Happiness: 6 Incredible Ways To Take Control of It

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Todawe’re talking about the Holy Grail of personal development, if not life in general: Happiness.

We all want more happiness. 

(Well, there are those among us who truly want to pout and be miserable, but I’m guessing they’re not reading this today – they’re probably off reading the Life Sucks Times.)

I’ve always thought if you’re happy, you really, truly have it all.

When I was a little kid, I remember thinking even if you’re dying as long as you were happy, it was ok.

In my mind, happiness is more important than being healthy. (After all, how many perfectly healthy miserable people do you know?)

- Oh, and no comments about what a weird kid I was. I know already. 

Anyway, that reasoning still makes sense to me.

Happiness is Key

You’ve got to be happy above everything else or nothing else really matters.

You can’t take in the beauty around you, or enjoy a bazillion dollars if you had it, or be grateful for perfect health or true love. 

So of all the other things you could choose to spend your time on, optimizing happiness seems to offer a lot of bang for your buck, if you will.

Dr. Martin Seligman a pioneer in positive psychology has estimated that 60% of your happiness is determined by genetics, while the other 40% is within our control.

So it seems we have some work to do, people. 

Moving the needle on that 40% should be a major goal for all of us. 

How to Increase 40% of Your Happiness 

There’s been a lot written on how to be happier, and much of it has merit.

But I think there are certain things that if left unaddressed, make everything else like putting a bandaid on a stab wound. It just doesn’t make much of a difference until you cure what’s festering under the surface. 

These ways to take control of your happiness are designed to get at the root of the problem. Then, things like gratitude and smiling more often have a chance of making an impact. 

Ready? Here they are: 

 

6 Ways to Take Control of Your Happiness 

1. Fix what’s not working for you.

“Mom, my tummy hurts.” says my 2 year-old. 

“Are you hungry?” I ask. 

“Yes.” 

“Then let’s have a snack.” I suggest. 

“Ok.” she says.

Sometimes we get crazy about throwing every trick in the book at a problem instead of just solving the problem. When my 2 year-old’s tummy hurts, she’s probably hungry and I feed her.

When you feel unhappy there’s probably a reason, and if you can ferret it out and solve the problem, that actually works much better than healing crystals and mantras. 

The thing is you sometimes have to check in with yourself to understand what you’re feeling, or you have to stay with the feeling for a while while you solve a problem that’s trickier than getting a box of Goldfish from the second shelf. 

 

2. Stop betraying yourself.

Every time you lie to yourself you betray your own trust.

When you do something that kills you slowly inside, like decide you’re going to stay with your sucky job just six more months until the job market improves, or stay with your partner who treats you like dirt because it’s too scary to be on your own, you tell yourself (with actions, not words) that you’re not worth it.

And when you treat yourself like that you not only begin to believe it, you also begin to hate yourself for treating you like that. 

I get it that life’s not perfect and compromises have to be made at times. I understand (completely) about being scared out of your wits to do or not do something.

But when you make choices, the most basic starting point is that you need to treat yourself with the love and respect you deserve, and then proceed from there.

It’s the ground rule for any relationship including the one you have with yourself. 

 

3. Do something constructive when you get bored with life.

We all get stuck in a rut sometimes.

There, I said it. 

It doesn’t have to be some big, scary deal, you guys. Seriously.

I think that we all worry that being stuck in a rut means that we’re getting depressed, or we’re having a mid-life crisis, or we’re actually a little bit crazy and we don’t know what the heck has been happening to us for the last 10 years or so.

When in fact, you’re just stuck in a rut.

It’s ok.

Breathe. 

There’s a lot you can do to get out of it, but the bottom line is that life needs you to shake it up a little, in a constructive way.

Don’t go getting all Walter White on me and start making choices that turn your bad day into a nation-wide man-hunt and a car-wash business that’s really only interested in cleaning cash. 

The point is, don’t make a bad situation worse by straining relationships or other foundations in your life that you’d really rather keep intact. 

 

4. Create a resilience safety net. 

Create a what?!

Now before you go Googling that term, you should know that I completely made it up just now. 

You can call it whatever you’d like. Basically, it’s your safety net for when the shit hits the fan.

And in life, it always does. 

