Everything we do ultimately comes back to this single, resolute desire. Even when we see a person putting themselves through great trials or sacrifices, a little digging down and we see it’s basically, so they can be happier. I think we all pretend that we don’t, maybe we consider it more noble to serve others or some great cause or to sacrifice happiness for our families, but I think I could argue that these are all driven by this fundamental need.
I know I do anyway….
So here are the first three tips to become a happier person.
Tip 1. Check if your security is threatened.
We all need to feel secure, it’s a basic need for every human being. As soon as my security is threatened by financial stress, interpersonal conflict or loss of possessions, I start to feel anxious and fearful. That is going to stop any feelings of happiness right in their tracks! We can’t be happy and anxious at the same time.
Anxiety is created by a fear of loss, we think we can’t survive without this person, or that job or that possession, so we fear losing it. Even when we have those things we can’t really enjoy them because we are imagining how it would feel if we lost them. Happiness is impossible in this state.
The solution is simple really, internalise your sense of security. Easier said than done but so effective! When I say internalise, I mean stop getting a sense of security from things that are so fragile. People, possessions and achievements are very unreliable as a source of security. Your source of security must come from a deep sense of self-worth and trust that you are able to provide for yourself. When you feel deep down that you are OK, you are less reliant on others for that validation. Also, when you realise that you are very capable of providing the basics for life, that your ability to survive is powerful, you will see that a job loss isn’t the worst thing that could happen. It may even be the start of a something wonderful!
I have personally experienced the loss of a job, rental investments, my marriage and close friends, all in the space of a few years and like many others I have been surprised at how I have coped. The true gift of suffering loss is the realisation that what you feared the most was not actually that terrible. Fear always projects the future as a much more terrible thing than it really is. Realising that fear is a bully without teeth releases you from anxiety and opens the door to happiness.
Tip two, are you getting a sense of progress?
We all need to feel like we are growing, it’s a basic human need. When we feel stuck we can start to feel hopeless and depressed. Once again hopelessness is not going to add to your sense of happiness! Have you set goals for yourself and are they realistic? Without realistic goals we have no way to monitor progress, this means we can’t get a sense that we are growing. Small, realistic goals are the best, they mustn’t be too easy or too hard, and short-term goals are best. For example, a goal to get my PhD is too big and too long term. I would be better to make the first goal, to fill out the application form for a university.
Once we have set realistic, short term goals then we need to plan a path to achieve them with a realistic time frame. Lists are great for this! I get so much simple pleasure from crossing out a task on my to do list. Once we have achieved the goal we need to stop and celebrate. Self-congratulation and gratitude are so important if we want to be happy, because these are very effective ways to fill up our need for growth and progress.
Tip Three: Allow yourself to belong.
We have all felt like we don’t belong from time to time. In many cases people would experience alienation as a normal emotion. To be happy we must internalise belonging, this means we must be people who have given ourselves permission to exist! Most of us are waiting for some one else to say we are allowed to live on this planet. Unfortunately, you will probably still be waiting 10, 20, 30 years from now.
Only you can decide if you belong. What right does anyone have to say you should exist anyway? We are all from the same dirt and we will all return to it, none of us own the earth or made it, so what gives any one the right to say you don’t belong? Once you realise that belonging was always your native right, you will stop looking to everyone else for it. Internalised belonging is crucial to happiness. Alienation makes us very insecure, we can’t really hit our stride and flow in that mind space. Once we allow ourselves to truly belong we let in pure joy!
I have a very vivid memory of the moment I first experienced this deep earth-based sense of belonging. I was walking through a beautiful park on a spring day, people were playing sports and enjoying the beautiful gardens, and I was saying this mantra to myself, “I belong where I am and I am where I belong.” This simple affirmation allowed such a flood of pure joy into my being that I felt I had entered heaven! Belonging is foundational to lasting happiness. Stop allowing others to decide if you belong and accept your place here on this planet with the rest of us.
So there are my first three tips, make sure you check out next weeks article for the next two… Happiness to you!