This was a question that was put before me recently and I thought it an interesting one. For many people the answer is it’s easier to be unhappy, because unhappiness, struggle and complaint are their default beliefs and behaviors. For others, happiness seems to come easily. We all know those people who seem just naturally happy, no matter what. They bounce back from setbacks and keep going along their merry way.
So why is that? In her book, “Happy for No Reason”, Marci Shimoff states the happiness is about 50% genetic and 50% learned. We all have a “happiness set point” that we come into this world with. Some people really are naturally more happy. Happiness is also a matter of what we absorbed as children from our environment. We picked up beliefs about life from our parents, other family members, teachers, friends, religious leaders and mass consciousness. If you heard that “Life is hard,” “It’s a jungle out there,” “You’ll never amount to anything,” “You just can’t get ahead,” “You can’t trust anyone” and other similar beliefs, you absorbed those ideas into your subconscious and they affect your outlook on life. Your behaviors will then be influenced by your beliefs, whether you realize you hold them or not, and the results you get in life will be the result of how you act in the world.
So the default for many people is to complain, blame others or situations for what’s wrong in their lives, or to feel guilty for not being where or who they think they “should” be in life. It’s easy to complain and blame. Remember the saying “misery loves company”? If you believe that and have something to complain about you’ll surely find people who are willing to jump right in there with you to commiserate. It feels validating for a short time. You feel part of the group. That’s the payoff for staying stuck in unhappiness. The problem is, nothing ever changes.
The good news is, you can raise your happiness set point.
The main thing we all really want in life is to be happy. With awareness of our thoughts and behaviors and the practice of new habits, we can raise our happiness level. It’s possible to be happy without our outside circumstances changing. Real happiness is not the result of changed circumstances, but of changed outlook and response to life. In fact, when you’re happy first, your life actually flows better as a result. Happy people get better treatment, more opportunities and enjoy better health.
The key word here, is practice. You need to be willing to make the commitment to new ways of thinking and approaching life. Just like learning how to play a musical instrument or learning a new language, learning how to be happy and setting it as your new default response takes consistent practice over time. So the question to ask yourself is, “Am I willing to make the small effort to change into a happy person? Am I willing to do the work to change my life?”
If your answer is yes, here are some happiness habits to get you started:
- Be solutions focused. Are you looking at the problem or are you looking at how you might solve it? What is going right that you can capitalize on?
- Question your thoughts. Just because you have a thought, it doesn’t make it true. What is a thought that is as true or truer than the one you just had that feels better? Lean into the better feeling thought.
- Surround yourself with happy people. Happiness is contagious!
- Look for the lesson and the gift in every situation. Everything is FOR us in some way. What are you learning from challenging situations? How are you growing? Who are you becoming?
- Practice gratitude. No matter what your situation is, there is always something to be grateful for. Gratitude centers you in your heart and lifts your spirits. If you are reading this, you can see and you know how to read. There’s two right there! Practice this every day by either saying your gratitude out loud or writing it down. Lives have been turned around by this practice alone.
- Get in touch with your purpose. What excites you? What are you passionate about? What do you do really well that you also enjoy? People who are inspired by purpose are happier people
It may be easier to stay stuck in unhappiness, but the rewards of making the decision and commitment to practice happiness are great!