Cultivating Happiness

Happy children blowing bubbles

The Nature of True Happiness—How To Get It and Why

The urge that drives people to seek a spiritual teaching has always been the simple yearning to experience more happiness.

The drive for happiness is one of our most far-reaching and fundamental needs. We all want to be happy and to avoid suffering. A lot of the day-to-day things that we do, why we work, why we want things, etc., have to do with trying to make ourselves happy.

Happiness is the true experience we are constantly pursuing and trying to grasp.

The secret of a successful life is simple: in every situation, the answer is happiness. And when we’re confused about the next step we need to take, we should always look for the path that will give us greater, lasting happiness.

Religious institutions have woven a tremendously complex fabric over these simple teachings.

But the urge that drives people to seek a spiritual teaching has always been the simple yearning to experience more happiness.

Looking for Happiness in the Right Places

We imagine we would be happier if only we had more money or a better job or fell in love. Having enough money to provide for basic physical necessities does increase happiness.

But having more and more money and stuff often decreases happiness because of the added worries and cares.

And we’ve all noticed that people who are deeply loved may also be unhappy; that wealthy people may be miserable; that people with chronic illness are often grateful for their lives and happy.

We tend to imagine that if our worlds were just the way we wished them to be, we would be happy. We assume that happiness comes from favorable circumstances outside ourselves, rather than from within.

But, in fact, happiness does come from within. Fulfillment lies not in things, but is a state of mind.

Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” Abraham Lincoln

This is the crux of the matter, isn't it? Happiness is a choice. Even in the midst of suffering, we have the option to transform our experience.

Happiness Is a Choice

Many people are surprised by the idea that we can choose our own happiness. However, the latest scientific research backs this up.

Positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky determined that 50% of our happiness results from external influences on gene expression (epigenetic factor), 10% by life circumstances beyond our control, and 40% by our own actions. The epigenetic factors are things like lifestyle that we have some control over.

Therefore, we ourselves influence or determine up to 90% of our own happiness.

Unhappiness Is a Habit

Can we simply decide, then, to be happy all the time?

In theory yes, but in practice subconscious desires and old habits hold us back. The habit of unhappiness runs deep, but it is a habit.

Choose to change the habit, and step-by-step you’ll find yourself walking in a different world. But to break the habit, we need to make that choice in every moment of every day, over and over again.

Cultivating happiness takes awareness, introspection, energy, and even courage to face ourselves and determine to change. It’s not a magic wand or quick fix technique. It takes continual practice.

The good news, however, is that we can do it. You can learn that you have the power to choose how you respond to life’s challenges.

You can learn to focus on the positive rather than the negative. You can learn to control your moods and raise your energy to meet difficulties that arise.

And the even better news is that the effort is so worth it. You will discover that joy is the essence of your own being. True happiness is within you always—you just need to know how to find it.

You cannot acquire happiness and bliss. Your own nature IS happiness and bliss.”Ramana Maharshi

Start Small and Slow

Don’t expect to change your whole life all at once. You’ll just get overwhelmed and stop. Then you’ll feel unhappy about that and get into a counterproductive spiral.

Choose one small goal that you can quickly and easily achieve. After you achieve it, reward yourself and feel happy about the accomplishment. Then choose another one. Creating building blocks of small goals to reach a bigger goal is the way to feeling happy, fulfilled, and satisfied.

Take very small action steps outside your comfort zone, and you will begin to build a confidence that enhances your self-esteem and creates even more happiness.

Top 8 Tips for Finding True and Lasting 
Happiness in Daily Life

Remember, a large part of our happiness is our choice and is under our control!

1. Let go of negativity.

  • Learn to forgive and forget.
  • See every challenge as an opportunity for further growth.
  • Cultivate gratitude for what you already have. Express gratefulness to others.
  • Be more optimistic about the future and your ability to accomplish life goals.
  • Open yourself up to success and embrace failures or mistakes that happen along the way as necessary learning experiences.
  • Know that none of us are perfect, we are all here to entertain and be entertained.
  • Don’t worry about the little things. Take “worry vacations” where you train your mind not to worry for a set length of time.
  • Surround yourself with positive energy and people. Nurture the positive relationships that you have, seeking out more relationships that help uplift you.
  • Accept and love yourself for the unique gifts and talents that you bring to life.
  • Spend less time trying to please others and spend more time trying to please your higher self.
  • See the humor in life and in our experiences. Take life less seriously and learn to laugh at yourself.

2. Serve and be kind to others.

  • Treat everyone with kindness. You will feel better yourself by helping others to feel better and the world could use more kindness.
  • Speak well of others. Speaking negatively attracts more negativity to yourself; speaking positively attracts more positivity.
  • Truly listen to others. Be present and mindful to what others are really saying when they speak. Support them without bringing yourself into it.
  • Be careful with your words. Speak gentler, kinder, and wiser.
  • Respect others and their free will.
  • Put your trust in others and be trusted in return. Enjoy the sense of community and friendship that comes from this openness and faith in one another.
  • Work as part of a whole. See others as partners in your efforts. Unite your efforts with them to create a synergy more powerful than anything you could do alone.
  • Practice generosity and giving without expecting anything in return. Get involved with service opportunities and offer what you can to a greater cause.
  • Smile more—to family, to co-workers, to neighbors, to strangers—and watch it not only change how you feel but also how they feel too.

