing?
What you’re missing is that real happiness has nothing to do with anything external. Sure, external things can make you happy, but the problem is that nothing external is sustainable. Your looks will fade, your relationships will come and go, and so will your successes. So, basing your happiness on external circumstances is precarious because it won’t last. Wouldn’t you like to know how to be happy despite anything external? How would it feel to know that being happy is completely within your control, that you don’t have to rely on anything external to be happy? Does this sound like freedom to you? Well, it is, and you do have the power to be remarkably happy every single day of your life.
Seeing your internal world
Most people aren’t aware of what is happening internally for them and how much their internal world impacts their external world. As a first step, begin to be aware of what your thoughts are on a more regular basis. Especially when you are feeling bad in your body. Use this as an opportunity to check in with yourself around why you are feeling bad. What were you thinking? How were you talking to yourself? I think that you’ll find that more often than not, you’re treating yourself unkindly. You’re probably not showing up for yourself in the way that you would expect a loved one to show up for you.
Becoming your own best friend
Imagine sitting next to yourself on the couch. Would this person be someone you want to spend all your time with? Could you be best friends with them? Would you be okay with how they spoke to you? If not, then what kind of person would be your best friend? Who would you want to spend 24 hours a day with? Think about this because this is your reality. Work to treat yourself in a way that you would want a best friend to treat you. Practice awareness, and when your thoughts are unkind, take time to shift them. Ask yourself why you're being unkind. What would make you feel better right now? More safe? More loved? Let yourself know that you are loved. That you deserve nothing but the best.
It all comes down to love
Learn ways to love yourself, and to have more compassion and acceptance for yourself. It all comes down to love.
The more we love ourselves, the more we will accept ourselves, and the happier we will be.
The more we love ourselves, the more we can love others.
The more we love others, the more connected we feel, and the happier we are.
The reason it feels so hard to love ourselves is because of our conditioning. This conditioning comes in the form of our parents, teachers, community, church, peers, and so on. We have been conditioned to think and believe in a certain way; much of the time this is negative thinking or judgments against ourselves. But this conditioning, this belief system that we’ve created about ourselves isn’t our truth. As we begin to be more loving it can feel inauthentic, and our conditioning will likely argue with us and ramp up the negativity. We must truly reprogram our minds to be more loving, and this takes awareness, time, and practice. Please be patient with yourself.
Begin utilizing daily practices to help retrain your brain to be more loving and accepting—practices such as mantras, mirror work, and meditation. To change your life, to change your current ways of being, takes practice. There is no avoiding this. You must practice. I promise you that if you practice, you will see change. If you do not wish to change, or you have not reached your tolerance for suffering, then you can keep doing things exactly as you have been. I find that if you develop daily rituals, it can be helpful in practicing and creating habits. Little reminders are also helpful. Sticky notes on the mirror, your meditation pillow in a place where you often walk by, or a community that you meet to do group practice are all helpful examples. Most important is finding what works best for you to maintain a daily practice.
Learning to love “what is”
Another important aspect of happiness is acceptance of “what is”. We often create expectations about how we want things to proceed in our daily lives, and when they don’t go this way, we become extremely upset. Understand that things will unfold as they will, and they may not line up with how you wish. Practice being able to sit with uncomfortable feelings that arise when things don’t go your way. Maybe it’s a flat tire on your way to work, a relationship ending, or a beloved pet dying. We can practice sitting with the feelings of anger, frustration, sadness, and so on, thereby releasing that energy. Holding on to how it should have been or frustration over being wronged will not change the situation—it will only cause you more suffering. You may believe that feeling these painful feelings will be too painful and intolerable, when in reality this is our key to freedom. Taking things as they come and feeling the feelings that arise in the moment is acceptance of what is. When we avoid our feelings, we are not actually escaping them, and we will eventually have to deal with these feelings in some way. It takes practice to not fear pain and to learn that we can tolerate it. The more quickly we feel it, the more quickly we can release it.
Feeling your feelings
This doesn’t mean that we stuff our feelings; it means that a difficult situation doesn’t have to ruin our day or make us grumpy. It means we acknowledge how we are feeling and attend to ourselves in a loving way, knowing that becoming grumpy or defeated won’t help the situation or move it forward. We are human, so of course we will still feel grumpy or defeated at times, but the more we practice sitting with our emotions and accepting what is, the less this will happen. Circumstances never remain the same. We will have difficulties but they won’t last forever, and we will have lots of joy but that also won’t last forever. Knowing this can be helpful, especially when we are in the midst of a difficult situation. We can relax knowing that this too shall pass.
Happiness is a choice
We must decide each day upon waking whether we will be happy or not. Then we must practice happiness. Knowing that happiness is a choice means that we can be happy each day, regardless of what life presents to us. We may not have control over what happens to us externally, but we do have control over what happens internally. I know this may seem hard to believe, but we really can learn to be okay and choose to be happy no matter what is happening around us. How can you find happiness today?
For bite-sized tips and practices on finding happiness every day, Stephani's book Creating Real Happiness A to Z: A Mindful Guide to Discovering, Loving, and Accepting Your True Self is available now!