“Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears.”― John Lennon
What makes you happy?
It may not be an understatement to say that the pursuit or the achievement of happiness is one of the most emotionally charged and sought after topic in recent times. You may be relatively happy in your life but you may still have small annoyances or issues that subvert or take away from the experience.
Sometimes it may feel like the more you chase happiness, the less happy you feel in the current moment. Unexpected moments that were not meant to make you happy end up making you much happier than what you expected them to make you.
What are some of the small tweaks, the little changes in direction that allow you to experience the joy and radiance of life?
Here are a few ideas that when implemented may increase the quality of happiness and induce spontaneous moments of happiness in your life.
1. Are Your Thoughts On Your Side?
“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
This great idea on happiness from the stoic philosopher and emperor, Marcus Aurelius is right on. This idea that “thoughts are things” and “thinking makes it so” may have become very popular in recent times but the idea itself is age old.
Buddha is known to have said:
“With our thoughts, we make the world.”
Many of us are unable to let go of toxic thoughts that ripple through our consciousness and make us feel bad and take no action to better our lives or move towards a happy place.
If your thoughts are supportive of your most cherished desires and wishes, you develop a powerful ally in your favor. This is not to say that you will not have the stray thought or thoughts that express doubt but it is entirely another thing to dwell in negative and unsupportive thoughts and live your life there.
Psychology research and the negativity bias tell us that the ratio of negative to positive thoughts is around 1:5 to maintain balance. In other words, you will need five positive thoughts to counteract against one negative thought. Negative thoughts and states are simply more powerful and “sticky” when compared to their positive counterparts.
“It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.”― Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People
Are you having big, powerful and supportive thoughts or are you getting lost in the negativity bias?
Replace thoughts that do not support you with ones that do. Make this a conscious practice.
2. Achieving Consonance Between Thoughts, Words and Actions
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
I love this quote from the Mahatma and it highlights a common error that a lot of us make. The thoughts that you think are powerful but so are the words that you speak and the actions that you take.
If you are unable to back up your thoughts and ideas with words that propel you forward and actions that follow though on them, you may just be wasting your time.
It has been my personal experience that when you have a great idea or a powerful thought, it should not be negated with language that does not support the idea. Words that do not express belief in your thoughts subtract and dilute the power of your thoughts.
Needless to say, quick and consistent action gives wings to your ideas and a lot of us stop at this stage. Taking action on your best ideas can be very scary and exciting at the same time.
However, you will never find out for sure if the idea and thought that you had has any merit if you do not take action on it. I could not agree more with Mahatma Gandhi that staying in consonance with all three: thoughts, actions and words leads to a lot of satisfaction, contentment and happiness.
Even if you fail, you have the satisfaction and comfort that you tried to move forward. Not to mention the skills that you pick up along the way are priceless.
If your ideas are not backed up with actions, they begin to fester in the mind and act to develop cognitive dissonance where the thoughts, actions and words are in disagreement.
Back up your thoughts with words and actions that support and achieve consonance with each other.
3. Are You Sharing Your Happiness?
“Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness; it has no taste.”― Charlotte Brontë
I absolutely love this quote from one of the amazing Brontë sisters. Sometimes we get lost in our life and our problems. I know this well since it happens to me sometimes. I get hyper fixated in trying to make myself happy or “develop” myself and make myself better that I lose sight of the forest for the trees.
I have always found it strange that when we seek to become happy, it may elude us and slip away. But when you forget about yourself for a moment and seek to make others happy or give some relief to others, you bump into it in unlikely places.
When you share with others the most precious gifts that you have like a word of encouragement, a smile or some support, the benefits inevitably trickle down to you. If you uplift others and seek to give them some happiness and relief, your own life will also be comforted by the elusive gift of happiness.
Of course, you give your happiness to others not because you want something back in return but that is a side effect of upliftment. Uplift others and you end up uplifting you.
“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”― Mother Teresa
Share your happiness with others and see your joys multiplied.
“Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give.”― Ben Carson
4. The Dilemma Between Reality and Expectations
“A mathematical formula for happiness:Reality divided by Expectations. There were two ways to be happy:improve your reality or lower your expectations.”― Jodi Picoult, Nineteen Minutes
This is one of the most practical quotes on happiness and it comes with an equation to back it up!
The best way in my opinion to improve or change reality if you are not satisfied with it is to determine what you would like it to be and then take action towards that new idea.
The other part of the equation is expectations. You may have such high expectations of yourself that it may not be possible to realistically meet them in the time and effort that you put in.
The clear solution as Picoult so eloquently points out is to lower your expectations. In my opinion, lowering expectations is in no way lowering your quest to be your best or strive for excellence. It means that you do not get bogged down when you do not of reach the imaginary idea of the end point or feel bad when you fail to meet it.
Lowering expectations sets you free or detaches you from the outcome and allows you to magnify the happiness and engagement along the journey. It is your choice to get caught up with impossible expectations or constantly strive to do the best you can and enjoy every minute along the way.
“The power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely.” ― Louisa May Alcott
Change your reality by taking action towards your desires.
Lower your expectations to the point that success and failure are not measured by the outcome and focus on what you experience along the journey.
5. Can Your Problems Make You Happier?
“Happiness is not the absence of problems, it’s the ability to deal with them.”― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free
I agree that there will always be problems and how you deal with them determine the levels of happiness and success that you experience in your life.
The problem is that most people are not trained to deal with difficult situations and problems. We have this dominant paradigm that problems or difficult situations do not make us happy.
However, the overcoming or transcending of such unpopular difficult situations or problems is where a lot of valuable learning takes place. When confronted with insurmountable problems. Most people simply give up or lose hope very fast.
