How To Be Happy: A Plan
How To Be Happy
Do you know how to be happy? I don’t think I had to learn how to be happy. I’ve always been a happy person. I ran into an old high school classmate a few weeks ago, and he told me what he remembered most about me in school was that I was always smiling. We weren't close friends, so I was a little surprised that he noticed my happiness. Of course, I’m human and have periods of sadness, anger, and frustration, just like everyone has, but these are usually short lived. I’ve always found it difficult to embrace a negative emotion for long periods of time, even though there have been times when I actually wanted to do so. For example, when I’ve been wronged by someone, I’d sometimes like to stay really good and mad at the person, but that’s usually impossible for me to do. Either the two of us work it out, or I just “write him off,” so to speak. I don’t allow him or her to take up space in my heart or in my head, and I’m big on forgiveness. That’s prime real estate that I try to reserve only for those deserving of it. If you want me to share some of my secrets of happiness, I’m doing so in this article. Perhaps by following some of the suggestions, you can learn how to be happy, too.
Perhaps some of you are thinking that maybe I’m happy because I have a perfect life. Well, first of all, there’s no such thing as a perfect life. Secondly, few objective observers would think that my life is perfect. I have several health problems, and so does my husband. I never know when my next visit to the oncologist might deliver my “death sentence.” I also have chronic pain that I live with every day. We’re certainly not rich, either, and we sometimes struggle financially, as most middle-class Americans do – especially in the present economy. My daughters and their young families struggle even more, and I try to help them when I can. My kids have been in trouble when they were younger, which caused me a lot of stress, and I had a very stressful job. I went through a bad divorce, too. I was the chief caregiver to my mother, who had Alzheimer’s. My father shot himself. No, I haven’t had a perfect life.
You know what, though? I think my life is great! You never have to look far to realize just how fortunate you really are. I have a wonderful husband, a loving family, and a comfortable home. We always have food on the table, air conditioning in the summer, and heat in the winter. I have the right to vote and the right to express my opinion, along with the right to worship or not worship as I wish. I have some awesome friends who I know I can always count on.
I think people often choose to be happy or unhappy, even though it might not be a conscious choice. Being happy is often an attitude. I know people who seem to have everything they could possibly want, yet they’re some of the most miserable humans on the planet. I once had a close friend who was attractive, healthy, and wealthy, with a beautiful home, a great career, and a loving husband and family. Even with this perfect life, she was always unhappy. I suppose she still is – we don’t keep in contact any longer. At the other end of the spectrum, I’ve known people for whom everyday life was a real struggle, yet they always seemed to be happy. That’s why I say that being happy is often about attitude.
What Is Happiness
What is happiness? Well, that’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it? Humans have probably been asking, “What is happiness?” for eons. There’s no single definitive all-encompassing answer to this age-old question. Being happy means different things to different individuals, and it might also depend on situations. For example, for someone in a war zone, happiness might mean peace. Being happy for the hungry might be as simple as having adequate food. A lonely person might equate happiness with finding a friend. Someone suffering from a serious illness would find that happiness is good health. Some people think happiness is all about financial gain. What is happiness? Only you can determine what happiness is for yourself.
For me, happiness is often about seeing others happy – especially the people I love. I enjoy giving my daughters, sons-in-laws, grandchildren, and husband little surprises. These surprises aren’t always “things.” Sometimes they’re actions. For example, when I know my youngest daughter is having a really tough week, I might go over and clean her house for her while she’s at work. When I know my daughters and their families are low on funds, I might go to the grocery store and purchase some food and goodies for them.
How To Be Happy With Yourself
You absolutely must learn how to be happy with yourself. I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage: Before others can love you, you have to love yourself. The same holds true for being happy. You can’t be happy with others or with life, in general, until you find inner happiness. How to be happy with yourself? Sometimes we’re much too hard on ourselves, and we concentrate more on our mistakes and our shortcomings than we do on our accomplishments and positive attributes. Okay, so you’ve made some mistakes in life. Who hasn’t? The point is that you need to learn from those mistakes and learn from them, then move on.
Being happy means self-acceptance. If there’s something about yourself that you don’t like, only you have the power to change it. Don’t try to “remake” yourself all at one time, however. Choose one personality trait that you’d like to change, and work on it a little at a time. And for goodness sakes, don't take yourself too seriously! I often laugh at myself, and you should, too. I’ve found that using good-hearted humor is a wonderful way to learn how to be happy with yourself.
Another big part of being happy with yourself, in my opinion, is having peace of mind. If some of your actions or lack of action is nagging you, do something about it. Apologize for any wrongs you’ve done to others, and mend fences while there’s still time. If there’s something you should have done but didn’t, do it now and make amends.
