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HOW TO BECOME HAPPIER

by Dee Dee Boniecki

 

(If you enjoy this publication, please consider emailing its weblink

www.BecomeHappier.Freevar.com to others. Thank you!)

 

 

Living a more fulfilling, joyful, wonderful life is within each and every person’s reach.  You must simply want to be happier, choose to be happier, and then learn how to be happier.  Happiness is optional – one has the free will to accept or reject it. And it’s a fact there are people who actually prefer to be miserable. However, since you're reading this guide, you're obviously a person who wants to be as happy as possible.  (After all, who can be too happy?)  By following the nine principles below, you can experience an amazing transformation of your life.  To start right now, simply read on …

 

 

PRINCIPLE #1: LOVE YOURSELF

 

The most critical component of happiness is loving and accepting yourself.  Self-love lays the foundation for other components of happiness, such as love and acceptance of others (i.e., it's easier to love others when you love yourself).  To love yourself, it's necessary to accept yourself exactly as you are, with all your strengths and great qualities as well as your weaknesses and flaws. Loving yourself for  who you are can be difficult at first, but it’s very important to do this. You can begin by embracing the fact that you’re not intended to be a perfect person – you’re merely a human being, and no human is perfect. Therefore, you’ll never be perfect, and you don't need to be. Your imperfections are part of your make-up, they're part of who you are, and they contribute to your special-ness and unique-ness as an individual. You’re unlike anyone else on this planet because of your unique set of characteristics. You are very, very special.

 

If you have difficulty loving yourself despite your imperfections, it might help to realize that any deficit is also a strength. For example, a person with a very relaxed, easygoing and laid-back personality could be considered lazy, unmotivated and non-productive by some people. However, the same person’s easygoing nature results in a calmer, more peaceful life, and enhances the peace of those around him or her.  Another example would be an easily-stressed person who worries a lot. Excessive worry is generally negative, but it can have the positive result of motivating a person to effectively plan for the future and prevent unfortunate consequences. There are countless other examples of "weaknesses" which are also strengths. Thus, to become more accepting of one's flaw or weakness, one can try to perceive how that characteristic is also a strength and a gift.

 

Self-acceptance might also be easier if you can gain an understanding of why you are the way you are. Additionally, understanding the source of a particular problem can help you overcome it. For example, some people have an Oral Fixation with food because, as a baby, a pacifier was put in their mouth when they were feeling distressed. Now, as an adult, they might have carried forward the practice and continue to pacify themself by putting something in their mouth when they feel uncomfortable, stressed or worried. If they become aware of this, they can try chewing gum instead of eating excessive snacks in order to satisfy the urge to put something in their mouth.  Thus, understanding the source of a problem can sometimes help resolve the problem. 

 

Accepting and understanding your flaws does not mean you should not try to improve yourself and overcome your deficits.  This is especially true if you tend to have self-destructive behaviors such as cigarette smoking, drug addiction, food abuse, alcoholism or excessive risk taking. If you love yourself (and it’s extremely important to love yourself), then you will take care of yourself, protect yourself, and not harm yourself. If you tend to have self-sabotaging behaviors, then it’s particularly important to use the strategies for developing self-love which are recommended below. You deserve happiness and the best that life has to offer, and you deserve it as much as anyone else does.

 

The following exercise can help you grow your self-love if needed:  Begin by listing as many of your positive qualities as you can. If you can’t quickly list at least eight positive qualities, then you probably don’t love yourself sufficiently. In this case, you’ll need to have your friends and/or family members help you to make a list. (If a friend or loved one is unable to list your positive qualities, then they are probably not in the habit of noticing the best qualities of other people, or they may simply have difficulty verbalizing and expressing their thoughts and/or appreciation of others.  In this case, consult with more than one person.) After you have come up with a long list of your many great qualities, begin reciting them to yourself regularly. Continue doing this until you begin to appreciate yourself and can easily recite your strengths without reading from the list.

 

An additional exercise is to write an analysis of how each of your flaws and weaknesses is also a strength. Writing these down is ideal because writing is such an effective way to process thoughts and achieve understanding. You might supplement this exercise by pondering why you are the way you are and why you have the flaws and weaknesses you have. Once you understand the source of your problems and hang-ups, it’s a bit easier to be compassionate and sympathetic towards yourself (while not pitying yourself). This understanding can also help you to resolve or overcome those problems.  Reconsider this earlier example: if you became aware that the reason you overeat is because you want to pacify yourself by putting something in your mouth, then you might be able to fix the problem by substituting sugar-free gum for excessive snacks.

 

However, if you’re simply unable to change those traits that you find undesirable, then just embrace yourself for the incredible person you are. Don't beat yourself up; give yourself plenty of breaks.  Right now, start taking it easier on yourself and appreciating your numerous terrific qualities.

