Updated: Jun 10, 2020
We live in world where what we have, who we know and how others perceive us is supposed to bring us great success.
Consequently cultural messages are if we don’t have those in place, then we can’t be truly happy.
The problem with that memo is that, no matter how much money or success we have, there is always something better.
Even after we purchase a new house, car or wardrobe, the appeal of these new acquisitions lose their charm because the truth is that happiness doesn’t come from the outside.
Fulfilment comes from witnessing our own growth, success comes when we can truly be ourselves and joy appears when we authentically live in the present moment.
By hitting the pause button, and reflecting on our life balance sheet, we have an opportunity to take stock.
Can we make substantial changes so we feel a sense of purpose and meaning? Isn’t it time to start being happier and fulfilled?
Here’s 4 ways to do this.
Get A Perspective
Have you ever immersed yourself in pictures of earth taken from the space station?
Looking at our world from above makes us realize how meaningless our complaints are. It’s easy to notice how we give too much power to our problems and make them bigger than they need to be.
Back on earth, we get that same sense of awe when we submerge ourselves in the vastness of the ocean or look upwards to a mountain range.
On a smaller scale, being in nature can make us feel more connected to life.
When we stare into space or feel the stillness of nature, the resulting sensation of calm can help us to reassess our life problems and get perspective.
Put Problems Back In Their Place
If success, joy and fulfillment are what make our lives worthwhile, then we need to put problems back in their proper place.
If we understand that suffering is part of the human condition, it makes it easier for us to stop looking for happiness outside of ourselves. People are happier when they better accept life’s downs as well as the ups.
It’s very easy to get excited about problems. Being steeped in problems is a way of distracting ourselves from inner turmoil.
Problems can give us the feeling of being alive when the reality is that they are, as far from feeling joyful, as is possible. Pending financial doom, failing health, gossip or creating drama don’t help us feel connected to reality.
When one problem is solved we simply find another one. If we find excitement in our problems, then all the problems become equal.
Problems create pain. And in the words of Theodore Rubin:
"The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem."
Just because having problems seems to be normal in most people’s lives, it doesn’t mean that we need to rule our lives by problems. If it's not finances, relationships, work, family, it's something else.
Perhaps we need to accept that we are here to be challenged. Each problem is an opportunity to dig deep and find clarification. Perhaps having “stuff” is not our purpose in life. Maybe we are here to awaken and evolve as part of a lifelong journey.
Problems can be approached by hand wringing. But how about seeing a problem as a ‘situation that needs addressing’; solutions then come more easily.
If we approach problems with a peace in our heart, we feel calmer and more calm brings more joy.
Stop Expecting And Start Appreciating
Many of us feel like we should have certain things happen, got that promotion or been appreciated for what we’ve done for others.
The reality is that we build a tight space in which we're imprisoned. When we set expectations for what we think should happen, we add to feelings of frustration, anxiety and depression.
High expectations are a killjoy. If we stop thinking about what SHOULD be and start being grateful for what is, we cultivate a sense of appreciation.
Appreciation is being thankful and ready to return kindness. It’s the joy felt on seeing the best in someone or something. It's a state of mind that conveys happiness and motivates us to act.
But it’s not “touchy feely”.
Science demonstrates that appreciation dramatically improves our well-being.
It opens the doors to better relationships, improves both our physical and mental health and reduces our stress. All of these things lead to better sleep and increase self-esteem.
Life doesn’t owe us anything and appreciating what we have helps us stop taking everything for granted.
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough” — Oprah Winfrey
Live In The Present Moment
Letting go of our never-ending mind racing, is not easy because it’s become a part of us.
But like an old computer with too many programs running in parallel, it slows down. The more that we can connect to the present moment, the lower our anxiety and frustration. As a result, our focus, productivity and happiness will skyrocket.
If there’s no joy in what we’re doing right now, we’ve allowed ourselves to be taken over by the insanity of our spinning mind.
Science has determined that when we obsess over and over the same old problems, it’s often the same three problems that we’re obsessed with. Yes we spend at least half our time are immersed in the mind racing.
This mind racing is a burden and it covers up the joy of being in the present moment. The mind will have asked think we have a lot of problems to fix. But this is distorted because if we have a problem we can find a solution. If we can’t find a solution then we accept the situation we find ourselves in. No amount of obsession will fix the problem.
By accepting whatever the present moment presents we give up the futility of trying to change it. Trying to change the unchangeable is simply trying to resist the reality of how it is.
As soon as we accept the present moment, with all its struggles, a flow begins. It’s as if the dam that had been stopping our life flow has now been unblocked. Life was never meant to be perfect. We will always have struggles and by accepting this as a life mantra, we allow an awareness and joy to enter our lives.
Many people, on their deathbed, talk about their regrets. It’s interesting how many regrets include having waited to something to make them happy. But happiness comes from within; we don’t want to be one of those people who die with regret of waiting for happiness, right?