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How To Find Happiness Within Yourself: A Rough Guide

The quest of finding happiness is possibly the only goal shared among all human beings – past, present or future. Who doesn’t want to find happiness in his or her life? It’s a silent goal nonetheless. We don’t mutter much about it and most of the time it lurks in the deep inner workings of our minds. Curious isn’t it?

The odd fact is we spend billions of research dollars & euros into treating mental illnesses with drugs, but not much effort goes into understanding the science of happiness or mental well-being. This fact alone compels me to write about the subject.

The title of this article is in itself revealing – “how to find happiness within yourself” suggests from the outset that you should look for happiness within yourself and that happiness is general to be found within. This is also a very curious thing to me. Why are we always trying to find happiness in all kinds of places but hardly ever attempt to find happiness within?

Harry is 67. He lost his wife to cancer almost three years ago now. He saw his daughter pass through a marriage breakdown and divorce. He hardly gets to see his grandchildren because his daughter moved to another city after her divorce. He misses the fishing trips with his brother Joe who also passed away recently. He is relating less and less to a changing hostile world where he is constantly reminded he is an unwanted burden.

Yet there is one major twist to the story. Harry is happy, radiantly happy. How can this happen? I mean if there are people who have passed through all sorts of heartbreaking episodes and hardships but are happy, what’s their story? Conversely, if there are people (and lots of them) who have acquired all sorts of merit, possessions, and good fortune yet is deeply unhappy, what does this say about finding happiness?

Finding happiness by losing old mental models:

One major flaw in the way we live our lives is that we have learned how to be unhappy rather than how to be happy. We have built certain mental models of our reality and these limit us or lead us astray from finding real happiness. Naturally this leads us to the understanding that finding happiness requires us to unlearn certain things and look for it in different pathways. It requires us to look into flaws in our belief system and change them.

One of these mental models we adopt is the belief that we need to reach a certain goal or outcome to be happy, the so-called ‘if-then model’ (if this happens then I will be happy). For example that we should get a better income, financial freedom, recognition of our work, sexier bodies, satisfying relationships and so on. It’s always something around the corner which needs to happen first before we reach happiness.

I know you have many times got to the realization yourself that it just doesn’t work that way. Once you reach that corner there is always another corner to reach. Happiness is not found in anything outside ourselves. We already have all the material at hand to be happy. It’s a matter of shifting our perspective and beliefs completely.

Some mental models to take note of and debunk:

• Happiness is the pleasure: No. Pleasure is instant gratification – physical or mental. Happiness is knowing that you are where you should be or accepting that you are not and doing your best while you’re there.

• Happiness is comfort or security: We live most of our lives in constant security threats – our jobs, our children out at night, our health, etc. The truth is that security or lack of it is based on perception. Happiness is living well in a very unstable world.

• I don’t deserve happiness: Yeah, says who? Another human quirk – self-inflicted limitation. Happiness is for everyone, wherever you come from, whatever you did and no matter what’s your idea. Happiness is open-source.

• It’s impossible to find happiness in this world: Another example of self-limiting beliefs. Wrong. Happiness is as possible to find as unhappiness.

• People who reached their goals are invariably happy: Again, says who? People who reached their goals are not happy because they reached their goals. On the contrary, some are eternally dissatisfied and keep on seeking, other goals in life – a real source of unhappiness. But yes some people found happiness while reaching those goals since they were living their true purpose and enjoying every moment of it. Their eyes were on the doing and not on the reaching.

Finding Inner Happiness Through Finding Inner Peace

So many stories around us, like that of Harry, seem to point at the overlooked obvious – that you will only find happiness within yourself. Well, that’s very good news since you don’t need to look far away to find happiness – like for example running after expensive, energy-consuming and ultimately unsatisfying goals. It’s there right within you. As scientist Zen Buddhist Jon Kabat-Zinn perfectly immortalized in one of his book titles: “Wherever you go, there you are.”

When life rocks your boat to the point of wrecking it or when the proverbial crap hits the ceiling fan you will reach a y-point which will either make you or break you. So many people like Harry managed to find happiness & inner peace through the most turbulent and upsetting moments of their lives by making use of their internal resources, by finding happiness within rather than in external points of reference.

The key to happiness, or, in other words, that of finding true inner happiness, is by finding your inner peace – that center of calm inner knowing which is the real source of your being rather than those mental projections or models imposed by your social background.

There are many pathways to find your inner peace but before I start sounding too metaphysical I’d reckon that the greatest and shortest path is that of acceptance. Let go of your expectations, inner struggle, and frustrations when things don’t turn out exactly, the way you want them. Acceptance is an extremely powerful tool to finding inner happiness. It shouldn’t be confused with resignation or passiveness.

We often fail to understand the power of acceptance because it comes from the heart, not the mind. Its power, in fact, comes from transcending the resistance and inner currents of the restless mind which are often the source of our anxieties, stress, and inner conflict.

Acceptance is when we drop all, our mental models (like the if-then model), often in a moment of clarity or awareness where we become conscious that there is another life outside this madness, outside this huffing and puffing trying to acquire one goal after the other in the wrong belief that there is an ultimate goal post called happiness somewhere on the finishing line.