 

 

PRINCIPLE #2: LOVE OTHERS

 

The second most critical component of happiness is to love others (and the more the better!)  Not only do we need to accept and love ourselves as we are -- we need to accept and love others for who they are.  To achieve this, one can follow the same process described for Principle #1. The first step is to stop expecting others to be perfect (just as you have now accepted that you don’t need to be perfect). Because we’re all merely human, we all have flaws and weaknesses in addition to our many wonderful qualities. Therefore, it's essential to forgive the shortcomings of others. No person actually has the right to judge another anyway (many believe that if the right to judge lies anywhere, it would be with God).  We're unable to live in another person’s skin and mind, so we can’t begin to understand the effect of their life experiences, genetics, health and mental processes on their behaviors. Therefore, it’s unfair to judge other people. We simply don’t have their firsthand knowledge and understanding of their particular life circumstances, experiences and resulting perspective.

 

Furthermore, a trait considered to be a flaw by you is very likely to also be a strength of that individual. If you are troubled by what you perceive to be someone’s flaw, you might try to figure out how that characteristic is also a strength of that person. With practice, you’ll be able to do this easily. You may even start to appreciate qualities that previously agitated you.

 

It’s also necessary to abandon our preconceptions and criteria for how others should be.  Others should be exactly the way they are, not the way we would like them to be.  Of course, that individual can change if they want to.  But that is their choice, not yours.  If you simply cannot tolerate or accept someone for the way they are, then it's your option to avoid them or significantly reduce your interaction.  

 

Individual prerogative is difficult to accept if someone you love is harming themself through self-destructive behavior such as alcoholism, drug addiction, excessive risk taking, etc.  Nonetheless, only that individual has the prerogative to choose not to engage in those activities. We do not have the right to make life choices for other people. We can merely decide whether or not to remain involved with them.  If someone else's choices are negatively affecting your happiness and/or welfare, and they are not taking actions (such as consistently attending AA or NA meetings) to reform their behavior, then you need to very seriously consider discontinuing (or at least minimizing) the relationship.

 

It's particularly important to avoid or completely remove yourself from the environment of abusive people.  Unfortunately, our beautiful world does have some people who physically, psychologically, emotionally or sexually abuse other living beings. These people are enmeshed in emotional pain, and they attempt to transfer their distress to others by hurting them.  One needs to protect themselves from being victimized by such abuse.  One can attempt communicating the problem to the offender; occasionally communication and effort put forth by the offender will resolve the problem.  If the offender is willing to have professional counseling, then sometimes counseling can resolve the problem.  However, if communication or counseling do not work, then you probably need to discontinue the relationship if at all possible.  In fact, even during the attempted resolution via communication or counseling, you should seriously consider removing yourself from the abuser's environment until the behavior has been completely reformed.  It's simply important for you to protect yourself from repeated harm, severe emotional hurt, depleted self-esteem, etc.  If you love yourself (which is crucial to your happiness), then your first obligation is to your own welfare and happiness, not someone else’s.

 

Note that psychological and emotional abuse are much more common than physical or sexual abuse.  Psychological and emotional abuse are quite harmful and should not be dismissed or discounted.  Psychological abuse consists of “mental torture”, such as threatening to hurt someone, threatening to keep a spouse away from his or her children if divorce occurs, harming a person’s pet, etcetera. Emotional abuse consists of insults, mean words, degradation, “pushing another person’s buttons,” etcetera.  Just as there is no reason to endure physical or sexual abuse, there is no reason to endure psychological or emotional abuse. 

 

Aside from the necessary precautions to protect yourself from harmful people and detrimental situations, it’s essential that you love others; a person can't truly be happy without plenty of love in their life.  Does this mean you must have living relatives to love? No (though of course it's fortunate to have living family members to love and be loved by).  Do you need to have a romantic partner? No (while it is indeed wonderful to be paired with the right partner).  One can fill the need to love through numerous sources.  Friends can be a particularly wonderful source of love and caring; it's an excellent practice to develop and maintain numerous friendships.  Love can also be intensely shared with (and felt from) one's pets.  Few people are likely to argue that they feel intense love given by their dog or cat or other animal capable of emotion.  On a less intense level, love and caring can also be shared with co-workers, customers, members of a church congregation or other affiliation, and even anonymous strangers when your paths cross. It's even possible to feel love for one's plants -- just ask any passionate gardener, or a person who has lovingly nurtured the same plants for many years.  All living beings deserve love, kindness and compassion. Your happiness will grow from sharing your love with them.

