Sincere forgiveness isn’t colored with expectations that the other person apologize or change. Don’t worry whether or not they finally understand you. Love them and release them. Life feeds back truth to people in its own way and time, just like it does for you and me.
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.
Stress is inevitable. It walks in and out of our lives on a regular basis. And it can easily walk all over us unless we take action. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to minimize and cope with stress. Here are 10 ideas for handling stress without causing more strain and hassle.
1. Figure out where the stress is coming from.
Oftentimes, when we’re stressed, it seems like a big mess with stressors appearing from every angle. We start to feel like we’re playing a game of dodgeball, ducking and darting so we don’t get smacked by a barrage of balls. We take a defensive position, and not a good one at that.
Instead of feeling like you’re flailing day to day, identify what you’re actually stressed about. Is it a specific project at work, an upcoming exam, a dispute with your boss, a heap of laundry, a fight with your family?
By getting specific and pinpointing the stressors in your life, you’re one step closer to getting organized and taking action.
2. Consider what you can control—and work on that.
While you can’t control what your boss does, what your in-laws say or the sour state of the economy, you can control how you react, how you accomplish work, how you spend your time and what you spend your money on.
The worst thing for stress is trying to take control over uncontrollable things. Because when you inevitably fail — since it’s beyond your control — you only get more stressed out and feel helpless. So after you’ve thought through what’s stressing you out, identify the stressors that you can control, and determine the best ways to take action.
Take the example of a work project. If the scope is stressing you out, talk it over with your supervisor or break the project down into step-wise tasks and deadlines.
Stress can be paralyzing. Doing what’s within your power moves you forward and is empowering and invigorating.
3. Do what you love.
It’s so much easier to manage pockets of stress when the rest of your life is filled with activities you love. Even if your job is stress central, you can find one hobby or two that enrich your world. What are you passionate about? If you’re not sure, experiment with a variety of activities to find something that’s especially meaningful and fulfilling.
4. Manage your time well.
One of the biggest stressors for many people is the lack of time. Their to-do list expands while time flies. How often have you wished for more hours in the day or heard others lament their lack of time? But you’ve got more time than you think, as Laura Vanderkam writes in her aptly titled book, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.
We all have the same 168 hours, and yet there are plenty of people who are dedicated parents and full-time employees and who get at least seven hours of sleep a night and lead fulfilling lives.
5. Create a toolbox of techniques.
One stress-shrinking strategy won’t work for all your problems. For instance, while deep breathing is helpful when you’re stuck in traffic or hanging at home, it might not rescue you during a business meeting.
Because stress is complex, “What we need is a toolbox that’s full of techniques that we can fit and choose for the stressor in the present moment,” said Richard Blonna, Ed.D, a nationally certified coach and counselor and author of Stress Less, Live More: How Acceptance & Commitment Therapy Can Help You Live a Busy Yet Balanced Life.
6. Pick off the negotiable tasks from your plate.
Review your daily and weekly activities to see what you can pick off your plate. As Vanderkam asks in her book: “Do your kids really love their extracurricular activities or are they doing them to please you? Are you volunteering for too many causes and so stealing time from the ones where you could make the most impact? Does your whole department really need to meet once per week or have that daily conference call?”
Blonna suggested asking these questions: “Do [my activities] mesh with my goals and values? Am I doing things that give my life meaning? Am I doing the right amount of things?”
Reducing your stack of negotiable tasks can greatly reduce your stress.
7. Are you leaving yourself extra vulnerable to stress?
Whether you perceive something as a stressor depends in part on your current state of mind and body. That is, as Blonna said, “Each transaction we’re involved in takes place in a very specific context that’s affected by our health, sleep, psychoactive substances, whether we’ve had breakfast [that day] and [whether we’re] physically fit.”
So if you’re not getting sufficient sleep or physical activity during the week, you may be leaving yourself extra susceptible to stress. When you’re sleep-deprived, sedentary and filled to the brim with coffee, even the smallest stressors can have a huge impact.
8. Preserve good boundaries.
If you’re a people-pleaser, saying no feels like you’re abandoning someone, have become a terrible person or are throwing all civility out the window. But of course, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Plus, those few seconds of discomfort are well worth avoiding the stress of taking on an extra activity or doing something that doesn’t contribute value to your life.
One thing I’ve noticed about productive, happy people is that they’re very protective of their time and having their boundaries crossed. But not to worry: Building boundaries is a skill you can learn.
