What Is Happiness?

“What do you wish for most?”
“What does happiness look like?”
“I want to wake up with a smile on my face and share my life with the people I love.”

This short conversation with a friend led me to wonder, “How does one get that smile every morning or find ways to love friends and family even when they make us angry or sad?”

True Happiness Begins In Our Mind

We each have our own ideas about what it is that will make us happy. Maybe it’s buying the dream home or a new car; maybe it’s finding the love of our life and creating a family; or for some, it could be traveling the world or achieving in our chosen career. The answer varies as much as the individual. Lasting happiness; however, can not be found in things or people. Rather, happiness is found within the confines of our own mind.

Thoughts Are Just Thoughts

When we become aware of our thoughts, we realize they tell us a very revealing story about ourselves. Our thoughts drive our behavior, and our behavior becomes our reality. For example, if I believe I will never get a promotion, then there really is no incentive to work hard. Guess what? I’m not going to get the promotion.

Sometimes, our thoughts tell us stories that aren’t true and create a false perception. Just the other day, a student told me the principal doesn’t like her. “Why do you believe that?” I inquired. “He gave me a dirty look.” she responded assuredly. “Maybe his stomach was hurting, and he just happened to glance your way.” I hypothesized. “No, he doesn’t like me.”

The young girl’s response revealed a lot about her state of mind. Whenever someone does not act in accordance with her expectation, their action becomes about her deficits, thus exposing a lack of self worth. If we fail to examine our thoughts, we take away our power to decide whether they have merit or whether they are a story we are telling ourselves to explain another’s actions.

Observe and Question

When we become a student of ourselves and observe our minds, we can quickly discover if we tend to be pessimists or optimists. If our thoughts are largely negative, we will have a difficult time finding joy in anything. We will look at life with the glass half empty and view most people with suspicion. When we view life from a place of optimism, we tend to have better relationships and more resilience. This enables us to bounce back from adversity, so that we can return to a state of balance. When we are in balance, we tend to feel happier.

Where are your thoughts right now?
Are they driving you to worry about the future or regret the past?
Are they negative or positive?

By examining the answers to these questions, we can move our thoughts away from lower emotions, such as anger, sadness, fear, anxiety, jealousy, guilt, or shame. We can choose to release the thoughts and return to the present moment, or we can choose to process through them. As we identify why we are feeling a certain way, we may discover that our feeling is unwarranted or that it is justified. Either way, we empower ourselves.

Our Emotions; Our Choice

Our emotions become our choice. We can let the emotion go, we can sit with it, or we can try to change it. If you are angry because someone betrayed you, you can let that person know their actions hurt you. They may, in fact, not even know you’re feeling hurt. Thoughtful communication provides an opportunity to rectify unhappy feelings. On the other hand, they may have betrayed you intentionally, and you are justified in your anger. It is up to you, however, to decide how long you will carry the anger on your shoulders. Once we understand that we are responsible for our emotions, we can no longer blame anyone else for our unhappiness. Conversely, no one else is responsible for our happiness. It is all on us.

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