A strict definition of the word “happy” would lead us to the root “hap,” which means “chance or fortune.” Because of that most scholars consider that happiness is determined by the chance circumstances of life, whereas joy is something that comes from within, irrespective of circumstances. There is undoubtedly some truth in those definitions, but most people today, when they use the term “happy” are referring to “feeling good, cheerful and positive.” And that definition of “happiness” is what I’m sharing about in this post.
Most of my readers know that I am a consecrated Christian, and naturally, for me, having a relationship with Jesus Christ is the root of all my happiness. It can be for everyone who knows Him. However, there are some things that every individual — regardless of his spirituality — can do to make his life (and the lives of those around him) happy and pleasant. The following list is, by no means, exhaustive, but it offers five suggestions to perk up our everyday lives and give us a greater sense of happiness and peace. They can also make us much more pleasant to be around.
1. Decide that you really do want to be happy.
As ridiculous at it sounds, there are actually people out there who enjoy being miserable and feeling sorry for themselves. I hate to admit it, but I even tried that attitude once — for most of two years in my life. It was horrible, but, more importantly, it was stupid. No one else in my life wanted to join in my pity party, and if I insisted on talking about all the problems I faced and how sad I felt, their attention drifted off to another realm or they just got up and left.
Now, we all need encouragement once in a while, and there’s nothing wrong with letting a good, solid friend know that you’re facing a problem and would appreciate his input or prayers. But once that’s done, we need to focus on working toward the solution and not on continued effort to garner sympathy.
2. Recognize that it is no one else’s responsibility to make you happy.
This strange belief that another person should meet all of our expectations and cater to our needs before anything else, so as to make us happy, is one of the primary causes of failed marriages. Hopefully, we have a marriage partner and/or a few friends who care enough about us to want to see us happy and to want to add to that happiness. However, it is not their responsibility to do so. And once we recognize that fact — and determine to do all that we can to make our own lives happy and pleasant — we will find that we are much more free to actually enjoy the other people in our lives much better than if we’re always trying to get them to make us feel good.
3. Refuse to let circumstances dictate whether or not you are a happy person.
There’s not one human being on the face of the earth who does not face problems — major problems. No two people face exactly the same thing, and no individual faces the same degree of problems all the time. But no one goes through this life without having things happen from time to time that cause him pain or struggle or loss of some kind. And it’s true that some folks seem to get deluged with several big problems at the same time. But those problems — or the lack of them — do not make us who we are.
We must discover for ourselves who we are as a person — what do we believe, what are our standards, what level of morality do we live by, what are our goals, and what do we want to give to the rest of the world as our contribution to humanity? When we know ourselves that well, then we can face the problems staring at us and start planning how to use what we know about ourselves to either fix, overcome, or go around those problems.
And once we determine that we are not going to let the problems dictate our happiness — but rather, we are going to dictate to the problems — it becomes much easier to enlist real help from other sources. We are not crawling to those sources bemoaning our fate, but walking into their presence with confidence that shows we are ready to find solutions and move forward.
4. Smile every time you look at anyone: another human being, an animal, or yourself in the mirror.
Have you ever really looked at the people you pass on the sidewalk, or the grocery store aisle, or the gas station? Most people aren’t smiling these days. And, granted, there are a whole lot of circumstances in this world that are bad enough to rob us of our smiles. But, just as we said in suggestion # 3 above, we must not let the circumstances dictate to us. So make it a point to smile when you look at yourself in the mirror first thing in the morning, and again when you comb your hair to go out, and yet again when you brush your teeth before you go to bed (if you do). Then smile at every person you pass or come into contact with throughout the day.
Now, I admit, that for some of us, our face muscles might feel a little sore after 24 hours of smiling, but, like any other muscles, a little more exercise will get them into shape, and then there will be no pain. Medical science tells us that smiling and laughing have a definite positive effect on the physical health of our bodies — and the emotional health as well. I would go so far as to predict that if you are feeling depressed a lot lately, if you will follow this suggestion and literally smile at everyone all day for about three days, you’ll be surprised at how much better and brighter you feel at the end of that time.
Not only that, but smiles open the doors to conversations, and many times the simplest initial conversation between two people has resulted in their finding so much in common that they eventually became good friends. Moreover, smiling can open the door to encourage people to ask for directions or suggestions if they are traveling or shopping, and helping someone else is one of the best prescriptions for dissolving away depression.
5. Give yourself time and opportunity to do some things that give you real pleasure and peace.
Even if you’re situation is such that you can find only 10 minute segments of time, try to plan for those periods of time and deliberately use them for activities that add to your feeling of happiness. Caregivers and mothers with several children are especially prone to avoid planning time for themselves. I’ve been in that situation myself, and it is difficult to make ourselves plan something entertaining or fun or just restful when the people we’re caring for are so needy. But, in truth, we can give much more to those we care about if we take time for receiving what we need to keep us strong and positive as well.
Some days it may just be taking a catnap. Other times it may be reading for a few minutes. Of course, ideally, having a few hours at a time, will be especially beneficial, but even 10 or 20 minutes of reading something that you truly enjoy will refresh you and give you a fresh attitude. Maybe your choice is listening to music, or watching a favorite TV program. Maybe it’s a trip to the lake or the park to just sit and soak up nature. Maybe it’s having lunch with a friend, going shopping for an afternoon, or working with your favorite tools in your garage or workshop.
But make a decision to put real effort into giving yourself the gift of enjoyment. Do whatever it takes to secure those experiences for yourself and then enjoy them to the full. Don’t feel the least bit guilty. When that period of time is over, go ahead and start planning for the next time.
So do you want to be happier?
Putting these suggestions into practice can go a long way to getting there. I honestly believe happiness — the state of feeling good, cheerful, and positive — truly can be a choice. I hope the suggestions I’ve shared here will help a few of my readers to put more effort into making the choice to be happy every day for the rest of their lives. I’m going to be working harder at it myself.