Whatever you need in order to bounce back from a difficult situation should already be in place before you need it. It might be a strong network of family and friends, a cultivated meditation practice, a regular exercise routine or a rainy day fund. 

Knowing it’s there will give you peace of mind, and if you end up using your safety net, you won’t have as far to fall. 

 

5. Stop fighting what IS.

I can’t pretend I’ve given up the struggle. I fight against what IS too. But acceptance can make us all happier. The best wisdom I have to offer here is to try to remember not to struggle. Breathe, and allow life to be what it is. Let go. 

(Remind me when I’m freaking out, K?) 

 

6. Stop living for pleasure, and start living for meaning and engagement.

Martin Seligman (the positive psychologist we met earlier) has said that while pursing pleasure in life might bring positive feelings, enduring happiness only comes from pursing meaning. 

And meaning comes from using your strengths and talents to pursue something that is bigger than you.

We’ve long known that stuff doesn’t make us happier in the long term, but the temporary rush from new bling of any sort feels easier to obtain than happiness acquired from the long-term efforts from building meaning.

It’s easier to pursue the rush of pseudo-happiness than to work hard for real happiness. 

But instead of striving toward that next vacation, thrilling experience or gadget  (or in addition to striving for that) make sure you’re putting yourself into goals that you feel make the world a better place to be.  (Like work you love!)

That’s what creates true, enduring happiness.

 

Controlling Happiness 

Here’s the part where I tell you to try out these ways to take control of your happiness – and good luck! Have a nice day! 

Except I’m not going to do that. 

Because here’s the thing: your happiness is a serious deal. 

It’s not about rainbows and unicorn poop. 

It’s about whether you enjoy this one life you get to live or not. 

As seriously as I take happiness, you’d better believe that I think deserves serious attention.

You need to tend to your own happiness like you’d tend to your health if you had a medical condition or you’d tend to your child.

It needs care, it needs space (don’t just forget about it), and it needs work – especially when things aren’t going quite according to plan. 

As I said earlier, much of what is written on happiness has merit, but I believe we owe it to ourselves to take our happiness more seriously and to plan for caring for and growing it – in other words, exercising our considerable control to increase our own happiness.

What do you think? 

How seriously have you been taking your happiness? How much do you think your happiness could increase by giving it more care and attention? Or do we spend too much time on our own personal happiness already? 

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.  

 

 

14 Responses to “Happiness: 6 Incredible Ways To Take Control of It”

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  1. Dear Jessica,

    I take happiness very seriously :)! I really love what you said about directly solving the problem. Don’t we tend to create more drama than necessary? And, I’m all for resiliency plans because life does shoot us curve balls at time.

    I don’t know if I agree with Seligman that only 40% of our happiness is under our control. I think we are more than our brains and our genes!
    Sandra Pawula recently posted…The True Meaning of Non-Attachment and How It Sets You FreeMy Profile

    • Hi Sandra, and thanks so much for your comment!

      I don’t know how he estimated that. Twin studies maybe? Everything having to do with genes is figured out through twin studies it seems! :) Regardless of the percentage, I think we have to own the fact that we’re responsible for much of our happiness – which to me means using a bigger stick than we have been.
      Jessica Sweet recently posted…Happiness: 6 Incredible Ways To Take Control of ItMy Profile

  2. Mike Monroe says:

    Great stuff here, Jess. DEFINITELY some new, contributing thoughts to the discussion of happiness that I’d never heard before. 60% 40%?? Wild. I also wanted to add that the difference between happiness and pleasure (or joy and happiness, as the terms are used in the bible) has to do with their sustainability. Pleasure can’t be sustained beyond the activity producing it. Ie, chocolate gives me pleasure, so I keep eating chocolate. When I stop eating it, the pleasure stops. Some people keep eating it because they (mistakenly) want to stay happy. Meanwhile, happiness CAN BE – for instance after working out when we get that post workout endorphin high. LOVE that you are a crusade to bring people to their happiest, most passionate work… the type of work that we can’t stop think about and want to do to the wee hours of the morning because it gives us joy. This is very important work you’re doing.
    Mike Monroe recently posted…The Ultimate Test PostMy Profile