3. Live in the present.

  • Don’t replay negative events or worry about the future.
  • Accept and celebrate impermanence.
  • Observe the constant and natural flow of change that surrounds us, and your small, yet important part in the natural, divine flow of life.
  • Be grateful for your life, for each moment of every day.
  • Observe yourself in the moment. Work on your reactions to outer circumstances and learn how to approach life harmoniously.
  • Spend time with a pet or toddler and emulate how they live in the moment.

4. Choose a healthy lifestyle.

  • Keep a daily routine. Wake up at the same time every morning, preferably early. Setting yourself to a natural biorhythm will make it easier to wake up and feel energized.
  • Get enough sleep. Proper sleep is linked to positive personality characteristics like optimism, improved self-esteem, and even problem solving.
  • Expose yourself to cold temperatures (especially first thing in the morning with perhaps a cold shower). It increases your circulation, helps minimize inflammation in the body, enhances weight loss, and energizes and invigorates you to start your day.
  • Eat properly. What you eat has a direct effect on your mood and energy levels. Don’t be dogmatic. Find what works best for your own body-mind. Don’t overeat and try to practice healthy self-control.
  • Exercise daily to the point of sweating. It not only helps to purify the body, but also releases endorphins which help to prevent stress, relieve depression, and improve your mood.
  • Laugh more. Laughter is the best medicine. It also releases endorphins that battle the negative effects of stress and promote a sense of well-being and joy.
  • Practice deep breathing and yoga. The body and mind are connected. Emotions affect the physical systems in the body, and the state of the body also affects the mind. By relaxing and releasing tension through the breath or yoga practice you feel more calm and centered throughout the day.

5. Take care of your spirit.

  • Be a life-long learner. Constantly expand your awareness and discover new ways of expressing your divine gifts.
  • Get creative. This will not only challenge you to learn new things, but will also help to keep your mind in a positive place. Practice living in the present moment and being a channel for the divine flow of creativity.
  • Practice meditation. Research has proven that even as little as 10 minutes of meditation a day can lead to physical changes in the brain that improve concentration and focus, calm the nervous system, and help you to become more kind and compassionate, and even more humorous. Then bring the joy and peace you receive from meditation into your daily life and activity.
  • Be honest. Telling the truth keeps you free inside, builds trust in relationships, and improves your will power and the ability to attract success.
  • Surrender to the Divine Universe and allow it to take care of everything in life—from the smallest things to the greatest and most important.
  • Play a song that you really enjoy and sing along. By singing along with your favorite music, you can lift yourself out of almost any bad mood.

6. Be inwardly free.

  • Live minimally and simply. Extravagant living often brings more stress than satisfaction.
  • De-clutter your home. Clutter is an often unrecognized source of stress that promotes feelings of anxiety, frustration, distraction, and guilt. Feel good in your own home. Make it your sanctuary by keeping it clean, organized, and uplifting.
  • Go without certain things you think you need. Travel to new places where not everything is as easily accessible or readily available, and learn to appreciate what you have by expanding your world.
  • Take some time away from life’s involvements to get to know your family, your neighbors, and your loved ones better—and to get to know yourself.

7. Reconnect with Nature.

  • Take time to recharge your body battery. Escape to nature or a beautiful place where you feel happy and peaceful.
  • Get outside whenever possible to breathe in the fresh air and feel the sunshine.
  • Take some time to be silent. Be silent and calm every night for at least ten minutes (longer if possible) and again in the morning. This will produce an unbreakable habit of inner happiness to help you meet the challenges in life.
  • Observe the natural beauty that surrounds you and feel a sense of connection. Appreciate the details and miracles that can be found in nature.
  • Try “forest bathing.” Studies done in Japan showed that walking in forests promoted lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity than walking in urban environments.

8. Smile.

  • Fake it if necessary.
  • Studies show that physically expressing an emotion, even if we do not feel it, can change the physiological processes inside our bodies to mirror that emotion.
  • Thus, smiling even when we don’t feel it, can start changing us internally to uplift our mood.

Taking the Next Steps to Finding Happiness

Wow that’s a long list. Remember it’s a list of options because different people need to take different actions.

Just choose ONE. Choose the one that will make you happiest or choose the easiest for you—just start somewhere. Anywhere. It doesn’t really matter as long as you are moving in the right direction.

Don’t obsess. And don’t get overwhelmed And yes, I’m speaking to myself.

Go through the list ask yourself what makes you happy. Write them down.

Visualize yourself happy, doing the things that will bring you inner and outer success.

Start with little things you know you can do each day that will bring you joy. Then move on to accomplish greater and greater things on your happiness list.

The meaning of life is happiness. The challenge is to know what makes true happiness. Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.” Dalai Lama