9. Realize there’s a difference between worrying and caring.
Sometimes, our mindset can boost stress, so a small issue mushroom into a pile of problems. We continue worrying, somehow thinking that this is a productive — or at least inevitable — response to stress. But we mistake worry for action.
Clinical psychologist Chad LeJeune, Ph.D., talks about the idea of worrying versus caring in his book, The Worry Trap: How to Free Yourself from Worry & Anxiety Using Acceptance & Commitment Therapy. Worrying is an attempt to exert control over the future by thinking about it, whereas caring is taking action. When we are caring for someone or something, we do the things that support or advance the best interests of the person or thing that we care about.
LeJeune uses the simple example of houseplants. He writes: “If you are away from home for a week, you can worry about your houseplants every single day and still return home to find them brown and wilted. Worrying is not watering.”
Similarly, fretting about your finances does nothing but get you worked up (and likely prevent you from taking action). Caring about your finances, however, means creating a budget, paying bills on time, using coupons and reducing how often you dine out.
Just this small shift in mindset from worrying to caring can help you adjust your reaction to stress. To see this distinction between worrying and caring, try this activity where you can list responses for each one. For example:
Worrying about your health involves…
Caring about your health involves…
Worrying about your career involves…
Caring about your career involves…
10. Embrace mistakes—or at least don’t drown in perfectionism.
Another mindset that can exacerbate stress is perfectionism. Trying to be mistake-free and essentially spending your days walking on eggshells is exhausting and anxiety-provoking. Talk about putting pressure on yourself! And as we all know but tend to forget: Perfectionism is impossible and not human, anyway.
As the researcher, Brene Brown writes in her book The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, “Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth and it’s not self-improvement.”
Nothing good can come from perfectionism. Brown writes: “Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction and life-paralysis [‘all the opportunities we miss because we’re too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect’].”
Plus, mistake-mistaking can lead to growth. To overcome perfectionism, Brown suggests becoming more compassionate toward yourself. I couldn’t agree more.
The act of opening your heart is a bond of trust. It is the act of sharing the whims of the heart. You trust that you are being listened to and that the person has an honest response. Opening your heart is not about good reception or making things better, it’s about making yourself understood.
- It’s not about you. You know yourself, your heart and your love, they don‘t. The first thing you need to know about opening your heart is that you don’t do it for yourself. Don’t expect a particular outcome; the truth is your goal.
- Groundwork. You need to ensure that you are being listened to. When you open up to another person about your love, make sure that you have their total attention, make sure they are listening to you. Miscommunication is a pointless pain.
- Be honest, even if you don’t know what you feel or want. If they care, they will help you sort through whatever mess your heart is in.
- Ask for honesty. Show your expectation of mutual trust.
- Whatever happens, walk away with pride knowing you honored yourself, your feelings, and your relationship with the other person. Nothing is beautiful as honest love.
- Do it for them, not yourself.
- Don’t expect anything, but the truth.
“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” — Anais Nin.
Friends add meaning to our life, they enrich our experiences, bring joy, and share our problems. If there were a fourth need besides food, water, and shelter, we could say it would be the need for human interaction, closeness, and friendships. After all, what if great things happen in your life—you got a new job, a promotion, or fall in love—and there is no one to share the news with? What is the use of getting that new dress, purse, car, or house if there is no one to tell you, “I’m so happy for you!” And what can give you more relief in time of frustration, grief, sadness, or “the blues” than talking to a friend? Our friends are an important part of our lives, and also a necessary part; they are our mirrors, and our sounding boards.
Choosing a friend is not an easy task, for we all had one or two experiences in our life when a person who we thought was our friend let us down. Those lessons were hard to swallow, yet necessary to our inner growth. Later we learned that it is better to be alone than to be in wrong company.
It is of utmost importance to carefully choose the people we will associate with, for they will have great influence on our life. ‘‘Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.’’ (Assyrian proverb). We are the average of the five people closest to us, and that relates to their lifestyle, manners, income, etc. If you make friends with someone who is always looking for an easy way out, tells “white lies,” makes excuses, is envious, sarcastic, and avoids taking responsibility, it is only a matter of time before you start slacking off in those areas and justifying your own behavior as acceptable. Somehow what seemed unthinkable before, will gain a new perspective and become the norm, for if you run with the wolves you too will learn how to howl, and just like a mirror you will start to reflect the behavior of your friends—the good and the bad.