 

Since the more you give love, the more love and happiness you will feel, it follows that if you love everyone, you can achieve ultimate happiness. In order to feel love for all people (regardless of race, culture, religion or other diversities), one must appreciate the tremendous value inherent in each and every individual. Although everyone has flaws, one would need to appreciate and focus on the best characteristics of others, not the worst. And one would need to recognize that each and every person makes a critical contribution to our world. We can be very grateful that people are unique and choose to make their contributions in various ways. If we were all alike - with the same talents, personalities, ethnicities, cultures, religions and values - the world would be boring, uniform and stunted. Fortunately, people are different, and our civilization is more accomplished, evolved, artistic and interesting because of diversity.  If everyone chose to accept others, practice tolerance, enable understanding, and actually appreciate the differences between all of us on this planet, we would actually experience world peace and love for all -- which unfortunately has not yet been experienced in our recorded history. But it could be -- we do have the free will to make that choice.  It simply requires that we all work together, decide to love eachother, forgive any differences or past hurts, and accept eachother (including respect for others’ chosen religions, values, forms of government, etc).

 

There are many ways to increase the presence of love.  Love is tangible as well as intangible because love is experienced and is the result of expression.  Love exists wherever loving actions occur; it can be felt and seen through the actions and goodwill of others. It can be seen on the side of a highway where a motorist has stopped to help another in trouble. It can be seen in a nursing home where volunteers come visit the elderly and infirm. Love can be felt in a caring embrace. It can be heard in the caring, concerned, kind words of others. It can be seen in a smile.  It can be read on a greeting card sent by a caring and thoughtful person.  Love can be felt when a dog licks someone's face. Love can be seen on a cold sidewalk when a pedestrian gives his sweater to a homeless man. Love can be seen in a garden that has been tended with care and nurturing. Love can be seen on the interstate as drivers allow others to merge into traffic. It can be seen at a door being held open for another. It is evidenced by donations to organizations that relieve starvation and/or suffering of people in severely impoverished countries (or even in your own community).  Love can be seen everywhere, if you make a point of noticing it. And you can easily experience this love through your own simple, daily acts of kindness.

 

There are countless ways that you can spread such acts of kindness.  You can choose to smile at others (this is a terrific way to easily spread joy in our world). You can speak kind, encouraging words to someone who needs to hear them. You can give your mate a back rub, and bring him or her an iced tea or warm mug of tea when they’re exhausted or stressed.  You can kiss and hug.  You can send flowers to your mother to let her know she is appreciated.  You can send a funny card or email to a friend. You can walk your dog, and water your rose bush. You can straighten up the public restroom stall for the next person. You can help a stranger.  Any action which shares and gives to other living beings will spread love.  And, since love is the most powerful way to increase your happiness, it follows that the more love you express (and thereby feel), the happier you'll be.

 

Note that the above examples are all acts of giving to others in some way.  Giving is one of the primary ways to feel and experience love.  If you are not regularly experiencing the great pleasure and satisfaction received from acts of giving, it's possible that you have learned a value system that has not taught you this, or perhaps your personal life experiences have turned you away from being able to freely give to others.  If this is the case -- start trying it!  You'll be amazed at the transformation of your life when you begin to frequently, generously and openly share and give to others.  Notice how wonderful you feel when you give a mere $5 bill to a homeless person.  That feeling of gratification, fulfillment, human connection, and happiness is greater than anything you could purchase for $5!  You might not feel it at first…but keep on doing it!  Before long, you will consider it to be a gift to yourself when you give to others.  An opportunity to give is an opportunity to experience joy.  The act of giving is a gift to the giver; giving is indeed its own reward.

 

 

PRINCIPLE #3: FORGIVE AND LET GO OF ANGER

 

There are people in your life who have transgressed you. They have wronged or cheated you. They may have even seriously harmed or violated you. If you haven't done so already, then you must forgive them.  Forgiveness, and letting go of anger, is absolutely essential to happiness.

 

Some people are reluctant to forgive because they assume it will be necessary to continue a relationship with the offender upon granting forgiveness. This is not the case. You can forgive another while choosing not to further expose yourself to that individual. You don’t even have to verbally communicate with that person or say the words “I forgive you.” You simply must let go of all anger towards that individual so that you can feel inner peace.

 

It also can be difficult to forgive someone when you feel entitled to your anger. (This is particularly likely if the offender has never apologized or been penalized for their actions.)  You are certainly entitled to be angry when someone has hurt you. However, if you continue to carry anger and don’t let it go, it will eat you up inside. Carrying anger is carrying pain. The anger continues to harm you long after the violation has passed. And being angry with another person does not hurt the other person – it only hurts you. By being angry, you might think you’re obtaining some type of revenge against the offender. But this is untrue. You’re only hurting yourself. And you’ve already been hurt – you don’t deserve to continue to feel pain, just as you didn’t deserve to be hurt in the first place. So you must let go of the pain and anger. You must forgive the person who has hurt you. You must accept the fact that the person was flawed (as we are all flawed) and made a damaging mistake or mistakes. You must acknowledge that the wrongful act has passed, and you must let go of it.

