NOTE: This is a guest post from a dear friend of mine. Please welcome Paige Burkes of Simple Mindfulness to the M2bH community!
Perhaps no two people will view happiness the same way, even if looking at it from the same window. Even if Paige and I share common perspectives, there are nuanced differences you will read below that you haven’t seen here before. It will be fun to hash out those differences in the comments. Join us!
“It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.” ~ Charles Spurgeon
Are all rich people happy?
Are all poor people unhappy?
Are all people who volunteer and help others happy?
Are all people who live with tons of clutter unhappy?
We know that the answer to all of these questions is an unequivocal “no.” Yet we consistently buy the ideas that money, volunteering and de-cluttering, among any number of other ideas, will magically create happiness for us.
We subconsciously think that, if we simply do all the right things in the right ways (whatever “right” is), the happiness fairy will magically appear to us, touch us on the nose with her sparkly wand and we’ll suddenly be happy forever.
As silly as all this sounds, you know that you want to believe it and you’ve probably lived part of your life in an attempt to make it come true.
Newsflash! You can find happiness much more easily by implementing a little mindfulness into your life.
6 Steps to Unearth Your Happiness
1. Know that There’s Nothing to Find
Your happiness always has and always will live in your heart. It’s been with you since the time before you were born and there’s no way to get rid of it.
Think about it: What child was ever born unhappy? Pure of heart, babies know nothing but love and happiness.
As you grow up, how you choose to interpret and respond to your environment and life experiences dictates what happens to your happiness.
I know people who have been brought up in very wealthy homes, given all the luxuries, treated like kings and queens, and they’re miserable.
And I know people who ran away from troubled homes in their teens, lived on the streets with gangs, then spent their adult lives working with troubled youth while living on the poverty line themselves – and they couldn’t be happier.
2. Being Happy is a Choice
In every moment you’re making a conscious or subconscious choice about how you judge and interpret the people and things around you.
These things don’t “make” you feel anything. Your subconscious mind puts together all the data from your life up to now and projects an interpretation. You can choose to accept it or consciously create a new one on your own.
“Happiness doesn’t depend on any external conditions, it is governed by our mental attitude.” ~ Dale Carnegie
For example, if someone yells at me, I can choose to take it personally and get upset. I can make up all kinds of negative stories about the other person and why they don’t like me. I can feel unworthy of love because of their action. I can choose to interpret this person’s actions in a way that robs me of my happiness.
Or I can choose to believe that this person has had a bad day and is simply venting. Maybe someone yelled at them and they’re feeling bad and decided to take it out on me. I can choose to believe that their anger has nothing to do with me and everything to do with them. I can choose to retain my high level of happiness regardless of what others do or say to me.
3. Uncovering your Happiness
If you haven’t felt happy in a while, think about all the things you’ve added to your life that smother your happiness.
What relationships, habits and things have you created in your life that don’t serve you?
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, many of us run around doing things that we’ve been told are supposed to make us happy and we wonder why it doesn’t always work.
What works for others may not work for you for many reasons. We all have different experiences, emotions, beliefs, values, backgrounds and what works for each person is based on their own rainbow soup.
Notice how the things that aren’t supporting your happiness are smothering you.
4. Determine your Core Values
To find what works for you, you’ll need to remove the layers of “should’s” you’ve been living by and identify who you are and what you’re about, regardless of what others think you should be.
Take some quiet, focused time to consider your highest values. What do you stand for? What are the unwavering principles that shape every decision you make? How would you define your character?
This is the most important part of the process.
5. Align your Life with your Values
Now that you’ve identified your core values, get rid of anything in your life that is not in alignment with those values.
This is the tough part, but without taking significant action on this step, your happiness will struggle to shine behind the cheap paint job of someone else’s expectations.
To make this easier for you, rather than trying to figure out what to remove, imagine you were just re-born with no prior baggage. You’re a brand new baby in an adult’s body.
Your happiness is naturally radiating. You feel joy and peace. You know who you are at your core. You know what your values are.
What people and things would you selectively put in your life that are in alignment with your values and who you are? Where and how would you live? What would your daily habits be?
This is called intentional living. You make very conscious choices about what goes into your life so that you don’t have to worry about “cleaning house” on a regular basis.
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
Think about why de-cluttering only gives you a short-term happy fix. If you don’t change your habit of mindlessly buying and bringing home all sorts of random things, allowing them to build and create clutter, you eventually end up feeling the weight of all those things. You de-clutter and feel great for a day or two and then head back to the store to repeat the process.
What if you make more mindful choices about the things you bring home before you buy them? Consider creating a rule that, if you bring home something new, you have to get rid of something you already own. How important is that new purchase now? Will it truly enhance your life in the long term?
6. Allow your Happiness to Shine!
By removing the burdens, should’s, guilty obligations, soul-sucking relationships and unsupportive beliefs from your life, you create the freedom and space for your happiness to shine.
By only including the things that support your values and your happiness, you can’t help but radiate your innate happiness.
Many people may think this sounds unrealistic. That it’s impossible to strip all the crap from their lives and live in such a Pollyanna-ish way.
This is simply a belief that has been adopted from our culture that says that we all have to live within the confines of other people’s expectations of us.
I’ve listened to cancer survivors who were told that they only had a few months to live. With nothing to lose, they radically changed their lives and quickly dumped anything or anyone that didn’t serve them. They were very intentional about who and what came into their lives.
In doing this, they created levels of happiness that they had never previously experienced. And they continue to live active lives decades after they were told that they had a few months to live.
I’ve also met people who simply couldn’t take living under the weight of societal expectations. These were high-flying executives and “respectable members of society.” They finally realized that it really doesn’t matter what other people think of them.
Their happiness is up to them and other people need to worry about their own happiness.
They created unconventional but incredibly happy lives for themselves by following their dreams and living in alignment with their values and unique purpose.
“Happiness depends upon ourselves.” ~ Aristotle
You Have the Right to Be Happy
Our society sees people who are perpetually happy as anomalies, outcasts, weirdo’s. It’s as if we’re somehow being selfish by being happy – like there’s a limited amount of happiness to go around.
It’s OK to be happy and it’s OK to be happy all the time.
Nobody and nothing makes you feel anything. You decide how you feel in every moment.
How will the newborn you help you to reshape your life around your values and happiness?
Let me know in the comments!
Paige Burkes writes at Simple Mindfulness where she inspires her readers to see the world in a new light, experiencing life mindfully and inviting in more happiness and joy. Download her FREE Mindful Living Guide and learn how you can invite more joy, peace and happiness into your life. Check out her new Mindful Body Program, a comprehensive program that uses mindfulness principles to transform how you think about diet, exercise and health. It shows you how fun it is to be healthy.