We all want it. But, so often, it eludes us.
Why? Because most of us have no idea what actually creates happiness.
Fortunately, the answers aren’t hiding behind a new gym membership, or late hours at the office, or your next blind date.
In fact, they’re right in front of you.
Read on for 3 common myths about happiness, and the truth you can trust instead:
Myth #1: Your happiness depends on your circumstances.
Happiness is not out there for us to find. The reason that it’s not out there is that it’s inside us.
It certainly seems logical:
“Once I get that promotion…”
“When I finally meet the right person…”
“Just as soon as I get back into shape…”
(…or buy a bigger house, or find the right friends, or switch careers…)
“… THEN I’ll be happy.”
But it’s not quite that simple.
While external factors like health, relationship status, or finances certainly can influence our lives in important ways, they actually matter very little when it comes to the level of happiness we each experience.
So, what does make us happier?
Experts suggest each of the following can lead to a happier life:
- Pleasure and enjoyment: Doing (and savoring) the things that bring joy and satisfaction
- Engagement and productivity: Spending time on activities that use our strengths in positive ways
- Meaning and enduring significance: Finding ways to serve and contribute meaningfully
Sounds simple enough, right?
And that’s exactly the point: The things we can control that will create the most happiness in our lives are easy enough to do… and also easy enough not to do.
Try this: Starting right now, look for opportunities to bring more pleasure, engagement, and meaning to your life! A few ideas:
- Reflect on the past: When do you recall feeling particularly happy? What were you doing? Create an opportunity to engage in that activity more often.
- Focus on the present: Pause whatever you’re doing and find 1 simple experience to savor. Maybe it’s a few deep breaths outdoors. Or a quick scan through photos from a trip you enjoyed. Or a warm mug of tea. Doesn’t matter what it is… just pick something pleasurable, and enjoy.
- Envision the future: When you reach the end of your life, how will you be remembered? What lessons and gifts did you leave behind as your legacy? What can you contribute now to increase the likelihood you’ll be remembered this way?
Myth #2: Happiness declines with age.
Know that you are the perfect age. Each year is special and precious, for you shall only live it once.
As a culture, we are not always kind to our elder community members.
Across news, media, and everyday conversation, we praise and emphasize the importance of youth, speed, and physical vitality.
Add in the threats to ones autonomy that commonly come with age (e.g., vision and hearing changes, loss of driving privileges or independent housing) and it seems only natural that a person might enjoy diminished happiness as he or she ages.
And yet the research is clear: Older people actually experience more happiness and life satisfaction compared to younger people.
Not only do they feel fewer negative emotions and more positive ones, they experience more overall stability in their emotional wellness. They also seem to be less sensitive to the cumulative stressors of daily life.
As we age, we naturally shift our perspective to place greater value on meaningful relationships and experiences, savoring of pleasure, and gratitude for the gifts (large and small) we have been given.
In short, we become more emotionally wise.
Try this: Learn from the wisdom of your elders and start shifting your perspective now. Ask yourself:
- Which relationships in my life mean the most to me? How can I deepen those connections?
- Which causes or activities give me the greatest sense of purpose? How can I invest more of myself in these?
- Which simple experiences in my life bring me pleasure? How can I create more space to savor these experiences?
- For what do I feel truly grateful? How might I pass these gifts on to others?
Myth #3: There is a one-size-fits-all “formula” for happiness.
The face of happiness may be someone who is intensely curious and enthusiastic about learning; it may be someone who is engrossed in plans for his next five years; or someone who can distinguish between the things that matter and the things that don’t; or someone who looks forward each night to reading to her child. Some happy people may appear outwardly cheerful or transparently serene, and others are simply busy. In other words, we all have the potential to be happy, each in our own way.
While there are a variety of factors that can promote happiness in our lives, the truth is that there is no uniform approach to cultivating happiness.
Just as emotional wellness can be personally defined, so too can happiness.
So, why wait? Get started creating your own formula for happiness today!
Try this: Consider what “happiness” means to you. Complete the following sentences:
- I feel happiest when I am _____________, ______________, and _______________.
- When I am _____________, this is one sign that I might not be as happy as I would like.
- In my experience, one of the simplest ways I can create happiness in my life is by ____________________.
- And when I have the time and energy, I know I can deepen my happiness by __________________, _____________________, and ___________________________.
- Although I haven’t tried it yet, I’m curious to experiment with _________________________ to see how it might influence my happiness.
- When it comes to my happiness, I will focus on spending more time/energy on ___________, and less time/energy on _____________.
- My biggest reason for cultivating happiness in my life is ______________________________________.
- One step I will take today to cultivate happiness is __________________________________________.
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Ready to take the next step in your happiness journey?