 

However, there’s a point which was made under Principle #2 that needs to be reiterated:  although we should forgive others, and accept that others Are Who They Are, we should not subject ourselves to abuse from other people. You need to protect yourself and, in many cases, remove yourself from the environment of anyone who physically, sexually, emotionally or psychologically harms you.  We should also consider discontinuing involvement with a person whose actions negatively affect our welfare (such as individuals who are addicted to drugs, or who expose you to danger, or whose irresponsibility wreaks havoc on your life and finances, etc.)  Your primary obligation is to yourself and your own welfare, not someone else’s.  That is a principle of self-love, and self-love is critical to long-term happiness.  If your religious beliefs include prayer, then you are welcome to pray for that person’s redemption. But then go on with your life, out of harm’s way, having let go of any anger resulting from your misfortune.

 

Here’s another important note regarding forgiveness: It's just as crucial to let go of anger at yourself and to forgive yourself for your past mistakes as it is to forgive others. You deserve love and forgiveness just as everyone else does.

 

 

This section will now be concluded with this final point about anger: Some things simply aren't worth getting angry and distraught over.  Examine the situation and ask yourself whether it's a Big Enough Deal to actually merit your feeling distressed, frustrated, or angry (which are very unpleasant emotions to experience).  If it's Small Stuff, then just instantly let it go -- there's no reason to experience unnecessary aggravation.  However, if it's Big Stuff, then go ahead and feel the emotion, address it, work through it, and then you can heal and let it go.  Anger can be dysfunctional and unhealthy if it's poorly handled -- but it can be a very healthy, purposeful, helpful and healing emotion if it's handled appropriately and constructively.  Therefore, learn to acknowledge your anger and take the appropriate course of action (addressing the problem, counting to 10, communicating to another, etc -- but never hurting another individual), and then let the anger go.  Don’t hold onto it.  Don’t carry it around inside you like a cancer. Let it go as soon as you’re possibly able to. You can’t carry grudges and anger and feel happy. You must free yourself from emotional hurt and pain.

 

 

PRINCIPLE #4: DAILY PURPOSE

 

To feel fulfilled in our lives on a daily basis, we must feel Daily Purpose. Daily Purpose provides us with a reason for our existence; thus, it creates meaning for our lives. When a person no longer feels that he or she makes a contribution on this planet, they can lose their sense of significance and sometimes become depressed. Therefore, it's very important to have a Daily Purpose.

 

Daily Purpose can be achieved by somehow contributing towards the welfare of society, your family, another being, or even just your own well-being. For some of us, this contribution is met through a job. A job adds structure to our day and gives us someplace to go and something to do which is constructive and contributes an essential function in society. Through a job, one might find Daily Purpose by providing services or necessities to others, or simply by receiving a paycheck to help support their families, charities, or achieve their personal goals.

 

Of course, one can find Daily Purpose without employment. Homemakers can find Daily Purpose in maintaining their home and/or caring for their children. Many retirees find Daily Purpose by helping take care of loved ones or by volunteering for worthwhile causes. Students find Daily Purpose in working towards a degree to improve their future employment opportunities or societal contribution. And there are other ways to achieve Daily Purpose. The means or manner is not important; what matters is that the person feels they are making some type of positive contribution towards a worthwhile end.

 

Some days are simply enjoyed by relaxing or having fun rather than tending to chores or work. But leisure days, while also essential to happiness, do not fulfill our need for Daily Purpose. Instead, these days help fill our need for rest, pleasure and enjoyment (discussed as Principle #5), which is separate from Daily Purpose. Rather, Daily Purpose helps provide a sense of meaning to our daily existence.

 

People who have lost their zeal for living may be lacking a Daily Purpose. They may feel their life is without meaning, and they may feel worthless because they are not making a contribution. If this ever happens to you, start doing something right away to help fulfill a Daily Purpose. In the short term, volunteering for a worthwhile cause or helping others can accomplish this. In some way or another, one must find a Daily Purpose in order to feel that life is meaningful and purposeful.

 

Some people believe that the ultimate Daily Purpose is a Higher Purpose. These individuals believe that God wants them to fulfill a particular contribution, and by listening to God's guidance from within them, and then acting on that guidance, they can contribute to a Greater Good. Carrying out a higher purpose can also provide a tremendous sense of personal fulfillment.  However, if a person never finds or follows a higher purpose, they can still achieve a sense of fulfillment through their Daily Purpose.

 

 

PRINCIPLE #5: ENJOYMENT AND PLEASURE

 

Enjoyment and pleasure are the icing on the cake of life.  Experiencing sufficient fun and pleasure is essential to happiness.  Therefore, Daily Purpose and chores need to be balanced with leisure time and fun.  Life is meant to be savored and celebrated!  Try to make the most of your opportunities to experience joy and the many delights, gifts and wonders that life has to offer.