Stop for a moment now, and take a little inventory of the person you are right now compared to the person you were a year or two years ago. What qualities have you adopted from the people you surround yourself with? What character traits, attitudes, vocabulary, even quality of your self-esteem, confidence, acceptance of yourself and others? How did your friends (consciously or unconsciously) influence you in those areas? If the change is positive, and you feel yourself moving toward more, that’s great! How about if the change is negative, slowly but surely getting you down, making you feel that you are less instead of being more?
It is up to you to make the change, for as long as you tolerate mediocrity from others, you too will find mediocrity in your own life acceptable. Know, however, that this will be one of the hardest changes you will have to make, for your friends will not want you to grow. They have spent months or sometimes years getting you to a point where they themselves are, and now they are feeling comfortable with you right there, and it will not be of benefit to them if you should decide to change that. They don’t want you to grow, for the result of your personal growth will be outgrowing them and their comfort zone. At all cost they will want you to stay where they are, where they can continue to influence you and will not have to worry that someday you may become better than them. Their intentions may not even be based on jealousy but rather on fear, so forgive them quickly so you can go on your way to become the person you are meant to be.
Sometimes you have to leave behind those who are not willing to climb the mountain with you, if they refuse to share your vision of personal growth, then they should not try to discourage you in reaching your dream. How will you know what their true intention is for you? Look at their own lives, in which areas have they already reached the success that you are striving for? If they tasted the victory, they will want the same for you, however if their life never left their personal comfort zone they will be eager to share thoughts of fear and discouragement with you. So on your travel to a greater you, only take counsel from those who have already been there. Surround yourself with friends who are models of something instead of experts of nothing, for if you share your problems with someone who is incapable of contributing to a solution dipping in their own life’s experiences, your time and energy is wasted. Oftentimes though, it is those who never did anything who are the first with their ill-fitted advice. Know then, that at those times you can reserve the right that not everyone has the privilege to speak into your life. Instead of wasting your time with those people, invest in some time spending a few hours with people who have ‘‘been there and done that” and came out of it successfully.
It is said that there are three kinds of people in this world:
• Those who watch things happen.
• Those who make things happen.
• Those who wonder “What happened?”.
So let’s make things happen. Start today!
Choose good friendships in your life, the kind of friends who will enrich your life, pull you up when you are down, and push you when you can’t go on by yourself, who will be generous with praise at your successes and eager with encouragement at your struggles, those who will not patronize you to make you feel good for a moment, but those who will tell you the truth and help you get better for a lifetime.
Take a moment and think of those people.
Who are they? How close are you to them? What do they do with their lives personally and professionally? Are they ambitious, successful, happy, optimistic, and enthusiastic? What are their core beliefs about work, money, life, family, health, spirituality, and their body?
Most of us have had the same friends, or group of friends for a long time. Perhaps, we’ve known them since birth or were childhood friends. Or perhaps you have made new friends as adults, but they have become your community or new family.
The reality is that we are a direct representation of those who surround us. It’s inevitable that whoever we surround ourselves with, we eventually become like. For some, this is fantastic because you have surrounded yourself with authentic people who push and encourage you. For others, its detrimental to their growth.
Most of us surround ourselves with toxic people. Now I’m not talking about people who are malicious, rude, mean or hateful (although perhaps). I am defining toxic as people who are unmotivated, uninspired, zap your energy or discourage you, encourage you to stay stagnant, hold limiting, fear-based beliefs, or simply don’t ever push themselves to become their best self.
If you are on a path of growth, change and ultimate healing of your body, mind or soul – you ‘have’ to look at your friendships. This is one of the hardest things you will ever be faced with doing. I know that none of us like to rock the boat, and no one wants to appear better than someone else. But this is a MUST!
If you don’t rid yourself of unhealthy friendship, you cannot live as your best self. You will be stunted in your growth, and ultimately participate in self-sabotage.
People have a hard time with this lesson, and be in relationships all their life that does not serve their highest good. They serve them, and have some heart breaking, and devastating experience with this that results in a period of deep loneliness and grief, which is never healthier in life! Change is rapid and growth is abundant.
Choosing Your Friends Wisely:
- Make a list of people that you need to reduce time with in your list of 5 people. Have the conversation if you need to, or slowly create some healthy distance. This takes time and emotional processing.
- Make a new list of people that you want to be friends with. Don’t know anyone yet? List out what the attributes of the person would be. Are there people you know, but have never met? Write down the names of those people.
- Find Your People. Seek out groups, clubs, activities where those people would hang out. Attend conferences those people would attend. Read the blogs your friends would read. Project and it will come.