Surround Yourself With Positive People
It’s easier to learn how to be happy when you surround yourself with positive people. You’ll often find that such people are uplifting, even when you’re in a bad mood. Even if you’re a happy person, it’s hard to be happy when you’re around people who are mad or gloomy all the time. To be happy, make lasting personal relationships with other happy people. Humans are social animals, and we thrive on human contact and interaction with others. When you have close friends, you have a support network. You have someone to laugh with, to cry with. You have a sounding board for when you’re angry or frustrated, and you have a willing ear to listen when you’re depressed.
For many of us, we’re somewhat chameleon-like when it comes to our moods and emotions. If you surround yourself with positive people, it’s pretty hard to be negative. You know which of your friends are negative and which are positive, so try to spend more time with the positive pals and less time with the negative folks. That might sound a little harsh, but sometimes you have to put yourself first. If a friend’s bad attitude is dragging you down, have a talk with her. Explain the problem and give her a chance to change her overall attitude. If she doesn’t, don’t wallow in the misery with her.
Remember that laughter is infectious. My husband once told me that one reason he fell in love with me is because I make him laugh so much. I took that as a great compliment. I love to laugh, and few things make me happier than making others laugh. Try it sometimes. After all, it’s practically impossible to be sad or worried when you’re laughing!
Get A Pet
Learn how to be happy with a pet…or two! As a whole, pet owners are happier and healthier, and they even live longer than folks who don’t have pets. And this isn’t my opinion – it’s backed up by numerous studies. You can totally be yourself with animals, so there’s no need to assume a false persona when you interact with them. They don’t care if you’re beautiful, smart, wealthy, or politically correct. They’re always happy to see you and are ready to offer a loving nudge or snuggle. When you get a pet, you share your life with a creature that loves and accepts you completely unconditionally.
Having a pet also gives you a purpose. A living creature is totally depending on you for its happiness and survival. It gives you the opportunity to be nurturing and affectionate without worrying about how your actions will be judged. For some very depressed people, their pets give them a reason to get out of bed each morning. A pet can give you years of happiness and fulfillment, along with lots of unconditional love. After all, according to the Peanuts gang, happiness is a warm puppy!
If you have the time and money to devote to an animal, get a pet. Yes, they can be time consuming and extra work for you, but you’ll be rewarded tenfold. Decide which type of critter would best fit into your lifestyle and living arrangements, and go from there. Even if you can’t get a pet that’s snuggly, you can at least get some fish. No, you can’t cuddle with fish, but they are relaxing to watch, and you’ll have to take care of them.
I think helping others is extremely important for all of us. In fact, this might just be the most effective lesson in learning how to be happy in life. When you give of yourself, whether that includes money, time, or goods, it makes you feel better about yourself. It also takes your focus off your own problems and expands your outlook. It helps you to realize that “it’s not all just about you.” When you help those less fortunate, it doesn’t take you long to realize how good you have it, in comparison.
Want to know how to be happy? Volunteer at a soup kitchen or an animal shelter. Visit a nursing home or a pediatric care hospital unit. Donate to a charity. Help an illiterate adult learn to read. Spend some time with a shut-in. Make a meal for a sick friend. Helping others doesn’t have to cost you a cent, and you won’t have to look far to find someone or something in need. You might not think that the little bit you can offer is important, but it is. No kindness is too small or too large.
Helping others can open up a whole different world to you and can help you see things from a different perspective. I think it’s always good to walk a mile or two in someone else’s shoes. Yes, it’s a tired old proverb, but it still holds true. Most of us are so wrapped up in ourselves and in our own lives we never take the time to consider the view from another angle. Opening up your heart and your mind and getting a glimpse from a new vantage point can really help you put things into perspective.
Always Have Something To Look Forward To
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always tried to make sure I had something to look forward to. I did this even as a child, and I honestly believe this played a part in my overall happiness. I still do it, too. It’s not usually something big. It might be going out to lunch with one of my daughters, or going out to dinner with friends, or going shopping with a family member or pal. I think the psychology behind this is that having something to look forward to keeps you looking ahead instead of back. It keeps your focus in the right direction instead of dwelling on the past.
Try it out! as I’m writing this article, I’m looking forward to having my youngest daughter and her family over tonight for dinner. I’m also thinking about Halloween and about the slumber party I’m planning for the grandkids. I love planning and making lists! Surely there’s something in your life that you can anticipate with eagerness, excitement, or happiness. If not, you might be too hard to please.
Hobbies can be a big part of learning how to be happy with yourself. Learn how to be happy by immersing yourself in a hobby. I’ve found that those with hobbies and interests are usually happier and better adjusted. This works on several levels of being happy. For one thing, engaging in a hobby or interest takes your mind off your troubles. For another thing, hobbies often provide an outlet for your creativity, and they give you a sense of accomplishment. Participating in a hobby might also give you the chance to meet others who have the same interests, opening the door to new friendships.