  3. Thanks so much, Mike!

    Thanks SO much for those distinctions! That’s actually amazing when you think about it, because the pursuit of ongoing pleasure often can lead to unhappiness (substance abuse, for instance). I’d never thought about it like that before, but that’s really interesting and useful. Replace the need for constant pleasure with something more sustainable, and you have a chance of healing the addiction (and the lack of sustainable happiness or joy in the first place is the fertile ground for addiction). Something for me to chew on. . . thanks, Mike!
    Jessica Sweet recently posted…Happiness: 6 Incredible Ways To Take Control of ItMy Profile

  4. Diane says:

    Jessica

    Thanks so much for all of your practical, inspirational messages. They are really helping me on my ongoing journey to find more meaning in my life. I am not quite there yet, but I am enjoying the journey and celebrating the achievements along the way. :-)

    Diane

  5. Damaris says:

    Jess thanks for the article as i was reading I remembered a habit I have when I’m in a rut.
    I instinctualIy question myself. I check what am I doing for others “volunteer oportunities” and what am I doing for my own growth. The first time I noticed I was doing this wss during my first job when I got the hang of the “rat race” and found it senseless. I was never taught this but I knew my happiness was based on two things: giving and growing.
    Now there are other questions I add like: do I have to forgive someone, what am I thinking about, have I been procrastinatin? I also look at the date or season and think is it an anniversary of any previous hardship “my grandma’s death. Of course I ask was I being true to myself or trying to manipulate the situation. These help me go a little deeper and allow me to accept the obvious. For instance during the anniversary of my grandmother’s death I may get sad without noticing. Once I catch on I give myself time to grieve or hold onto a happy memory. I’m at a stage of rebuilding my marriage and family after a separation so happiness to me is the opportunity for second chances. I ask what went wrong and what can I do differently ask for forgiveness and move on. I haven’t arrived at the place where I know what makes me happy but I’m learning to enjoy the journey.

    • Thanks Damaris,

      Life is SO busy that we really can forget to stop and listen to what’s happening internally sometimes. And some of us are really just more wired like that – tuned in to what’s happening around us and not quite as attuned to what’s internal (not that those people aren’t deep, just that they were taught to notice the external environment more than the internal one for whatever reason). It becomes necessary to require conscious effort to stop, look and listen :) to what’s happening and then tell a story – just as you’re saying – what’s happening here? Why am I sad? What is this related to? Being able to stop, feel the feeling, understand the feeling, and then attach it to something that makes sense (if possible) can be very grounding.

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

  6. Very well said! These are sensible, proven methods & ideas that work! “Much better than healing crystals and mantras.”

    • Thanks Linda! Sometimes the answers aren’t as “hard” as we make them. Or they might feel hard as in “emotionally difficult” which is why we sometimes avoid looking at it squarely and instead try to find anything else that seems it might do the trick. We’re so good at fooling ourselves though. It can be very hard to know when we’re not facing our truth.

  7. Hey, great inspiring article! I wrote an article recently on why we will never find happiness, but it wasn’t a negative one. Basically I believe in keeping ourselves in line with our goals and focusing on enjoying the little things.

    That’s what I do to keep myself on the path towards happiness, anyway. If I never get there – so be it – it’s all about the process. Enjoy that and things will be good! :-)
    jamie flexman recently posted…4 Ridiculously Common Misconceptions About Depression (and how to change your thoughts)My Profile

    • Hi Jamie,
      I’ll head on over and read your article – I think I missed that one :( It sounds like it makes good sense, and I would agree that 90% of happiness is achieved by just putting one foot in front of the other! Even getting to the point where you’re enjoying the process is a process! :)

  8. Melissa says:

    I loved how you said “start living your life with meaning.” That makes a world of difference in your overall quality of life. Real happiness is so much better than the “quick fix” type happiness. When you settle for the quickie, you just want more right away. That’s no fun, it’s not satisfying and leaves you unhappy.

    Great solid advice for heading in the right direction! Thanks!
    Melissa recently posted…Your Freedom is ForgivenessMy Profile

    • Thanks Melissa. The quickie is like junk food for your soul – the quick high that leaves you crashing down, exactly as you describe. But when you feed yourself the “good stuff” its nourishing and sustaining. Thanks for your comment!

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