10 Reasons Why Happiness Takes Couragehttp://www.thrivehealth.com.au/wp-content/uploads/spring-2298280_1280960.jpg 960 639 Janie Janie http://1.gravatar.com/avatar/73d7b9a4bcaf7c63f4a42c753b4c008d?s=96&d=mm&r=g
“The only happy moment I have in my day is when I’m greeted by my dog when I walk through my front door.”
This is what one of my clients said to me the other day. She only experiences a few minutes of joy every day. A moment of unconditional love from her dog.
In my work with clients I have come to realise that the large majority of people are simply not happy. They are not happy with their lives and themselves. Most people seem to live lives of quiet desperation, constantly stressed from their job, finances, health and relationships, and they feel powerless to do anything about it.
It is also no longer “normal” to be happy. It is more common to be comparing anti-depressant medications or asking someone “what are you so happy about?” when they are smiling for apparently no reason.
So I really had to ask myself: Why are so many people so unhappy despite a desperate longing to be happy, and why has it become so uncommon? And the answer I discovered was quite surprising: it’s because –
Being happy takes courage.
This may sound strange but the more I thought about it, the more I realised how true it seems to be.
So here are 10 reasons why happiness take courage:
Happiness is a choice we make NOW
Despite what most of us believe, happiness will not magically happen when we change jobs, lose weight, retire, find the perfect relationship or win the lottery.
No. Happiness is a choice that we have to make in every moment of every day. We have to decide NOW that it’s how we want to feel. And interestingly when we make that choice, our life circumstances start to change in a positive way to reflect how we feel.
The reason this takes courage is it means we have to make an uncomfortable choice. It means we have to take responsibility for how we feel and acknowledge that we are the only ones who can change it. And that no outside event or person can change it for us.
Happiness means we have to stop worrying about what others think about us
It is virtually impossible to be truly happy if we are always worried about what others think about us. Ironically the reason we worry about what others think is because we want to fit in – and we think fitting in will make us happier. But does it really?
Yes, it is nice to be liked (and loved!) but it only truly makes us happy when we are liked for who we really are – not for pretending to be someone we are not.
This takes courage because it can mean being OK with not fitting in. It can mean doing something others might not approve of. The fact is that not everybody can ever like us anyway so we are better off being our real selves – and then we get to find out those people who actually like us the way that we are!
Happiness means focusing on the positive as often as we can
Humans are wired to focus on the negatives for a very good reason – our survival depended on it! Our senses are finely attuned to any threat in our environment so that we can react quickly.
The only problem is that most of the negative situations we experience today do not threaten our survival – but still our senses are programmed to focus on them. And even worse – these modern “threats” are relentless and fill our day. And this definitely makes it hard to be happy!
So instead we need to rewire our brains to focus on the positives. We can do this using tools such as gratitude – where we are grateful for all the good things that happen to us. Or we can look for the gift – whenever a situation seems “negative” we find something positive in it, no matter how small.
The reason this takes courage is that it takes time and perseverance to practice being positive until it becomes a natural way of thinking and responding. And it takes commitment to be aware of the continuous negative thoughts looping through our minds.
Happiness means taking control of our reactions
We spend our lives reacting to situations on autopilot – we do the same things we have always done without ever really thinking about why, let alone acknowledging that we could do something differently!
We think others are doing something to us, and then we react depending on whether we thought it was “good” or “bad”. If it’s “bad” we can get angry, feel badly done by, argue or withdraw – all the while blaming someone else for how we are behaving. Should others really have this power over us?
Actually no one ever does anything to us. Something “happens” and then we can choose how we want to react. So we can choose to create a better situation – and this might mean choosing forgiveness, acceptance or apologising.
This takes courage because it means acknowledging that we are not a victim to outside circumstances. It means realizing we have control over our responses and this takes inner strength. It means taking personal responsibility for everything we think, feel and do.
Happiness means embracing our feelings
We have been conditioned to think that negative feelings are “bad”. We then either keep them bottled up inside and suppressed (which then manifests as depression or anxiety) or we project them at others (rage, blame or criticism).
The fact is that our feelings are an amazing guidance system – they tell us with 100% accuracy when we are not happy. When we experience a negative emotion it is telling us there is something we need to change, so we firstly need to understand what the feeling is telling us and then we need to make a change in our life. So emotions are actually the key to creating happiness!
It takes courage to listen to our feelings because it means feeling! And many of us have a fear of feeling. The irony is that when we push away negative feelings away we also push away positive feelings so is it any wonder so many people are unhappy?
