Hello everybody! Today, I have just one question to ask: what makes you happy?
Hopefully a lot of things and people and events pop into your mind. That is AWESOME, and I am genuinely glad for you. It should be that way! But I have a confession: I’ve often struggled to come up with ANY answer to that question, and I’ll bet others have the same difficulty.
To give a little context that I will surely elaborate on soon: I recently experienced some of the greatest months ever, but the good times came to a halt when reality finally hit. In other words, I dated a really awesome person for a regrettably short time, and now that relationship has unfortunately ended. I went from being the happiest I’ve been in a long while, to being incredibly sad and dismayed.
Now, there is a lot of research out there on happiness, and I am by no means an expert. I’m not even a novice, really. That being said, the approach I’m using to move towards happiness and towards becoming the better person that I truly want to be – it fit under advice given by researchers. Not too shabby, huh?
Important above all else is the intention to be happy. According to a variety of research, that alone is an important first step towards feeling and being happier. For me, even amidst all the self-generated angst and all the negative thoughts – I knew that I didn’t want to feel that way. I wanted to feel better; and I must say, that underlying desire has pulled me through some of the toughest times I’ve experienced.
In fact, intent and intentional actions seem to be the best way to find that happiness we’re constantly searching for. It’s waking up and telling yourself that today is great. It’s thinking about the things for which you are grateful. It’s getting excited about the plans you have. It’s scheduling in time with people and activities that energize you in positive ways. It’s taking a moment to enjoy the little everyday things that we experience.
Basically, it’s every good thought you have – and finding ways to fill your day with more positive thoughts like those than anything else.
If you’re anything like me, however, getting into that frame of mind is incredibly difficult, especially when you’re feeling like you’re at your lowest low. So, the pieces of advice I want to leave you with today are the following:
- Find the things that make you happy WHILE you’re feeling that way. Not only does this feed into the idea of gratitude and learning to enjoy the moment, but it also helps you when you hit another rough patch. One of the problems I encountered post-breakup was trying to distinguish what exactly made those times so wonderful. It was easy to latch on to the idea of “I was happy because I was with him” and harder to realize that the reason might actually be closer to “I was happy because I felt cared for and I made someone else feel happy, too.” I’d say write it down, because I’m a list person and having a “What Makes You Happy” list has become clutch in my life, but I know that for some people, words just aren’t their cup of tea. So, whether you write it down or not, just do something to acknowledge what you are feeling and WHY you feel that way.
- Find things that make you happy ANYWAYS. Like I said, I was already sad when I started trying to discern “how to be happy” again. Even though I took a super logical approach and didn’t feel all that enthusiastic about it, I sat down, busted out my trusty bullet journal (it’s so cool, I love it), and started doing what I do best – writing and making lists. I now have a What Makes You Happy page (petting dogs, talking to people I love, working out…), a Laughter List of things I know make me smile (Arrested Development, YouTube videos…), and even a list of Who You Gonna Call where I wrote down names of people I love and know I can talk to no matter what (my RAs, my roommates, close friends…). Any time I find myself laughing or doing something that makes me feel good, I go add to my lists. I can’t avoid every kind of sadness – because life is going to be filled with ups and downs no matter WHO you are – but I trust that having these on hand will help me feel better and happier much faster.
Again, I’m no expert here. But I can tell you that I want to lead a happy and healthy life, and to do that will take constant effort. Until we can internalize the positive behaviors and make optimism a natural state, it will be a tough road. And even if and when we get to that point, life is not always going to be easy.
Regardless, I 100% believe you can find happiness in yourself and in those around you! Whether it’s a fleeting moment, or you’re having the best months of your life – take a minute to acknowledge that joy, be thankful for it, and remember why you felt the way you did.
That way, next time someone asks you what makes you happy – you’ll have plenty of answers to give. 🙂
I’m linking below to some fantastic articles that explain in more depth and clarity the ways in which you can actively engage in choosing your own happiness. Sending good vibes your way!!
Practice Happiness (former blog post!)