 

In order to incorporate enough joy and pleasure in one's life, one should make it a high priority to engage in some enjoyable activities each and every day.  Even the busiest single parent should find at least 30 minutes each day to indulge in something they find pleasurable -- even if it merely involves a walk in a nearby park, reading a novel during lunch, or watching a favorite TV program at night. How you enjoy yourself depends on your personality. Some of the activities which are pleasurable or fun to some people, but not to others, include: strolling in a park, watching TV and movies, traveling, reading, talking to friends, going out to eat, horseback riding, fishing, playing a musical instrument, sex or masturbation, drawing, crafts, woodworking, joy-riding on a motorcycle, swimming, playing basketball, baking… the list goes on and on. Find some activities that you enjoy and then arrange your schedule to take advantage of those pleasurable activities.  Your level of happiness will increase, and your life will be enriched.

 

If one does not experience sufficient fun and pleasure, they are likely to lose their enthusiasm and passion for life (similar to the loss of zeal when one lacks a Daily Purpose).  When this occurs, one can develop apathy (and even severe depression in the worst of cases).  On the other end of the spectrum, there are people who embrace and celebrate life.  They feel joyous every day because they take advantage of the best that life has to offer (which is rarely materialistic in nature). As long as they also have Daily Purpose, love themselves, and love others (through giving and sharing), they’re likely to be among the happiest people on earth. However, it's important to realize that pleasure is not equivalent to happiness; it's just an essential element. Those who occupy their time mostly with pleasure-oriented activities are dysfunctionally trying to substitute pleasure for true happiness. These individuals may be using pleasure for escapism, much like drugs, alcohol and other addictions are used.  While it is important to balance one's life with pleasure, a life that subsists as a constant party is actually a life of escapism. 

 

For many people, the accumulation of "Stuff" is mistaken for the attainment of happiness.  Stuff can provide some pleasure, and, as mentioned before, pleasure is essential to happiness -- though not equivalent to happiness. But when people attempt to substitute true happiness with Stuff, they are invariably disappointed. In fact, if people focus too much on materialistic goals, their happiness will actually be inhibited. This is because materialistic goals can distract people from things that would truly make them happy, such as Daily Purpose, their potential Higher Purpose, and giving and sharing with others (which fills one’s life with love). When a society becomes excessively materialistic, the result is a lot of unhappy people driving expensive prestigious cars that could have financed food for the homeless or healthcare for the poor (a contribution that could have actually brought some happiness to the continually disappointed consumers). In America, a focus on materialism has been undoubtedly aggravated by a constant bombardment of advertising aimed to convince the public that buying Stuff will make them happier. Even the American government has advocated a rather extreme level of consumption because it is known to stimulate the economy. Thus, there are many people who have been socialized to believe that their level of happiness is directly correlated with the quantity and quality of their Stuff. In addition to resulting in a lot of misled and dissatisfied people, this value system hinders charity towards the poor and the disadvantaged.

 

If the focus of a person's life is overly materialistic, they'll experience a feeling of emptiness.  They may try to quench this emptiness by buying more Stuff. In fact, some people use shopping like a drug that induces a short-term high. But this “fix” is only temporary; no matter how much Stuff they buy, it won't continue to make them happy once the fix has worn off. That's because they're trying to replace inner peace and contentment with a material item, which simply won't work. Yes, it's a fact that one can derive pleasure from driving a fancy car or living in a large, beautiful home. And there’s nothing innately wrong with buying a prestigious car or a lovely home – as long as one shares an appropriate amount of their wealth with those who are less fortunate. And it’s true that we have the right to spend our incomes the way we choose. But if a person tries to find happiness by continually accumulating Stuff, they’ll be continually disappointed because their materialistic focus will detract them from those priorities that could truly bring happiness.

 

Some people are caught in the Stuff Trap because they believe their self worth is dependent on their net worth. This perception is a combination of low self-esteem, insecurity, an excessive desire to impress others, and, again, exposure to advertising media aimed to convince people that they will be more likeable, desireable, attractive, etcetera, if they purchase products. Some people become so engrossed with the concept of “whoever dies with the most Stuff wins” that their monetary wealth and assets become their sole source of self-esteem. This is such a waste of the tremendous value inherent in one’s heart, as opposed to the value of their bank account. Thus, if a person holds the dysfunctional belief that their self-worth is dependent on their possessions, they should try to overcome this fallacy by developing self-love. By accepting oneself and appreciating oneself, a person might conquer their inclination to substitute Stuff for self-love.

