Happy New Year, Party People. And while we’re tossing around that favorite word, “happy,” let’s take a few moments to consider how we come to know it. Is happiness a state that washes over us when there are no problems? Is it a feeling we get when we’re content with ourselves and our circumstances? Is it something we can choose to experience at will? (Yes, yes and…I’ll agree with Abe, here.) It seems like we all want to be happy. There’s a widespread consumer industry built around the promise of giving us happiness, which takes many forms; good health, fulfilling work, meeting your soul mate, a cooler car, a dream vacation, a better mattress, etc. Yet, I’ve known and worked with people who are actively choosing not to be happy, and often unaware they are doing it. We get attached to a way of being, whether that vibration is low or high. The path of least resistance can keep one stuck in the mud. Yet, we are able to elevate our outlook and embrace optimism at will.
Question: “You mean I’m responsible for my own happiness?” Answer: “Yes.”
There’s a lot of truth to the adage that one of my elders spouts off often, “Only you can make you happy.” Agreeing with this statement comes with a lot of responsibility. Or, put more positively, control. It may seem a tall order to master your own inner smile, but it doesn’t have to be. No need to buy into the idea that it’s a function of what you do, such as accomplishing heroic things, cultivating compassion or amassing a fortune. It’s not an external change, but an internal shift. People often stay stuck in a rut because “it’s quite familiar, thank you.” But if we desire happiness, we have to create it from the inside out. Take a look at the lens you’re viewing life through. Like an old pair of glasses that are scratched up and out of style, it might be time for an upgrade.
In preparation for this delightful little piece, I challenged myself to experiment with deciding to be happy on several different days. Admittedly, the effects were short-lived, yet every time I remembered to make up my mind to be happy, I was able to shift my perspective for the better. Folks- it’s do-able! It’s not unlike the practice of mindfulness. If you stop what you’re doing and thinking long enough to immerse in the moment, usually you find that everything is…well,…awesome. In addition to attentively embracing the present moment, we simply add an idea, “I choose to be happy now.” Try this. Like me, you may experience a visceral lift, before your mind takes charge again, reminding you what to worry about. But hey, once you know it works, you can keep deciding to be happy, one moment at a time.
Unchecked, it’s common to operate on auto-pilot and feel exhausted, depleted and defensive. Like a bad habit, we’re oriented around the struggle. We may begin the day with a nagging grumble, “O.K., what do I have to do today?” But what if that question becomes, “What do I get to do today?” There’s a world of difference in that one word change in self-talk. It exemplifies our ability to determine whether we see the proverbial glass half empty or half full. Our perspective is definitely within our control. The path of least resistance may be to default back into unhappy mode, so tweaking ourselves into positivity might take some practice. But it is possible to build the happy muscle and make a positive outlook the new normal. Do you know anyone who has a smile set-point? A perennially positive person is like a breath of fresh air, compared to the incessant complaints of those wedded to their worries and woes. We can’t decide for anyone else, but we can choose a happy mindset, ourselves. So, consider trading in that old set of frames to rock some rose colored glasses in 2016!