Your Mindset Dictates Your Happiness
This is nothing new - happiness is a mindset.
Every article, blog post, and self-help book on happiness begins from the same position -- happiness starts within us, those that make the best of what they have are the happiest; looking on the bright side makes us happier, happiness is a skill that can be trained -- and yet, many of us still find it difficult to hold on to the positive, pleasant feelings we equate with happiness.
And it’s frustrating.
Chasing Happiness Drives it Away, Finding Meaning Brings it Closer
A common grumble sounds like, “I’m trying really hard to be happy, but the more I try, the harder it gets.” There’s a myth that we need to keep ourselves sustained with “positive” life events, the more positive, the better. This is perhaps why people aspire to the big positive moments – the wedding day, a work promotion, keys to a new house, the holiday – and when the moment passes, or worse when it doesn’t happen at all, all happiness is gone. The problem with this is it equates happiness with external experiences and intense delight which leave us constantly chasing what “feels good” as if it’s an elusive high.
Placing value on external definitions of happiness gives things, events, or people the power to dictate how we feel. When that moment is gone, so is the feeling.
Happiness is actually a byproduct of willingly doing what you enjoy, and only you can determine if that action is challenging, beautiful, worthwhile, or meaningful. Victor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, and philosopher wrote in his book, Man’s Search For Meaning, “What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.” And it’s what brings meaning that leads us towards happiness.
The key to finding meaning and happiness is to understand our intrinsic motivations. These are internal “whys” that drive our behaviours because it is naturally significant and gratifying to us. Whether you enjoy singing in the shower, organising your daily to-do list, or waking up every morning to go cycling, you do it because you want to, because “feeling good” is something you give to yourself.
Appreciating the Ordinary Moments Trains Us to be Happier
Here’s another way you can dictate your own happiness – be mindful. Human beings have a bad habit of retaining bad memories better than positive ones, which is why we often equate happiness to the big, extraordinary moments. This also means we have the tendency to overlook the normal, seemingly insignificant moments that also bring us pleasure.
But life isn’t like the movies and it isn’t amazing all the time. Instead, it’s made up of OK cups of coffee that perk you up in the morning, evening walks as the sun cools down, and laughing with loved ones over something silly that probably won’t be remembered tomorrow. It’s only when we recognise these moments do we stop waiting to be happy and begin to realise that we’re probably a lot happier than we thought we were.
Luckily, this is what all those articles, blogs, and books mean when they say that happiness can be trained. It starts with choosing to be more mindful and present and it evolves into gratitude, appreciation, and happiness.
Here’s a small mindfulness challenge for your day:
The next time you realise something decent is happening, stop whatever you’re doing and pay attention to how you feel. Take note of it. Really savour the moment. Repeat this again the next time something else quite okay happens. And again after that. You might just end the day feeling a little bit more satisfied, and happier than you expected to.
Experiencing All Your Emotions, Even Those that Don’t Feel So Nice
Nobel prize-winning author Toni Morrison once said, “I want to feel what I feel. Even if it’s not happiness.” She was talking about the death of her son and how no amount of consoling words could soothe her loss. Avoiding “hard” emotions like anger, worry, and sadness do not make us happier.
Emotional diversity is the ability to express and process a full range of emotions, both positive and negative. A study on the emotional ecosystem found that those who were better able to express their emotions were less likely to be depressed, visited the doctor less, exercised more, and generally had better health than those with a more limited emotional range.
Happiness, like all emotions, is in a constant state of flux. Placing too much weight on positive emotions alone can actually cause us to be less resilient when change or something unexpected happens.
Self-Awareness Leads to Self-Compassion
Happiness relies on our ability to see ourselves clearly, to understand who we are and how we fit into the world around us. Being self-aware can make us more proactive, boost our acceptance, and encourage positive self-development. But, we are often more harsh and critical with ourselves than we need be, fixating on not being able to “be happy” in the way we think we should or the way we perceive other people to be.
Self-compassion encourages us to be kind and more supportive of ourselves as opposed to being judgemental. This also helps us react, accept, and manage our emotions better.
Happiness Starts With You, Teaching Yourself to See it is the Hardest Part
The bottom line is, happiness is a choice. But this choice only becomes apparent with a positive mindset creating the right kind of environment that makes it easier to be happier.
As creatures of habit, it may seem much harder to build a more positive mindset than it really is. What can help is a coach – someone who can offer a new perspective or someone who can highlight the good when staying mindful becomes tough. Coaches can also help navigate your emotions and circumstances in a more balanced way, making a huge difference in your mindset. If you need support, Naluri offers remote therapy and asynchronous chat with a team of coaches led by a clinical psychologist who can help you identify your intrinsic motivations, form better habits, and define a happier, healthier version of yourself.
- Written by:
- Chloe Pharamond
- 24 March 2022