“It is only possible to live happily-ever-after on a day-to-day basis.” ~Margaret Bonnano
When it comes to happiness, we are all in the same boat. The search for happiness is universal. Virtually everything we do comes down to our fundamental desire to be happy.
And, yet, it often proves harder than we imagine.
We are so sure that once the next big thing happens, then we will happy. “Once I find the love of my life, then I will be happy,” I used to think to myself.
Marriage, promotion, retirement – we set up milestones, believing that once they are achieved, happiness will be ours.
The fundamental misconception we make in our quest for happiness is that we are searching for eternal happiness. We want to secure our happiness. We want the kind of happiness that will never expire.
It is sad but true: there is absolutely nothing we can do make sure that we will be happy for the rest of our days. No matter how much we wish for eternal happiness, life simply doesn’t work like that.
Life isn’t broken down by monumental events, such as marriage and that promotion. Instead, life is composed of little moments.
The only way to be happy is to have many of these moment be good ones. That’s it. If you are skeptical, let me add that this is also how scientists define happiness.
All that matters for how happy we are with life is the frequency with which we experience positive emotions.
Not realizing this, we keep falling into the trap of searching for eternal happiness. And so, much of what we do in our effort to be happy is counterproductive.
I will address some of the most common mistakes we make in our quest for happiness, and discuss how they can be corrected.
1) We buy things instead of experiences
Psychologists suggest that we use our money to buys experiences instead of things. And yet, we keep choosing things, over and over again.
I was thinking about it the other day. Why do we do that? Surely, we all want to have good experiences. We all want to go on vacations. We all want to see the world.
But somehow, most of our money goes into buying things.
I, too, used to spend all of my money on things. So I looked within, and asked myself, “Why?”
Here is how my reasoning goes: “The experience will only last a few days,” I’d think to myself. “But if I buy this thing, I will have it forever. I can use it over and over.”
Does this sound familiar?
We behave as though we have all the time in the world. So, instead of making the best of our time now, we invest in things that we can, in theory, enjoy for a lot longer.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work out like that. Before we even realize it, we get used to living in a larger house and driving a fancy car. We stop using the new electric device before we even had the time to remove the last tag.
In fact, most of us have so many things that we couldn’t possibly use all of them on a regular basis. Never-mind using it all, our houses are so overflowing with stuff that we can’t even find everything we have.
On the other hand, when you buy experiences you are directly buying happy times.
Next time, instead of buying the next electronic device, go for that weekend getaway that you keep delaying. Sign up for that class that you always wanted to take – be it yoga, dance, acting – whatever it is for you.
Our life is our time. Let us buy some happy times.
2) We expect our relationship to keep us happy
This is very common, and I’ve definitely been there. We expect that being with the right person will bring us lasting happiness.
Not only is this expectation unrealistic, it is also highly destructive. When we don’t feel happy, we turn on our partners. “If only I were with the right person…,” we think to ourselves. The fairy-tale promise of “happily ever after” causes much tension in real relationships.
The truth is that nothing, including our relationship, has the power to bring us lasting happiness.
Happiness is not a one-shot-deal. It is something that we need to work on every day. Don’t blame your partner. Instead, work on your happiness by yourself.
Relationships don’t have the power to make us happy in the long run. Happy people make happy relationships. Focus on your happiness, and your relationship will flourish.
3) We live in the future
We put most of our energy towards creating a happy future. We search for love. We work towards that promotion. We save for retirement. We worry, we plan, and we prepare for the future. Meanwhile, time is passing.
Instead of putting so much of our attention on the future, we should focus on being happy in the present.
The present moment is literally all we have, so learning to stay present is at the heart of being happy.
But, the mere realization that we should focus on the present isn’t always enough. Sometimes, we need a bit of extra help. Yoga and mediation can be very helpful in learning how to start living in the now.
4) We Dwell on the Negative
Sometimes we’re experiencing many happy moments, but dwell instead on the few that are negative.
There are many times in my life when I’ve experienced this. I am going along, having a great day, when something negative happens. For some reason or other, I then find myself dwelling on that moment, and ignoring the great things that preceded it.
Practicing gratitude is a great way of overcoming this particular obstacle. Each night, write down 10 things that happened to you that were positive or for which you are grateful. At first it might be difficult, but after very little time you’ll find it extremely easy to do.
When you find yourself in a funk after what used to be a great day, try practicing gratitude right there-and-then. It will help to immediately lift your spirits!
With practice, gratitude can prolong the influence of positive events. Moreover, practicing gratitude improves physical health, raises energy levels and, for patients with neuromuscular disease, relieves pain and fatigue. In addition to those benefits, from my own experience, if you’re having trouble sleeping, it’s a lot better than counting sheep!
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Social pressures and misconceptions may lead us in the wrong direction. But this doesn’t change the fact that we all deserve to be happy.
I believe that happiness is our birthright. This is why I put together an e-book to help my readers find happiness. In my book, “Hacking Happiness,” I discuss how psychologists define happiness, and give 9 effective tools to achieve happiness. And the best part is, “Hacking Happiness” is 100% free. If you haven’t already, get your copy now.
I am always happy to hear from my readers. Please feel free to contact me with your questions and comments.
To your happiness!