The Happiness Habit

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  • September 2, 2014

Your outlook on life and your general feeling of satisfaction with life can be attributed to a number of factors. Your genetic history, your family upbringing, and your life experience all influence who you are and your way of being in the world. These factors, however, are not a life script that determines your future. You determine your future and how you experience your life. If you are negative and critical, if you are unhappy much of the time, and wish you could enjoy life more, then this article may be just what you need.

Happiness is a habit. You can be happy just as easily as you can be unhappy regardless of what you’ve been born with, or what’s happened to you up to this point in your life.

I don’t deny that life holds many difficulties for each of us and it can throw more than a few tragedies our way. But you and I have both seen people who confront these challenges and refuse to allow them to take the joy out of life. They live with their disabilities, their illnesses, their painful personal histories, and their losses. Through their strength of character, they have found a way to live life joyfully. They make this world a better place and become an inspiration to others. You can learn how to do this too.

All you have to do is to take five minutes three times each day and sit in the room of your mind. There you can learn a little about yourself and teach yourself the secret of happiness. Here’s what you do with that time.

First, remind yourself to smile many times each day. Make sure the smile is visible in your eyes and on your face. Do this until it becomes as natural as breathing. You’ll notice that your face will change, your relationships will improve immediately, and people will tell you that you’re looking great. This is also the secret to a youthful and energetic appearance.

Second, be as cheerful as you possibly can be. Call it positive thinking. Look for the best in everything and you’ll find something to be cheerful about. You are making a conscious effort to focus on the good rather than the bad. The bad won’t go away but you can refuse to let it be your whole experience.

Next, make a point of being friendly to other people. Remember that you are a part of humanity. You are connected to everyone – we all share the same human experience. You don’t have to be introduced to others to greet them in a loving way.

Fourth, be less critical and more tolerant and understanding of yourself and others. If you work at it, you can always find something to love about yourself and others. If you feel negative towards yourself, you’ll treat others in the same way. You have to change the contents of your own mind before you can see the world differently.

Fifth, be who you want to be and refuse to let your past control your present. Decide that you will no longer be a victim of your personal history. Clarify your values and choose the ones that you want to determine how you live each day. Translate these values into action. It’s easy to say that you value honesty but the truth of your values is expressed in your behavior.

Next, be determined to react as calmly and as intelligently as possible to each new day, no matter what happens. Do you see why you need to have your values sorted out? This is the ultimate in personal power – when you choose how you will behave rather than being pulled through life by events.

Finally, accept your limitations. We all have them, you know. Let go of those things you cannot change. Remind yourself to do the best you can with each day. That’s all anyone can do. Congratulate yourself on living to the best of your ability.

It’s up to you to overcome your personal history. You are not your mind. Don’t let your mind control you. Take a few minutes at least three times a day to deliberately practice these steps and you will begin to take control of your mind. You’ll notice a difference in your experience immediately.

Emerson has said that a person is not defined by circumstances but is defined by how he or she handles the circumstances they are confronted with. Decide that you will define yourself by being happy with yourself, with others, and with your life.

Shirley Vandersteen, Ph. D., R. Psych.
Consulting Psychologist