Regardless of the reason you feel unhappy, all you really want to know is that you can be happy again, right?
You feel trapped and unsatisfied with the way life is treating you right now, or the way life has turned out and all you want is an escape from the hurt and pain. You’re not alone.
Happiness is often a goal that people don’t believe is achievable.
The human life is riddled with pain and discomfort and it seems sometimes that no matter how hard we try, we can’t get ahead.
If you are feeling lost and full of sorrow instead of happiness, you can turn things around.
Unfortunately, you won’t find happiness outside of yourself. It’s not at the bottom of a beer bottle or in the arms of another person.
Happiness really does come from within, which is why it is elusive for so many people.
We think things and people make us happy, but the truth is that we can make ourselves happy.
Here’s how. These are the 16 most important steps to find happiness in your life again.
1) Identify When the Change Happened.
The first step in getting back to happy is to determine if you have ever really been happy in the first place.
If you agree that yes, you have been happy at one point or another, you need to determine what happened and what changed.
What was the moment of change for you? Did something happen at work? Did your spouse leave you? Did you get into debt? Did you just wake up one more and feel blah?
You need to know when your life shifted.
In Bronnie Ware’s bestselling book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, she reported that one of the most common regrets people have at the end of their lives is that they wish they’d let themselves be happier.
This indicates that people feel happiness is in their control if they allow themselves to do things that make them happy.
According to Lisa Firestone Ph.D. in Psychology Today, “many of us are more self-denying than we realize.”
Most of us believe that doing activities that “light us up is seflish or irresponsible.”
According to Firestone, this “critical inner voice is actually triggered when we take steps forward” that reminds us to “stay in our place and not to venture out of our comfort zone.”
If you can confidently say that you have never been happy in your life, you need to release yourself from that hold and give yourself permission to allow happiness to come from within you.
2) Don’t Fake it.
The next step is to not try to fake happiness. Fake it ‘til you make it is not real life. And we are trying to cultivate real happiness here.
Happiness doesn’t mean being happy all of the time, by the way. Life is full of ups and downs, so don’t strive to feel good all the time.
In fact, according to Noam Shpancer Ph.D. in Psychology Today, one of the main causes of many psychological problems is the habit of emotional avoidance as it “buys you short term gain at the price of long term pain.”
Being alive means having the privilege to feel all of the feelings and have all of the thoughts humans can conjure up.
When you try to block all of the feelings that are allocated to you as a human, you don’t get to experience life to the fullest.
Happiness is just one piece of the puzzle, albeit an important one. So don’t fake happiness. It’s worth waiting for.
3) What’s Standing in Your Way?
In order to discover your happiness and allow yourself to experience the full gamut of being human, you need to determine what is standing in the way of your happiness?
You might be inclined to point the finger at another person. You might even think it’s your job, lack of money, lack of opportunities, childhood, or even the education you got because your mother suggested it to you 20 years ago; none of that is real.
You are standing in your own way on this one.
As mentioned above, happy people aren’t always “happy”.
According to Rubin Khoddam PhD, “Nobody is immune to life’s stressors, but the question is whether you see those stressors as moments of opposition or moments of opportunity.”
It’s a tough pill to swallow, but once you get on board with the fact that you are the only thing standing in your way of happiness, the road forward gets a whole lot easier.
After all, there are many different definitions of happiness. What’s yours?
4) Be Kind to Yourself.
As you carry on throughout this journey, you need to recognize the points in which you can be kind to yourself. It’s easy to beat ourselves up and declare that nothing is good enough.
The Harvard Health Blog says that “gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.”
“Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
Practicing gratitude as you follow your own lead will help you see that there are lots of things in your life that are worthy of your attention and work to create happiness in your life and in the lives of others.
You need to be nice to yourself. That doesn’t mean having bubble baths and buying new clothes, although that stuff does make you feel good.
Being kind to yourself is about giving yourself the space to figure things out for yourself.
Gratitude is not just one of those hippy-dippy things that people do to be cool. Gratitude is something that can profoundly change your life for the better.
Even when the cards are stacked against you, the way in which you play them and approach the game can mean the difference between a happy life and one filled with regret and shame.
If you are working on being someone who is happier in their life, gratitude is going to help get you there.
This includes being grateful for the difficult and uncomfortable times.
There are lessons in every aspect of life and when you let yourself experience them fully, you get to where you want to go.
5) Determine What Happiness Will Look Like for You.
Rubin Khoddam PhD says that “regardless of where you are on the happiness spectrum, each person has their own way of defining happiness.”
So many of us are chasing other people’s definitions of happiness. In order to find happiness again, you need to determine what that looks like for you.
The hard part is that we often adopt our parents’ or society’s version of happiness and strive to achieve those visions in our own lives.
That can lead to a great deal of unhappiness as we come to find out that what others want is not necessarily what we want.
And then we have to be brave as we decide to step into our own lives and figure things out for ourselves.
What do you want your life to look like? You need to know.
6) Accept the Difficult Things into Your Life.
Remember that life is not all butterflies and rainbows and that you only get rainbows after it rains, and butterflies only appear after a caterpillar has gone through a tremendous transformation.
Struggle is required in the human life in order to find the sunshine.
We don’t just wake up happy, we need to work for it and work on it.
When you allow struggles into your life and don’t dramatize them, you can make the most of any situation and grow from it, like the caterpillar turning into a beautiful butterfly.
There’s no point in feel ingbad about feeling bad, says Kathleen Dahlen, a psychotherapist based in San Francisco.
She says accepting negative feelings is an important habit called “emotional fluency,” which means experiencing your emotions “without judgment or attachment.”
This allows you to learn from difficult situations and emotions, use them or move on from them more easily.
Once we see the rainbow – or the result of our struggles – we often forget how bad the rain was.
While most people searching for happiness want to get to the fun faster, they are not willing to sit in discomfort and learn things about themselves.
People who are truly happy are those who have come through the fire and lived to see another day.
We don’t live happy lives tucked into bubbles and closed off from the hurt and pain of being human.
We need to feel all that there is to feel as human beings in order to be happy.
Afterall, without sadness, how can you know when you are happy?
7) Believe You Can be Happy.
The most important step in finding your happiness again is to truly believe that you can be happy.
It might look different from what you imagined, especially as you start out on this journey equipped to go forward with a new attitude and new goals of what your life can look like.
But you need to believe it is possible. If you continue to tell yourself that you’ll never be happy, you’ll never find your happiness again.
You deserve all that you want in this life, but you need to believe it. Nobody is going to make you happy.
No object, thing, experience, advice, or purchase will make you happy. You can make yourself happy if you believe it.
According to Jeffrey Berstein Ph.D. in Psychology Today, trying to find happiness outside yourself is misguided as “happiness based on achievements does not last long.”
8) Don’t rush through life.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but you can’t see the beauty if you are rushing through life.
Research suggests that being “rushed” can make you miserable.
Yet on the other hand, some studies suggest that have nothng to do can also take its toll on you.
However, the balance is just right when you’re living a productive life at a comfortable place.
Therefore, it’s important to have goals, but we don’t need to be in a hurry all the time to get things done. It leaves so much wasted time on the journey not soaking in life.
Happy people feel their way through life and they allow the good and the bad to penetrate into them so they can have the full human experience.
Stop and smell the roses isn’t just some old-time advice that sounds nice, it’s real-life advice that can help you be happier.
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Written by Lachlan Brown
I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you to want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.