Only the select few who engage the problems, reframe the situations and allow them to be an active learning experience get the satisfaction of knowing what lies beyond the horizons of doubt and discomfort.
In fact, there is a lot of research on flow states that demonstrates that when you are at the intersection of high skills and high difficulty, you immerse into the wonderful and optimal experience of flow.
“Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.”― Franklin D. Roosevelt
Do something meaningful and challenging that creates many problems to overcome.
Deal with the problems by understanding them and then taking up the challenge to overcome them.
6. Understand What Makes You Happy
“It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy. ”― Lucille Ball
I love this quote from the amazing Lucille Ball of “I love Lucy.” A lot of times we run after success, fame and glory thinking that the eventual end point will end up making us a lot happier. The problem with this approach is that there will always be something bigger and seemingly better to aspire for and desire.
Have you ever had the experience where you really wanted something and when you got it, the pleasure and happiness were short lived and left you wondering if that was it. A lot of times true lasting happiness comes with following your path and your unique journey and gathering skills and experiences and little pleasures along the way.
When you have a clear understanding of what makes you really happy and what appears to make you happy and you are clearly able to distinguish between the two, you have come a long way in embracing a happy life.
You may have this picture of what happiness looks like based on what others are telling you or what companies are advertising and wanting you to buy. But if you ask yourself the question of what makes you really happy and then honestly answer it, you will have made a great start as Lucille points out.
“You must be the best judge of your own happiness.”― Jane Austen, Emma
Forget about what others are saying about your happiness. Define what happiness means to you.
Seek to enjoy and savor the journey and not expect happiness at the end point of acquiring something.
7. The Big Difference Between Getting Angry And Dwelling In Anger
“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson
I always enjoy Emerson’s words and allow his words of wisdom to trickle slowly into my consciousness. In this case, Emerson makes a great case for happiness and not to dwell in the state of anger.
Everyone gets angry at someone or something at times but the real question is if you allow the state of anger to overcome and hijack everything else in your life. Anger is a beneficial emotion when it can propel you forward towards your goals and desires. However, unresolved and excessive anger can be a threat to continued states of happiness.
It is good to recognize that as humans, we have a choice to not dance for lengthy periods with anger and dwell needlessly in that state. Just understand what message the experience of anger is telling you and choose to learn it and move on.
Choose to consciously not stay for lengthy periods of time with anger.
Allow yourself to feel the anger, understand the message or teaching if any and then decide to move on.
8. Strive To Find Some Peaceful Moments In Your Life
“Many people think excitement is happiness…. But when you are excited you are not peaceful. True happiness is based on peace.”― Thích Nhất Hạnh, The Art of Power
This is a beautiful message from the Vietnamese Monk, Thích Nhất Hạnh. I agree that finding peace in your life and actively seeking it makes your life serene and happy.
Excitement and action are great but we also need to process everything by being silent, by becoming quiet and cultivating a deep state of peace. It is like the Yin and Yang where life is made up of opposite things that are both essential for the dance of existence.
I have realized from personal experience that taking a few moments to sit in peaceful silence and choosing to be serene and peaceful in different experiences that life throws at us imparts a deep sense of contentment and happiness.
“Happiness is the settling of the soul into its most appropriate spot.”― Aristotle
There are no action tips here but to just find practices where you can let go and cultivate a deep sense of peace and happiness!
9. Happiness And The Elusive Art of Letting Go Of Things Beyond Our Control
“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power or our will. ”― Epictetus
This is an amazing quote from Epictetus and is a great reminder that we need to stop incessant worry about things that are beyond the realm of our control. I think that humans love to have some degree of control in their lives.
When this control turns outwards and you begin obsessing on things that you are powerless to make changes towards, it is time to think hard on the quote from Epictetus.
It is certainly going to be challenging to let go if you worry habitually about things out of your power but you can begin by letting a small thing go. Instead, choose to make a difference in your immediate life and surroundings.
“Happiness does not come from without, it comes from within”― Helen Keller
Let go of the things that are beyond your realm of control and will and you will get a boost of happiness by engaging in things you can make a concrete difference on.
10. Seek to Engage The Right Here and The Right Now
“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”- Omar Khayyam
Wow! Such words of wisdom from the wise poet. For a long time, I dwelled on the past and lived in the future by not remembering that all I had was this current moment. When you shine the light of awareness on the continuum of time and life, it seems such a folly to be caught up in the past and future and neglect the present.
At the risk of sounding clichéd, I will go on and say that the present is a gift and that is why it is called “a present.” When you imbibe the moment, engage the present and be right here and right now, you will see the dance of light evolve in front of your life.
The only difference will be that you will have given your amazing gift of awareness, of enthusiasm, of engagement, of being completely present to the current moment.
Cultivate happiness now and do not outsource it to the uncertain future or dwell in the past looking for it.
11. Lighten Up And Do The Best That You Can
“Do the best you can, and don’t take life too serious.” ― Will Rogers
Coming from Will Rogers, I can rest in ease and take this advise seriously! Much too often, you may be beating up on yourself that you are not doing well or that you are not good enough. None of that will achieve anything and certainly will not make you any happier.
The best solution is to go for it and do the very best that you are able to do and then allow for life to be a wonderful and awesome adventure of learning and growth. If you take everything too seriously, when something goes wrong as it will, you will find it difficult to stay the course.
“[Happiness is] a ghost, it’s a shadow. You can’t really chase it. It’s a by-product, a very pleasant side effect to a life lived well.”― Eric Weiner
Now over to you! Did this post resonate with you and let me know which quote is your favorite one? I would love to hear from you and what makes you happy!