Do you take happiness for granted? That it’s something that will simply slot into place when everything aligns correctly? I certainly did until recently.
I thought it was something that would just happen.
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t feeling particularly downbeat, but I wasn’t in the best place either.
I’d devoted three years to a project that hadn’t panned out and was working through the loss of my father to prostate cancer.
It’s easy to take it for granted that we’ll be happy – or at least be happier – ‘one day’. But life can get in the way, and dealing with work, family, friends, relationships, etc, can be hard.
Plus, as a gay man who grew up in the 80s, I’ve been given a lot of unwanted baggage over the years. Things are a lot better for the LGBTI community nowadays, but many of us still face discrimination on a daily basis and life in 2017 can be challenging.
Fortunately at the start of the year I came to the conclusion that happiness is a choice. Like most things of any value, happiness doesn’t just come along and land in our laps. We have to put the effort in and work at it every day.
I realized the key to being happy is accepting we are happy right now.
Not everything in our lives has to be OK, and there’ll probably always be something worrying going on in the world. But if we choose to be happy today, right now – no matter what’s going on – no one can take it away from us.
Back in January, I decided to work out what makes me feel the happiest: what I could do every day that would bring me joy. Once I’d done this and started working at being happier – my mood lifted, I felt much more creative and I started exploring an exciting new direction.
So, how can you get happier? Here are a few ideas: I can’t guarantee they’ll all work for you, and you may need to approach things from a different angle. But I promise once you start working at being happier, it’s only a matter of time before you are.
Seven steps to happiness
1. Make a conscious decision to be happier
Accept you are in control and that you deserve to be happy.
How you see the world shapes your world. Decide to be gloomy and the world seems gloomy. Decide to be happy and the world will seem like a happier place. Happiness is your choice, no one else’s, and you’re in the driving seat.
2. Start journaling
Writing, drawing and doodling can lift your mood, boost your creativity and help give personal insight. Too busy to journal? Give yourself just five minutes a day to do it and you’ll be glad you did. Journaling is fun and the internet/ TV/ Grindr/ pub will still be there once you’ve finished.
3. Register how you feel
Keep an eye on your feelings throughout the day. If your mood drops, try to identify what’s getting you down and deal with it.
Then focus on the day’s positive stuff. One negative thing doesn’t have to overshadow everything else. Make a positivity list to remind yourself not everything is bad.
4. Fake it till you make it
Some days everything seems to go wrong, but there’s still room for happiness.
Affirmations are a great way to lift your mood. Repeating positive phrases – such as ‘I am happy’ or ‘I feel confident’ – will help change the way you feel.
You can say these positive mantras out loud (probably better to do this in private!) or write them down. I do affirmations every day and can testify that they really work.
5. Be kind
What we put out into the world comes back to us. Random acts of kindness can take seconds but they can have a massive impact on someone else’s day. Being kind to other people makes the world a better place and boosts the way you feel.
6. Be grateful
Take time every day to focus on the things you have that make you happy. This can be anything from a special person in your life to a brilliant book you’re reading, or a weird cloud that looks like Ed Sheeran.
Accepting we have good stuff in our lives reminds us we are happy with what we have, which helps put happiness in the present, rather than the future.
7. Keep trying
Life’s an ongoing process, so today is your happy ending. The happiness you feel right now is all that matters. Set yourself goals and aim to improve your life, but focus on happiness here and now, and don’t give up.