We may all have different ideas of what happiness looks like, and we each must find our own way toward it—but the right foundation still needs to be in place. Without a solid base, any movement forward remains on shaky ground.
Our well-being is dependent on more than financial success, which is why someone may have multiple assets and money in the bank but still feel empty and unfulfilled. On the flip side, someone barely making ends meet might meet each day with gratitude and joy.
What do they have in common? They’ve learned happiness is a multifaceted beast, one that requires taming on multiple fronts. We can’t just tell ourselves, “I want to be happy,” and then toss away all our chips when the change doesn’t immediately come.
It can take some work, and it’s far from easy at first, but if we tackle the following five needs, sustainable happiness is possible.
Who doesn’t long for more free time in their life? We may feel like work saps every last bit of energy out of us, and we have no means of filling our spirits back up—which might be a big part of the problem. We all have a job to do on this planet. That’s right, we’re all put here specifically for our own specific purpose.
We each must ask ourselves: Am I living true to my purpose or someone else’s?
Too many of us waste too much of our time building other people’s dreams, which can leave us feeling anything but fulfilled. I spent years feeding the Corporate monster, thinking I was doing okay because I was making decent money—and yet it left me constantly running on empty. It wasn’t until I integrated my passion with my livelihood when I began to understand how important it was to my soul.
Even we introverts need friends. Knowing others have our backs, and having people we love and want to support, is part of what makes us human. The world can be lonely enough even with a support network, and we can’t navigate this crazy world alone, even if we might think we can.
For some of us, trauma can stand in the way of our being able to trust other people and develop new relationships. Or maybe we’re so busy trying to get ahead that we’ve allowed our social lives to take the back burner. It’s vital not to do it all alone.
Reach out. Find your people. It can make such a difference.
Regular self-care is about more than the occasional bubble bath or spa day—it’s about treating the body and mind the way they deserve to be treated. We must be willing to feed ourselves nutritious foods, exercise even though we really don’t want to, and get ourselves in bed at a reasonable hour. We must be able to set necessary boundaries, stand up for ourselves without getting defensive and hold realistic expectations.
It’s vital to find balance between work and play. Self-care is also about setting aside a small chunk of time at least every few days for ourselves. Pen it in the calendar if necessary. It doesn’t matter if it’s working on a painting, crocheting a scarf or taking a short hike; the time isn’t wasted if it enriches your soul.
This one was the toughest for me to learn and accept. I happen to be a particularly neurotic person, you see, and I spent most of my life trying to find some way to change that one unfortunate character flaw. I didn’t feel deserving of self-love; I didn’t think I deserved any love until after I’d figured out how to make myself completely loveable.
I wasn’t okay just the way I was, and I ended up developing a deep sense of self-hatred. I felt resentful of my many quirks, and that made me resentful of my life overall.
Self-love came to me almost as an epiphany during a meditation: I am who I am, and I’m never going to change that. Some people may not like me, and I can’t try to change for them, either. I’m a good person, with a good heart, and I deserve love.
I imagined myself hand-in-hand with another version of me, someone who loved me deeply and was excited to see me. We hugged, said “I love you” and really meant it. Now, whenever I slip into negative self-talk, I imagine that other version of me, and I let her speak instead.
Letting go of all that’s outside our control can be incredibly freeing, and it can do wonders for the attitude. Real acceptance allows us to love not only ourselves, but the world around us without judgment. Yes, there are some terrible people out there—or even some who are so different from us that we may not understand their views.
Especially when we’re dealing with issues outside our control, anger and bitterness rarely move us toward positive solutions. We can choose to contribute to one of two forces in this world: love and creation (order) or hatred and destruction (chaos).
The problem is that we humans can be easily tricked into aligning with chaos while still believing we’re on the side of “good.” I’ll leave you with this one bit: If thinking about a subject gets you riled up and wanting to harm or control someone, you’re being misled by chaos. Choose acceptance—and choose inner peace.
Happiness is more than a mood or state of being, it’s a practice. It can take some time and repetition, and the steps might require a little effort, but the payoff could be huge.