We all just want to be happy, right? And yet true happiness continues to elude the vast majority of us.
Even when we achieve ‘success’ in the conventional sense thrust upon us by western society (career, money, house, family) and have attained everything we thought we needed to bring us happiness, most of us are still left asking the question:
‘Why am I still not happy?’
Eighteen months ago, I had a great salary; a nice flat and I’d just been promoted. Outwardly, things were looking really great in the land of Leah. But there was just one small problem – I was terribly unhappy.
I’m talking major daily meltdown unhappy: Life didn’t seem to have much meaning; I had no sense of purpose and I couldn’t figure out what on earth the point of it all was.
All I wanted was to be happy and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t.
And so 18 months ago I quit my ‘successful’ life to try out something different, something that has taken me on an epic journey. Though my journey is far from over, through the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had, I’ve come to learn just a thing or two about happiness, and I’d like to share what I’ve learned with you today!
1. Happy people take responsibility
Our society is one of blame; rarely do we accept responsibility for our own happiness. We blame our work, our partners, even the weather! Our unhappiness is everyone’s fault but our own. We cannot control the external events that happen in our day-to-day lives, but we can always choose how we react to them.
Happy people understand that they alone are responsible for their own happiness.
When you can no longer use other people or external circumstances as an excuse you have to turn to yourself and ask ‘what can I do to change this?’ and the day when you accept that your happiness lies 100% in your own hands is the day you will really start to become the master of your own life!
2. Happy people are motivated intrinsically, not extrinsically
Fame, wealth, power, a sexy man or woman on our arm: these are the things that many people seek out in life thinking they are the route to happiness. Not so. People motivated by external factors often find that even when they’ve achieved everything on their list, they’re still not happy.
Why? Because as human beings, we have an inbuilt desire to contribute something that matters, to help others in a meaningful way, and to live with a sense of purpose. Those who do what they do because of what it means to them and not because of what or where it will get them are far happier and far healthier.
3. Happy people have strong social bonds
We live in a society increasingly devoid of human connection and contact. Meet ups and phone calls have been replaced by emails; our increasingly busy lives leave us with less and less time for the people that matter; visiting your neighbour for a cup of tea is a thing of the past, and that person who used to serve you at the supermarket checkout? They’ve turned into a machine.
So many people and yet so much loneliness. Human beings need connection. We need physical and non-physical contact.
People who cultivate strong, meaningful relationships and who spend more time with friends and family have much higher levels of happiness.
4. Happy people know how to forgive
Sometimes, those we are close to act in ways that upset us. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve sat down for a catch up with a friend only to be bombarded with the latest drama of how someone in their life has wronged them.
We can choose to allow ourselves to be affected in a negative way by the behaviour of others, or we can choose to forgive and move on. But remember this: we always have a choice.
Holding on to negative emotions and bearing grudges causes a build up of stress in the body, so learn to forgive: It could be one of the best things you ever do!
5. Happy people are focused on the present
Children and dogs have got the secret to happiness sussed! They live in the moment. The future and past do not exist for them. They are always fully immersed in the ‘now’.
Happy people have mastered the skill of being present: of being fully involved in their ‘now’.
If I can offer just one tip that will help you be more present and less concerned or anxious about the past or future, it would be to practise some form of meditation. Meditation is without doubt the single most useful skill I’ve learned to help me live a happier, calmer life.
6. Happy people spend more time with other happy people
There came a point after I quit my job that I realised some of the people I was spending time with weren’t conducive to creating happiness in my life.
We all have people in our lives who tend to drain rather than energise us. You know who they are, right? The ones who can’t find anything positive to say. The ones who spend their time gossiping and moaning.
Happy people know to surround themselves with positive thinkers.
If there are people in your life who consistently drain you of energy, it could be time to take a look at what those relationships really mean to you – it may be time to take a step back and create some distance.
7. Happy people take action
Unhappy people are always talking about making changes in their life but whilst they’re great at talking the talk, they fall flat when it comes to walking the walk. Dreaming of what could be but never taking a step towards making those dreams a reality makes for a miserable existence.
It’s either time to be happy with your lot, or truly start to take action to change your life.
I know taking action can be harder said than done. So what’s the best way to force yourself into action? One of the best ways to stop dreaming and start doing is to make your plans public. I’ve found that when you’ve made your plans public, you make yourself accountable to those people. It’s a brilliant way to get yourself in gear!
8. Happy people use failure to their advantage
Failure happens to us all. Happy people realise that failure is where we learn the most and is an essential component of eventual success.
Unhappy people obsess over their failures. They wonder if they’re inadequate or not good enough. Their obsessing prevents them from moving forward and they feel bad about themselves.
Accepting that failure is your friend, not foe will go a long way to helping you on your path to happiness.
I believe we can all find happiness, but only when we begin to look in the right places.
This is a guest post from Leah Cox
Life coach and founder of whereislife.com, Leah Cox is on a mission to change the world by helping people live their lives with less fear, more courage and to start turning their dreams into a reality!
She also runs Fearless Play workshops once a month in London.