What is happiness? In my book I define “enlightened happiness” as feeling positive energy about yourself and your life—or feeling positive energy about the progress you’re making in either area. The thing about happiness is that we can’t take it for granted and expect it to magically appear.
Happiness is a skill that we can always develop and improve. Here are five ways to do that:
Own your happiness
This is the starting point. You have to care about your happiness enough to take it off the back burner. What do you need to create the life you really want to live? Do you have the confidence to do what you want with your life without anyone else’s validation?
Do you say “No” to others and “Yes” to yourself without guilt, shame and fear? Are you living the life you want to live or are trying to meet someone else’s definition? Own your happiness by prioritizing it and by discovering what gives you positive energy in life.
Recognize how happy you are
When I was a psychotherapist, my clients who were clinically depressed would often tell me they were always depressed. They didn’t notice when they felt okay, a little hopeful, or when they were feeling good. I would ask them, “Tell me about a time you were not as depressed as you usually are?” If they could do that, that’s a start.
To grow your happiness, start by recognizing “positive energy.” It happens more often than you might think. If you want to feel happier more often, pay attention throughout the day. Notice when you’re feeling hopeful, excited, motivated, interested, curious, energized, focused, grateful, kind, compassionate or relaxed. We can be “happy” in many ways without realizing it.
Adopt a “growth mindset”
According to Carol Dweck, Ph.D, people with a “fixed mindset” think their intelligence and talent are set in stone. Whatever they have is all they’re going to have. They’re tormented when they make mistakes or fail because they believe mistakes and failures mean they’re not smart or talented. They need to win to feel good about themselves.
People with a “growth mindset” believe their brains and talent are just the starting point and with dedication and work they can learn, grow and improve. Their self-esteem isn’t assaulted when they blow it or fail. They learn what they can and are motivated to try again.
Nurture your relationships
Human beings are wired to be social—we need to be connected to feel happy. Some people need a lot of friends and some only need a few. Whatever you need when it comes to relationships, it’s important to relate well and to connect with others at work and at home. I’m sure you do well when it comes to communicating and relating to others. The question is, “How much better can you get?”
Happiness (positive energy) is nurtured in relationships—but not just in any kind of relationship. If you’re experiencing unhappiness and ongoing frustration in a relationship, make it a priority to find out how to resolve what’s going on. If your career is going well, but your personal life isn’t because of a significant relationship, do whatever you have to (within reason) for things to improve.
Practice extreme self-care
You know you need certain things in life to survive. But beyond physical needs, you also have psychological and emotional needs that must be met. However, life isn’t about surviving—it’s about thriving. Make thriving your aim and you won’t have to worry about surviving.
When we don’t take care of ourselves, it’s often because we don’t value ourselves enough to do so. If we’re taking care of those around us and neglecting ourselves, what message are we giving to ourselves and others? This brings us back to owning your happiness. Own your happiness and take exquisite care of yourself and you will be on your way to developing and improving your own real happiness.