 

Another reason that some people believe obtaining Stuff will make them happier is because the process of having goals and working towards them does, indeed, increase happiness. The process of goalsetting (see Principle #9, "Looking Forward") is one of the components of happiness. It’s essential for our sense of fulfillment to have goals and to work towards them. Additionally, the ability to look forward to a better life helps us to cope when times are difficult.  It helps us to desire the next sunrise and to recognize that one's circumstances will improve in the future. However, those goals don't have to result in more Stuff. Goals that contribute to the betterment of the world will be far more satisfying than materialistic goals (because goals for a higher good involve love -- sharing and giving). Furthermore, by focusing time and energy on reaching materialistic goals, people are likely to neglect the essential elements of happiness. We all know people who have lots and lots of great Stuff, but, unfortunately, their time and money is spent maintaining their Stuff instead of pleasurable activities, leisure, Daily Purpose, visiting with family and friends, giving to others, and improving their world.

 

Well, we have now thoroughly examined the negative consequences of materialism and the positive consequences of incorporating joy and pleasure into your life. So go have some fun!

 

 

PRINCIPLE #6: APPRECIATION

 

The happiest people are those who appreciate things. They appreciate their lifestyle, their possessions, and their loved ones. They also appreciate the simple pleasures which life has to offer--a flower garden, a beautiful view, a refreshing breeze, a call from a friend, a delicious dessert, a passionate kiss. They don't take anything for granted -- they are always thankful for the many blessings they have.

 

Other people are never satisfied with what they have. Hopefully, for your sake, you're not one of those people. If you are, you need to begin turning around your attitude. If you think life usually stinks and hasn’t given you a fair share, then just imagine how you would feel if everyone you care about and everything you own were taken away from you. Now imagine how you would feel if, after losing everyone and everything, all were returned. Then would you appreciate what you have?

 

No matter what your situation is - no matter how bad your fortune has been - it could always be worse. Therefore, you can always feel thankful that things aren’t worse than they are. Are you stuck in a traffic jam and will consequently miss your plane? Well, if you'd gotten on the road thirty minutes earlier, you might have lost your life in the accident obstructing traffic ahead. Are you poor and unemployed but blessed with sight, hearing, and functional limbs? Then you have greater fortune than any millionaire who must deal with a crippling disability. (Of course, physically challenged individuals can be as happy as anyone else – we all have much to be grateful for. But if you were to ask a severely disabled or ill person whether they would prefer to be healthy or have money, you can bet they would prefer to have their health.)

 

We should count our blessings, not our disadvantages. We can develop a sense of appreciation for everything that is positive. We can choose to focus on the best outlook rather than the worst. We can begin appreciating all that we have, rather than regretting what we don't have. We can start noticing the marvelous qualities of others rather than their flaws. If you have not already adopted these habits, then acquiring a new, positive perspective and sense of gratitude will grace your life and significantly increase your level of happiness.

 

We can also use humor to appreciate the lighter side of life. Humor is a delightful form of fun and pleasure. Humor and laughter can be shared with others in a loving way, or one can just enjoy a silent chuckle. Humor can often be used to see the comical and amusing side of stressful or difficult circumstances. By using humor to cope, we can have a more uplifting and positive perspective on life’s occasional difficult challenges.  Additionally….one should enjoy humor just for the sake of laughter, for laughter is one of life's greatest simple pleasures.

 

 

PRINCIPLE #7: PRESENT-MINDEDNESS

 

The abilities to go with the flow of life and to put aside your worries are essential to achieving a peaceful, content, anxiety-free life. Living in the present is absolutely crucial to happiness. Living in the present means your thoughts don't dwell on regrets of the past or worries about the future (and events that haven’t yet happened and may never happen). It's pointless to dwell in the past; the past is over and you can’t change what has already transpired. It's just as pointless to worry about what the future will bring because there's no possible way to predict the future. What Will Be will be -- there's nothing you can do about it. Of course, you can and should take care of day-to-day responsibilities, and you should continue to work on your goals to achieve greater life fulfillment or a better future. But don't waste energy on things you don't have any control over at this point in time.

 

Worry is a very negative emotion, and it’s usually best to avoid it. Worrying doesn't accomplish anything more than hindering your peace of mind. Yes, you must tend to your duties because you’re responsible for your own welfare. But worrying will simply drain your positive energy and functionality. So just decide to “go with the flow” and keep your head focused on the present.

 

Some people avoid worrying by trusting God (or their Higher Power) to make everything turn out okay. This trust is a wonderful gift.  It’s the author’s belief that one absolutely can trust in God to help you.   But trusting God does not free a person from their obligation to take care of themself and their commitments. Yes, God can provide us with tremendous help, wisdom and power from within us (if we choose to listen to God’s inner guidance). But God does not DO things for us. Each and every adult person is responsible for his or her own welfare - no one else is. (Note: This concept is not referring to social welfare; it’s certainly necessary for people and society to help those who are destitute.)