Even if you’re not a “people person,” you can enjoy lots of hobbies. With some, you won’t have to depend on anyone but yourself. These might include painting, making crafts, making models, etc. of course, there are also plenty of team projects you can tackle, which will give you a chance to interact with others. For many people, sports are their hobbies – golf, basketball, tennis, baseball, or football. Not everyone, however, is physically able to participate in strenuous activities, so you might want to find one that’s less physically challenging, like fishing, chess, billiards, or trivia games.
You don’t necessarily have to possess any natural talent or have acquired skills to enjoy hobbies. Part of the fun is in the learning and experience. Also, you don’t have to be particularly good at something to enjoy doing it. My middle daughter loves to sing, yet she has a terrible voice. Singing makes her happy, however, so the rest of just use earplugs.
Goal-setting has always been important to me, and I don’t think I’d be happy without goals. They don’t have to be big goals – little ones work just fine. Setting goals and achieving them gives me a sense of accomplishment and self-worth, helping me to be happy. I set goals for myself every day, and sometimes I even write them down. For example, I might decide that I want to write five articles on Monday, clean the bathrooms on Tuesday, write five backlinks on Wednesday, wash the dogs on Thursday, and so on. I realize this sounds really simple, but you’d be surprised at how well it works as part of my “be happy plan.” And that’s just what you have to do: make your own plan. Mine works great for me, but it might not work for you.
As I said earlier, I’m big on forgiveness. What most people don’t realize is that forgiveness is more for the benefit of the forgiver than it is for the “forgivee.” For example, the guy at the office who stepped on you in order to take your promotion doesn’t give a hoot if you’ve forgiven him or not, so your lack of forgiveness isn’t hurting him at all – it’s hurting you. Hate and anger are dark cancers that dwell in your heart and gradually consume you. Learn to let it go. That doesn’t mean you have to be pals with someone who’s wronged you, but for your own inner peace, grant forgiveness. Turn that negative energy into something positive.
Unfortunately, forgiveness doesn’t come naturally to some individuals. If you fit into this category, you’ll have to work at being forgiving. I think this is easier to do if you see forgiveness as power. When you allow someone to keep you angry, you’re giving the person power over you. When you forgive the person, however, you have the power. You’re consciously dismissing the negative feelings and letting them go. Realize that the decision is completely yours.
A very negative person once berated me for being so forgiving. I’ll never forget the comment: “Holle, you’re just way too forgiving.” How can one be too forgiving? This person thought she was insulting me, but I took it as a compliment. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t allow people to abuse me over and over. If you knew me, you’d say I was a pretty tough cookie. I have, on occasion, cut all ties with abusive individuals, but in my heart, I forgave them and never looked back.
I believe that in order to learn how to be happy in life, we have to believe in something larger than ourselves. For me, this is Christianity. For you, it might be another religion, or it could be something that has nothing at all to do with religion. It might be science, art, nature, or “the music of the spheres.” Whatever it is, embrace it. Revel in it. Find solace and inspiration in it. Set aside some time each day specifically for this purpose. Use the time to pray, to meditate, to reflect, or to marvel. Even the most jaded cynic can find awe in something. I experience wonder every day. I might find it in a spectacular sunset, in the power of a storm, or in watching my youngest grandchild learning something new. Wonder is all around us, and if we take the time, it’s not hard to find and enjoy.
How to Be Happy - Start Today!
Start today with learning how to be happy in life. Make a conscious effort - it's never too late, as long as you're still breathing. Life is short, as they say, so why spend another precious day being miserable? You have the power to change your life for the better – no one else can do it for you. Happiness is not in wealth or material things. Happiness is within. Some people have to learn how to be happy, while for others, being happy just seems to come naturally. Just remember that true happiness is not external – it’s internal. Find peace in your life, set goals and work to accomplish them, and embrace a strategy of forgiveness. Take up a couple of new hobbies, surround yourself with positive people, and begin helping others. Get a pet, if it’s feasible. Do your best to look forward to happier times instead of looking back and dwelling on sad times from the past. You have to be happy with yourself before you can learn how to be happy in life.
More about how to be happy:
More by this Author
Information about crabbing, stone crab season, and blue crab season in Florida, along with regulations, great locations, and tips. Discount crab traps, crab nets, photos, maps, and videos included.
Tips for getting your disability claim approved quickly—from someone who's done it. Lots of good feedback and advice from readers, too!
Information about pinched nerve, nerve damage, or peripheral neuropathy. Videos by health care professionals are included.