How to Have a Happy Life Even When Things Are Falling Apart
How can we have a happy life when we’re experiencing so much hardship right now?
Life takes us on an emotional ride, doesn’t it? One minute you’re on the top of the world, the next, you’re crashing down. Since happiness depends on your emotional response to life’s changing tide, it’s no wonder our happiness is taking a major hit right now. But the good news is that there’s something you can do to elevate your happiness, even during stressful times.
When you know a surprisingly simple technique, your highs and lows of life won’t be so drastic. You’ll be able to maintain an even keel despite life’s storms. After all, a happy life is created from within.
Happiness has been defined as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.” As I mentioned before, it’s fluid; it ebbs and flows with your experiences.
And therein lies a vital key to understanding how to have a happy life even when stuff happens:
There must be a way for you to remain flexible, calm, relaxed so you can rise to the surface despite turbulence. Like swimming, you have to be able to float, right? Can you do that when you’re panicking or tense? No, you float when you calm yourself and relax. So what will help you to “float” to greater happiness? What is this “emotional life jacket”?
Your personal flotation device is a practice of mindfulness. And as you don’t want to learn to swim after you’re thrown from a ship into the ocean, learning to practice mindfulness is vital now, before you experience a devastating experience.
Even if you have tendencies toward negativity, you can create a happier life by
- opening your eyes and seeing the good around you,
- expanding your heart to appreciate each beautiful moment and
- focusing on responding to each life circumstance that arises instead of simply reacting.
It’s your choice to be happy with where you’re at in life at this moment in time.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. who’s responsible for bringing the practice of mindfulness to mainstream medicine, defines it as: paying attention in a particular way – on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.
When you allow yourself to be relaxed and aware of the present moment, you can extend openness and curiosity toward your feelings rather than making judgments about them. And more importantly when you extend that to others in gestures of giving, compassion and gratitude, it causes your happiness to grow.
Start putting on your “happiness life vest” with these simple mindfulness exercises…
1. Take Pleasure in the Moment. Calm your mind and heart to become aware of the good that’s already present in your life.
How can you do this? Savor the experience in the moment. Hold good thoughts as long as possible. Notice the somatic resonance in your body. Anchor those sensations to be able to access them at will. We’re surrounded by beauty every day. Take the time to really look for and appreciate the good in each moment of life.
2. Express Gratitude. Feeling gratitude and expressing gratitude are two separate things. Research shows that having an attitude of gratitude is good for us. However, expressing gratitude increases happiness levels by 25 percent. Researchers are seeing how cortisol levels, stress levels, heart rate and brain activity are all affected by expressing gratitude. Science is showing that we can actually rewire our brains and develop new neural pathways.
How can you do this? Daily look for times to say “Thank you.” Gratitude journaling makes you aware of past kindnesses. Make a point of sending a card or making a phone call to let people know how they’ve touched you.
3. Connect With Your Purpose. Having a sense of meaning in your life may become a defense from life difficulties. This, in turn, may preserve your physical and mental health, promote self-acceptance, and ultimately increase happiness.
How can you do this? Focus on your values, how you make the world a better place for your family, friends and neighbors. Think about how you make their lives fuller and richer.
4. Connect with Others by Giving. Humans are not meant to be isolated. We’re meant to interact with others. Giving of your time and resources without expecting anything in return is the best way to connect with others.
How can you do this? Seek out someone in need. And remember that one of the greatest gifts you can give is to listen to them without judgment. The best gifts are not necessarily based on things or money. Love, kindness, concern, thoughtfulness are all gifts. And if someone wants to give back to you, graciously accept their gift.
5. Walk in Their Shoes. When you’re able to empathize with others, you become more compassionate and understanding. Barriers dissolve and relationships flourish as you treat others as you would like them to treat yourself.
How can you do this? Always ask yourself, “If that happened to me, how would I feel and how would I want people to treat me?”
We cannot wait for happiness to find us. We can mindfully cultivate happiness every day, which is how we build a happy life!
Since I first wrote this blog post, I’ve been paying attention to the processes and systems that create the greatest impact in my life. A practice of mindfulness is one of them. But I’ve discovered many more that form a road map for Stepping Forward into creating a life of meaning and fulfillment. You can now download an Introduction to my upcoming Stepping Forward Program. I invite you to get your sneak peek today!