 

Following are some examples to illustrate the need for personal responsibility: (1) If a person wants their children to be safe while they’re away, they shouldn’t “trust God” that the children will be fine; they should leave the children in the care of a responsible adult. (2) If a person's car is having mechanical problems before a long trip, they should not "trust God" that they won't get stranded on a highway.  Rather, they should have their car repaired before taking the trip, and consider carrying a cell phone for emergencies. (3) If a woman does not presently want to get pregnant, then she should exercise effective birth control such as using a contraceptive or abstinence. She can’t “trust God” to take a birth control pill for her or employ alternatives on her behalf. She must personally take that pill or undertake other reliable actions.  One can think of many other situations in our day-to-day lives where God cannot DO a particular action for us – it’s up to us.  It’s the author’s belief that God will definitely guide us and help us to overcome hardships and challenges.  It’s also the author’s belief that God guides us so that we can turn "lemons into lemonade” for any hardship or tragedy that occurs, so that the best possible outcome will result.  However, God does not DO what we are responsible for doing ourselves.  Each of us has responsibility for our own welfare and for the consequences within our control.

 

 

PRINCIPLE #8: SELF-RELIANCE

 

While it’s essential to be able to trust others (those who are honest individuals and can be safely trusted), you cannot rely on others for your happiness. You, and only you, are responsible for your happiness.

 

Unfortunately, most people do not seek their happiness from within; they expect it to be provided by something or someone else.  Some think their happiness is reliant on specific circumstances or situations.  And some believe the acquisition and accumulation of certain possessions will bring them happiness.  However, there is no possession, no "perfect" situation or circumstance, and no particular individual who can deliver your happiness.  A new car, a new house, a new job, a new body, a new hairline, a mate, a child -- none can truly make you happy.  Happiness is internal, and it depends on your decision to be happy regardless of external circumstances.

 

When one expects another individual to meet their needs and to make them happy, the situation is called co-dependency. Co-dependency is extremely common. And it's not necessarily dysfunctional because it's acceptable to want someone else to fill some of your needs for you. For example, in a marriage, you can expect to receive emotional support from your spouse. And a mother can expect to fill a biological need to nurture through raising children. However, when co-dependency is excessive, and when a person expects many of their needs or much of their fulfillment to be met by another, then it has become dysfunctional, unhealthy and harmful to both the co-dependent person as well as their “caretaker” (the person who is expected to take care of the co-dependent’s needs).

 

Actually, the caretaker is also co-dependent because they feel compelled to take care of the other and be responsible for meeting their needs (and that individual is not their minor child).  A co-dependent caretaker will frequently put the other person's needs and wants ahead of their own. A healthy person who loves and respects themself will not do this.  It's dysfunctional to feel a need to take care of another person (who is an adult) or feel responsible for their happiness.

 

It's important to recognize co-dependent relationships because overcoming co-dependency is essential for achieving happiness. Co-dependent relationships can most commonly be found within marriages/partnerships and families, but they are also found within other relationships. The following paragraphs will describe some indicators of co-dependency so that it can be recognized and dealt with.

 

Within marriages/partnerships, co-dependency is present if an individual expects their spouse/partner to provide and be responsible for their happiness and other needs.  However, no spouse should be held responsible for taking care of their partner (a grown adult) nor be held accountable for their happiness. Each spouse is responsible for providing an equitable, loving and emotionally supportive (but not emotionally dependent or unreasonably supportive) relationship, and this responsibility is a reciprocal one. A healthy marriage/partnership is based on love, not on need.

 

Another common co-dependency occurs with adult children who hold their parents accountable for their happiness and/or financial sustenance. Parents are responsible for loving their children and providing a safe and nurturing environment when their offspring are young. But once a person becomes an adult, they're responsible for themselves.  Adults have all the faculties and abilities for self-care.  The only limitation to this could be a serious disability, in which case, of course, they will need some assistance with daily life tasks. However, there are many resources available to relieve family members from carrying all responsibility for the care of a debilitated loved one.

 

It’s also possible for a parent to be co-dependent on their children, in which case the parent expects their children to deliver their happiness.  Some parents "live" through the lives of their children and attain their only sense of self-worth and accomplishment through their role as a parent.  Some parents expect their grown kids to be financially responsible for them.  However, all adults are responsible for their own financial welfare.  For those whose handicap prevents their self-reliance, there are government disability payments, social security, medicare, food stamps, other government programs, and various charitable organizations to provide aid.  When parents age and develop health problems, their kids should (if possible) provide some help with personal care, errands, emotional support, and perhaps even a little financial assistance.  However, if the parent's neediness and expectations are excessive, and the child strives to meet those unreasonable expectations, then a very unfair, co-dependent situation exists.

