photo credit: Thomas Hawk
A single father of three clocking 50+ hours a day in a janitorial position rarely has time to think to himself, “Where does my happiness come from?” or maybe even simply, “Am I happy?”. He comes home every day after dealing with the drama of his co-workers and prepares for his second job: home life.
The laundry needs sorting, the carpets need vacuuming, the sink overflows with plates, cups, and soggy food, both cars need repair, and the bills need to be paid. Living paycheck-to-paycheck is inevitable and shopping is always a matter of “need” over “want” – if shopping is even an option at all.
Consider this man’s perspective on happiness. Is he waiting on a miracle, something to come along and pick his life up? Does he wait for happiness to come to him? Is there anything to be happy about in this man’s life?
A Change of Perspective
There is a secret to happiness that is as easy to practice as it sounds, a secret that should be considered common knowledge. It is the reason that this man, our single janitor father of three, is able to rest at night in complete and calm content.
Happiness is far too valuable to put off until later, so why not create happiness from your own being right here and now instead of waiting for the right conditions? Instead of putting off happiness until his next big tax refund, my father, our steadfast janitor, realized what 17th century author John Milton realized long ago,
“The mind is its own place, and in itself
can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”
To my surprise, not everyone practices this simple doctrine.
You may have a friend or family member who hangs their head low while walking to work, whose sighs carry more negative emotion than a funeral service, and who just appears hopeless, as if they’ll never dig their self out of their hole. Or maybe even you have your own hole of which you wish you could dig yourself out.
Instead of waiting on a rope or ladder to pull you up and out, why not just change the scenery? Change your surroundings and your mind. Redecorate your abysmal crypt and turn it into a positive paradise where you would love to be!
photo credit: coljay72
Why the Pursuit Doesn’t Work
Happiness has no prerequisites and no conditions which must first be met. Every human being has the power to think themselves to a better mood. Changing your thinking is the single most important thing you can do to improve your outlook – and it’s so easy! My father could spend the rest of his life chasing “if onlys”.
“If only I had my paycheck tomorrow.”
“If only I had someone here to help.”
“If only I could go back to school.”
You can pursue your desires to become a prolific writer, go back to school, or get your kids into college, but don’t hold off on happiness just until you reach your destination. Create it now. Reaching an “if only” will soon lead to another. Your happiness when reaching a goal is temporary and ever-fleeting, but if you make contentment a permanent part of your life, you’ll never have to worry about where it goes and how to get it back.
photo credit: Don César
Five Keys to Self-Created Happiness
Happiness is already part of our inner self, but we need to learn how to experience that part of us that is always happy. Here are five things I feel we should all review at certain intervals in our lives in order to forget chasing happiness that won’t last and expose the permanent contentment that lies within.
One saying that has stuck with me for years was the phrase “fake it ’til you make it!” I’ve always applied this to positive attributes and smiling is one of them. If you smile even when times are rough, you’ll feel almost an immediate positive physical and mental change. This is probably the smallest and easiest step on your journey to happiness, and maybe your next smile will be genuine.
- Surround yourself with what you love.
Whether it be classic books, pumpkin pie, your children, or even your friends, you should always create a healthy environment for yourself. Being able to see and interact with the things that lighten your heart will do wonders for your life outlook over time. Be sure to maintain healthy, non-toxic relationships with the people around you. Anyone with a negative trait who gives you a feeling of uneasiness should have you rethinking who you are with.
- Be realistic.
In my young life, I’ve already been up and down on the outlook scale. Pessimism and unhealthy optimism are two extremes that you should stay clear away from. Both could create bad situations for you in the long run. I recommend keeping an open mind to all situations and remembering that anything is possible – good and bad. If you are realistic about what could happen, you will not be surprised or shocked when something goes array. Some will say that optimism is a good and positive thing, and I do agree to a point. However, optimism has been known to grow to an unhealthy scale where expectations for good outcomes are unrealistically high. You don’t want to get your hopes up!
- Be the you that you are capable of.
Many of us have envisioned ourselves how we want to be five, ten, or fifteen years into the future. The worst thing you can do for yourself is set a goal that is too hard to reach. Make tiny steps towards your goals and be sure that you are capable of making progress. Even if you never reach your big dream, you still know that you are doing all that you can. What more can you do than what you are capable of?
- Appreciate the little things.
Take some time to breathe in the fresh morning air, notice a small flower growing in the cracks of a sidewalk, or the loving relationship between a father and son taking a walk in the park. Little things like this bring me an immense amount of joy in my every day life, and I only have to be aware of them to appreciate them. Take some time to walk around your house or your city and try to notice smaller details you would have overlooked in your daily life.
photo credit: Art In Particular
These are the most prominent keys to happiness I have found over my eighteen years of living, but there are many, many more. Remember that your happiness can also create happiness in others as well. With a simple smile or a kind gesture, the mood of a room and the hearts of others will lighten. What are your tips and tricks to happiness?