- Date New Friends. When you’ve lost a support network, you may feel desperate for friends. Date new potential friends. Find out from the beginning if they are takers, drainers or destroyers. Ask the right questions from the beginning and see what motivates them.
- Cultivate Authenticity from the Beginning. In order for you to not slip back into your old patterns, you have to be authentic from the get go. Share your real self from the beginning. Share your path of growth and change; share your excitement and passion. Don’t edit, be YOU.
- Be Open. Your new friends may not look, dress or talk like your old friends. Be open to finding your soul sisters and brothers in new places and faces.
Change is necessary for growth. Don’t shy away from this. You are not a mean, selfish person if you need to lose or ‘dump’ some friends. Remember that those people have been great for the time you have spent with them, but they are no longer resonating with the truth in your heart and certainly not helping you shine bright.
It’s time for you to shine bright! Surround yourself with people that inspire you! Your environment impacts every decision you make. Choose those friends who leave you feeling alive, grateful and inspired.
You deserve to be with people and in environments that support your BEST self!
Pain and emotions are just thoughts triggered in your head that seem too strong to overcome. When confronted with these senses or thoughts, one usually has little control over his or her action in the following sequences. Many can suppress emotions and try to hide pain, but with a controlled thought and strong will, both can be ignored completely up to a certain level. It doesn’t make you invulnerable, but it makes you more durable or less fearful. The feeling is a cold one and shouldn’t be taken on by those with a weak mind, body, or soul.
- Know the pros. Everybody has natural (and necessary) mechanisms for ignoring pain and negative feelings. The harder thing to do is to let yourself feel the feelings fully, when you are ready, and deal with them. However, at times it can be important to ignore them for some time. For example, when they are too powerful for you to deal with, and you are not ready, when they interfere with a strong need, such as the need for survival, to work for money, to negotiate a tough situation with people who cannot support you with your feelings, or to protect yourself from temporary hazards.
- Know the cons. Read the warnings below. Hiding your feelings can delay your progress, can inhibit healthy communication and trust.
- Control your anger. Before anything else, the key is anger. As anger builds in you, it can be used to help block off thinking. Try to concentrate to be angry and to push it down.
- Stop feeling whatever it is If you wish to live with no sorrow, after you can control your anger well enough, begin to talk yourself out of sadness; to just not care. This is the next step in learning – to not lose yourself in emotions and feelings. Try to stop caring and say “I control my life.” Be bold, be strong. Try push it out of your head. Things wont bother you if you wont let them.
- Distract yourself. Just don’t sit alone thinking about it! Know that whatever you are feeling is silly compared to other things.
- Block out mental stresses and pain for physical pain. This system is a bit different because now you must endure before you can truly leave behind physical pain. This doesn’t mean you have to cut yourself. You just have to accept the feeling of pain when you’re hurt. Find a sparring partner, a close friend perhaps, preferably someone bigger.
- Focus. Now you must realize a truth in life. It’s a truth that you will need to focus on. All your feelings come from thoughts and impulses in your head that tell you something is wrong or right, like a burn or a tickle. What you must do is realize that with enough pushing and controlled thought, you can change wrong to right, sorrow into happiness, etc. With pain, all you do is tell yourself it doesn’t hurt. It seems simple, but is harder than one can truly imagine.
- Find help from inspirational quotes. Try to look up inspiring quotes on Google. Try listening to songs that have strong lyrics.
- Know that you won’t always be hurting. Sooner or later, you’ll find light at the end of the tunnel.
- Also, for the first and second steps, it might seem as though there isn’t a lot of description to it. That is because only your own mind and way of thinking can judge how long it takes and how you must go about following those steps.
- Don’t be overconfident. Don’t try to breeze through such a drastic change in your life. Be safe about how you do this – no cutting, stabbing, or poking yourself intentionally. Life is full of pain and all you need to do is wait for it.
- Remember: it’s only temporary. It will be over soon, as emotions don’t stick with you for your whole life.
- Think of something great in your life. Like a lover or a great accomplishment. Feel the emotion you feel through such times and forget about the bad.
- Your emotions will still be there, and will still affect you but in strange and unconscious ways, making it difficult for you to do anything about them. The psychological term for this is dissociation, and the consequences are serious. Read up on dissociation disorders before you even consider this.
- Do not think only about yourself; think about the other people you will hurt, such as your loved ones.
- Whatever you are suffering, whoever you are, there are people who care and who can help you, whether it is someone you know or a stranger at a crisis center. Reaching out to them for help and dealing with your problems will make you so much stronger than trying to ignore your pain.