 

Co-dependency can also exist outside of family relationships. For example, it can be seen in the workplace, at church, or in the dependency that people will sometimes develop for their government or a particular leader. At the workplace, you’ll see co-dependent behavior among workaholics who seek to obtain self-esteem or fulfill most of their emotional needs from their employment. At church, you’ll see co-dependent behavior among those who virtually enclose their entire life within their church activities or religious association, because they expect religion to deliver their happiness. On a national level, you’ll see co-dependent behavior among people who follow their leaders “right or wrong” and do not question or protest their leaders’ or government’s immoral actions. When this behavior occurs among the majority, a dangerous climate of nationalism is created. Historically, when countries have become too nationalistic, they have engaged in persecution of (and sometimes violent attacks and wars against) other peoples, other governments, other religions, and other cultures.

 

Thus, co-dependency -- whether it is on a spouse, a child, a parent, an employer, a church, a government or leader, or any other source -- can have very damaging consequences, both on a personal level and a societal level.

 

And now to conclude this chapter: To find happiness, we can't seek it from another. We can't expect someone else to be our primary caretaker, or to deliver our happiness or be responsible for it. We can only fully rely on ourself for our well-being and happiness -- because happiness can only be truly found within.

 

 

PRINCIPLE #9: LOOKING FORWARD

 

To feel happy, one must be able to Look Forward.  This practice is a tool for coping when the going gets rough.  It makes us desire another sunrise and gives us the strength to face another day when times are hard.  As human beings, we will certainly experience suffering. Terrible, tragic things will definitely happen to us because tragedy and suffering are a part of life.  However, by acknowledging "this too will pass" and looking forward to the time when a problem or misfortune is resolved (in other words, by having hope), we can make it through the worst of times.

 

It's very helpful to always remember that, while life definitely has some hardships, misfortunes and even horrible tragedies, life offers far more blessings, wonders and beauty.  Perhaps there actually is a Higher Purpose that results from misfortune:  If we didn’t have hard times, then we couldn’t truly appreciate and relish the good times. If there was no death, would we appreciate living? Would we still thrive with vitality if life had no limit? If we were always healthy, would we appreciate the miracle and functionality of our physical abilities? If we never experienced challenges, would we grow stronger as people? If we never felt pain or heartbreak, would we feel compassion for others? Perhaps suffering is essential in order to fully experience and appreciate the gift of life.

 

In addition to Looking Forward as a tool to cope with current problems and challenges, Looking Forward involves the process of goalsetting. Goalsetting consists of making a plan to change or improve aspects of our life that do not satisfy us. For example, if you live in a very noisy apartment building and desire a quieter abode, then you might set the goal of moving to a different residence. By having this goal, and taking steps toward accomplishing it, you can have a brighter outlook on your present situation - it won’t last forever, as you are taking steps to change and improve your residence. Goalsetting provides hope and consolation that your present circumstances will eventually improve. Hope helps us get through the inevitable hard times, and to appreciate the rainbow after the storm.

 

 

SOME FINAL WORDS

 

Now that you have read the preceding pages of this guide, you have come to understand (or may have already known) that happiness is entirely a state of mind. It is dependent only on your perceptions of the world, your attitude, and your responses to what happens to you. For example, if someone is mean to you, your response could be distress, anger and begrudgement. Or, you could choose not to be upset at all and simply attribute the mean behavior to that individual’s human flaw. Thus, how you respond to a situation can determine whether or not you experience happiness at that particular point in time.

 

There will, however, be some pain and hardships during your life, and there is no way of preventing tragedies and hard times. During these times, it definitely is necessary to fully experience and honor your sadness, anger, or grief. But once you have sufficiently addressed your emotions, then you must allow yourself to move on and forward, and to benefit from the lessons learned from the experience. And, by having a proper attitude and response (along with a sense of hope and trust, known to many as faith), you can overcome your hardships and tragedies much more successfully. You can, in time, conquer your adversities. And you can actually benefit from the experience by becoming a stronger, more powerful person. You can allow the challenge and adversity that you encountered to strengthen rather than weaken you.

 

Thus, to summarize the ideas set forth in this guide:  Happiness is not dependent on what happens to you in your life. It is not dependent on your particular situation or circumstances. It relies on how you perceive your situation or circumstances, and how you then choose to respond. And since happiness is a mental state, it is entirely within you -- which gives you complete power and control over it. Happiness is not contingent on external conditions, circumstances or other people. It is not based on what you own, how much money you have, who you are married to, or who your parents are. It is dependent on YOU making the conscious choice to be happy, and then applying the principles of happiness to your life.

 

From this point forward, may you choose to live a life filled with peace, love and happiness.  And may you spread that peace, love and happiness to many others.

 

 

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