Happiness means doing what you love
We are here to experience life! There are so many wondrous things we can do. Look at children – they are creating, expressing, exploring and living life with all its ups and downs and wearing their hearts on their sleeves. When did we give up that sense of wonder for mundane, stressful jobs and lives?
Doing what we love is vital for happiness. Feeling the eagerness and excitement from a new creative project, or learning something you have always wanted to learn, or being with the people you love – the satisfaction and joy we get from these moments are priceless.
The reason this takes courage is because it means we have to prioritise “me” time. We have to say no to things that do not bring us joy so that we can fit in the things that do. And sometimes this means making difficult decisions, and often taking a leap of faith.
Happiness means reclaiming yourself
Have you given up your life for a role? That role could be as a parent, a spouse, a business owner or an employee. If you have sacrificed yourself for others it is likely that you will reach a point in your life when you feel like the shell of the person that you once were. The mid-life crisis!
Usually this is the mother whose kids have grown up, or the man whose wife has left him because he worked too much… So many of my clients say “I don’t know who I am anymore!” or “My life has no meaning!”
Reclaiming ourselves is a vital step towards happiness. Learning again what we love to do, what gives our life purpose and getting back in touch with our dreams. And then taking the steps to be that person again.
It takes courage to step away from a role – often it feels like we are letting others down – but at the end of the day we are really only letting ourselves down. Creating a balanced life that makes us happy will make us more effective in any role we play in our life.
Happiness means quieting our mind
Are there spaces between your thoughts? Do you even know what you are thinking? Choosing and creating happiness requires rewiring our brains so how can we do that if we have no control over our mind?
Practicing mindfulness, meditation, relaxation or simply slowing down are all great ways we can start to get awareness of our thoughts. Being present with ourselves and our environment (instead of the constant distractions of electronics and social media!) are actually a requirement for happiness.
It takes courage to allow ourselves to simply be present. We have to say no to the busyness and constant distractions. We have to stop scrolling and multi-tasking. And it can be a challenging and often frustrating process to learn how to control our mind, and so it requires patience and determination. Two steps forward, one step back.
Happiness requires self acceptance
How can we be happy in our life if we are constantly criticizing ourselves? Instead of seeing the whole, amazing person we are, we focus on the negatives (see point 3 above!) and so we ignore or downplay our gifts, strengths, achievements and beauty.
Firstly we need to understand that the voices in our head that tell us how awful we are are not ours. They are voices given to us by our media, parents, teachers and peers and therefore we do not have to listen to them. Instead we need to replace them with more positive voices.
We can do this through tools such as affirmations where we read out a list of things we like about ourselves, that others like about us, or that we would like to be like.
This takes courage because so many of us find it inconceivable that we could ever like ourselves, so first we have to believe it is possible. It means we have to acknowledge the amazing things about ourselves which seems to go against our very nature. It means we might have to pretend that we like ourselves for a while before we actually start to feel it and live it.
Happiness means giving freedom to others
We have just seen that to achieve true happiness we ultimately have to be OK with who we are. And the next step is that we need to OK with everyone else and who they are.
If we want to be happy in our relationships then we cannot place demands and expectations on others. It is their life and we have no right to tell them how to live their life, just as we would not want anyone to tell us how to live ours.
This means giving those we love the freedom to be themselves, and not criticizing them or judging them when they do something we don’t like. If we are triggered by something they do, we need to understand that it is about US, not about them. It is about owning our own thoughts, reactions and emotions and if we need to express them we do it in a responsible, loving and considerate way. It is about keeping our inner peace and not reacting when those we love “do something to us”.
When we give others their freedom they are happier, so we become happier and our relationships and families are happier. We create peace and harmony in our homes.
This takes great courage. Setting those we love free and taking responsibility for our own feelings is a complete mind-shift for many of us. Not getting involved in the drama, the arguments, the blaming and the resentment requires practice and patience.
It is actually easy to predict your future. Your future looks like how you feel NOW. If your NOW is full of negativity and stress then your future will be filled with circumstances and situations that reflect that. If your NOW is filled with happiness, joy and excitement then guess what your future looks like?
Are you prepared to be one of the few courageous people who strive to be happier in every moment of every day so you can create a happier future? Are you prepared to say no, take some risks, experiment and invest time in rewiring your brain?
The rewards far outweigh the effort because the reward is HAPPINESS FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.
Feeling inspired to create a healthier, happier rest of your life?