Ask yourself – how much of what’s going on in your life do you accept? Are you constantly feeling you should be at some other point in your life? Or do you somehow feel at peace with all aspects of your life and make use of them with all their limitations?

Other pathways to inner peace:

• Compassion: Some people admirably manage to find the time and energy to help other even when they are facing rough seas themselves. Even though this comes out from an act of compassion and selflessness, it is also a doorway to their own inner peace. In fact although it seems quite hard to do in moments when we are down and out, giving attention to others’ needs is a way of getting ‘out of your head’ which, ironic as it sounds, is a fast remedy to unhappiness.

• Seek the support of others: Well, it works both ways too. Helping others is a way to shift your center of attention away from your ailments. However seeking any form of support from others is a way of finding reinforcement and encouragement and is highly recommendable.

• Be grateful to everything around you: Because we so often forget of the little miracles happening around us on a daily basis. We only think about what’s missing instead of counting our blessings. Being thankful to life is not some wishy-washy magical spell that washes away all your troubles. Rather it is an exercise in which you become aware of the positive and meaningful things happening in your life, a real booster.

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How To Confront Friends Who Are Ignoring You?

There may well be occasions in your life when your so-called “friends” abruptly cease to talk to you and pretend that you are no longer there. Finding out the reasons for this can be difficult but if you really want to face them, here are some suggestions for doing so.

1. Evaluate your interactions with your friend(s) and make sure that they are actually ignoring you. You might just be over-analyzing the situation and thinking that they are ignoring you, when really they are going through something else in their life that has affected all of their friendships.

  • Compare how much you and your friend used to interact with how much you’ve been interacting lately. Is it a drastic change?
  • Compare how much you and your friend interact with how much they interact with their other friends and your mutual friends. Are they hanging out with others but still ignoring you?
  • Consider whether your friend has recently gone through a life-changing event (e.g., a family death, depression, etc.) that might negatively affect their ability to maintain friendships. If this is the case, you should give them time and space. If you feel it’s appropriate, you can point out that you understand your friend has just gone through something tragic, but you really miss them in your life and wish that you two could rekindle your friendship. Be kind, and don’t add additional stress to your friend, but do reach out to let them know that you’d like to spend more time with them.
  • Think about your recent previous interactions, and see if any situations come to mind in which you could have offended or hurt your friend. Did you say something behind their back that you knew you shouldn’t? Did you make an insensitive joke or comment? If you have a history of offending this friend, you might be right that they are trying to avoid you, and you should seek amends by initiating an apologetic conversation.

2. Choose a strategy. Is it just a single friend who has started to ignore you, or is it a group of friends? Approach each situation slightly differently:

  • For a single friend: you may like to approach your friend during a quiet time when your friend is not around other people. If this is not possible at school, then try to see them after school. If your friend has started spending time with a new friend, don’t try to interfere while this person is around or they will likely close ranks together. Try to get your friend alone for a talk.
  • For a group of friends: select the weakest. This means to choose the friend you know is most likely to be feeling unhappy about snubbing you and get him or her to spill the beans away from the group. Corner them in the bathroom, in the library or after school. Anywhere, as long as you can be one hundred percent sure that no-one else from the group will see and prevent this friend from talking.

3. Ask them what’s wrong. Don’t cry, wring your hands and beg. Just be straightforward and tell them that you simply want to understand why they appear to no longer want your friendship. Be straightforward and use words such as “I feel”, “I am upset by” and “I am confused about” etc., so as to avoid starting a blame game. Try to give the friend space to talk instead of becoming defensive.

4. Accept that they might or might not tell you. Sometimes a friend outgrows a friend. This can be a horrible lesson to face in life and sadly, some people are not well-socialized enough to be open and honest about changes in their feelings about a friendship. For these people, ignoring you is a way of coping with their own feelings of pain, confusion and inability to be forthright. At this point in time, if they continue to ignore you, it may be time to call it quits and move on.

5. Remember that sometimes they may be ignoring you because you have upset them. This is more likely to happen with a single friend, although if you upset a key member of a group the rest of the group can react to it. If this is the case, you need to go straight for the source. Don’t mess about with the fringes of the group, go to the person you’ve annoyed and sort it out, just the two of you.

6. Try to make new friends and leave your old friends alone for a while. When you aren’t around anymore, they might realize that you are upset at them. If they try to talk to you, don’t be difficult with them. They might have been ignoring you for a good reason.

7. Never get angry with them while talking. If they get extremely aggressive or violent, then walk away and leave them be. Read their body language and their tone to try and find out how they really feel. If they seem stressed do everything you can to convince them to talk through it with you. But be honest with them. Tell them how you feel, and make sure you are clear about how they feel as well. Honesty is always the best policy, at least in the long run.

8. Listen carefully to what they are saying and write down what you think they are feeling.

9. Even if you may be feeling angry, don’t look like you are angry. This shows your friend that you are not trying with them and you don’t care just take deep breaths.

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