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Happiness is that intangible state we constantly search for. Maybe if I was richer, fitter, smarter, I would be happy. Maybe if I fall in love, or run away, I would find happiness. But we constantly disappoint ourselves in the search for that feeling.
After my father passed away in 2015, I found it difficult to climb the happiness ladder. I had to dedicate time to explore happiness diversification. That means that your source of happiness cannot come from one thing, like your partner or your daily workout. The problem with single happiness source is that when it goes away, permanently, or not, you find yourself sinking in that dark hole of negative thoughts.
But engaging in daily positive actions is not hard. Here are 7 ways I helped myself find happiness.
#1 Find Happiness by Letting Go of Grudges
There is nothing more exhausting than holding a grudge against someone for a wrongdoing. Often, we hold these grudges unwillingly, while wishing we could drop them, but we are incapable of. When the wound is open, we seek to confront the person so they can constantly inflict the wound to never let it heal.
Why are we so aggressive with feelings? Well, we want everyone to know that we were “wronged”. It makes us feel empowered in righteousness. It gives us a purpose, makes our case strong. Though I can’t be there to evaluate case by case and determine when grudges are justifiable, I can’t but imagine that most of the time (honestly, I think always) they are not.
What are we trying to get to as portraying the one who was “wronged”? To seek the comfort and compassion we didn’t get in the past? Are we seeking for empathy for what happened to us by the hands of this “other”? Maybe what we want to achieve is for people to understand that our suffering matters.
But the problem I see with grudges is that you are carrying a load of toxic waste that drags you down and closes you to meaningful relationships. Besides, my opinion is that they don’t serve the purpose that they are there to serve. It really doesn’t make us feel better, does it? I would be the first to admit that one must accept anger and a process of healing, but holding onto it only will only disconnect you from yourself and create a different story. At the end, a grudge will only deprive you of what you are seeking and end up making you anxious and depressed.
Before jumping in the minimalist train, I also thought it was a fad. To really let go of my things wasn’t what I thought would bring happiness. But it did.
When you are asking yourself what is minimalism, you cannot envision yourself getting rid of your car, your TV, your sofa. You can, but they are not the problem. The problem is what meaning you give to those things. Today we are cluttered with meaning. Minimalism is about helping you to find a way to decide what gives value to your life and what doesn’t. If you want to max up your credit cards to be in the latest fashion trends, go at it. But don’t come crying to me when you don’t have the money to take that trip to Bali.
But what minimalism has done for me goes beyond physical clutter. I have learned to say no to events when I am exhausted and need some time to myself. I spend less time trying to figure out what to wear and more time playing with my dog in the mornings, which gives me a mood boost. I feel free to move as I am not being held down by anything I own. If something happens and I lose every single one of my belongings, I will not think it’s the end of the world. I now have more time for me.
The most important thing about minimalism is that it also helped me think about emotional clutter. Emotions can cause a clutter and affect you in the long term. When I am in pain, or when I am sad, I accept why that emotion is there and move on. Letting go, it’s an effective action.
#3 Connecting with Who You Love (exclude damaged relationships)
What do you really love? Who do you really love and appreciate in your life? These are simple, that deep questions that are often hard to answer. But once you have a clear perspective, it is easy to maintain relationships.
The first thing I do is think about who I really appreciate in my life. The second step is to accept them as they are. For example, my mother, god I love that woman, but she does get on my nerves. Like when she tries to give me advice when I have been living (surviving mostly) on my own for the last 20 or so years. But my inability to understand and accept my mother as she is has held me back from connecting with her. She is a very important part of my life that I don’t plan on excluding, so it is on me to work hard so that relationship grows stronger. Find the relationships that matter the most to you, and invest in them.
On the other hand, you shouldn’t feel obligated to love people with the “just because”, like in just because they are family. I (sadly) know many people who were neglected by their parents and are in constant look for their love and acceptance. Don’t feel like you must include people in your life because they are there. Letting go of those toxic relationships will strengthen your emotional health and give you time to dedicate to those you really care about.
#4 Seek More Awe
What is awe? Awe is an emotional response to stimuli. According to Keltner & Haidt (2003), it is “the feeling of being in the presence of something vast and greater than the self, that exceeds current knowledge structures.”
Research exploring the science of awe has found that there are connections between the experience of the feeling and enhanced critical and creative thinking faculties, improved health, and an increase in pro-social behaviors such as kindness, self-sacrifice, co-operation and resource-sharing.
Basically, this is when nature just blows your mind. I felt it in 2017 during the Great American Eclipse. I was puzzled, and engaged in a quasi-religious experience (not being a religious person that a lot to take). I also felt it in Machu Picchu and the starry night in the Chilean Patagonia.
But we cannot visit nature wonders every weekend, and many of us are not even close to one. This is why scientists are now looking into the experiences of “mini-awes”. We experience awe more than we think in our daily lives. Like when we are inspired by a powerful story and when we admire the change of leaves or the return of spring.
There are many ways you can practice “mini-awes”. You can watch awe-inspiring videos, read about awe-filled experiences, or simply reflect about the simple joys in your daily life. Whatever gives you the awes.
#5 Be happy for other people’s happy
I remember seeing one day that someone posted on Facebook something along the lines of “I don’t want to see your food, or your baby pictures, or your trips”. What the message was, is that the person believed others use social media to brag. That, I don’t refute, I take the blame for bragging once or twice.
The point here is that we are bombarded these days with social media and we see every day, people that might be better off than we are. When someone buys a house, or has a baby, or takes that trip to Bali. Do you usually roll your eyes because you think they are bragging, or do you feel happy for them? Even if you don’t really know them… especially if you don’t know them.
Well, I was the one rolling my eyes. Oh, X is traveling, AGAIN. Where does he even get the money? Then, I started practicing happiness for others. So instead, I tried being glad that this person gets to experience life this way. I appreciate baby and puppy pictures and I thrive when I see people graduate or achieve any other dreams of theirs. Being happy for other people’s happiness makes you humble and grateful. Try it out and let me know how it goes!
I hope this list that meant to be short and ended being extra-long can help you find happiness and inner peace. Full-disclosure, what works for me might not work for you. So it is up to you to find ways in which you can feel fulfilled and happy about life.