The formula for creating your own happiness is simple, right? Do things that make you happy, avoid negative thoughts and stress, and voilà! Happiness appears like a sunbeam from within, shining all around you.
But that’s not at all how it happens—you and I both know that. Instead, on the International Day of Happiness, the world is talking about how it does. How people like you and me can create more happiness in the world around us. And how it starts with you.
Happiness works much like love—that is, in mysterious ways. However, science and psychology tell us that brain chemistry influences our emotions and can boost our happiness. But in order to activate those chemicals, we have to talk about habits first.
There is a formula to creating your own happiness, and it lies in changing thought patterns. It is these patterns—what you do, think and say every day—that influence how happy you are. Happiness is not within your grasp because it is, quite literally, within you.
Happiness: arrivals and departures
Creating your own happiness does not happen overnight. You don’t strike a yoga pose or two, meditate for a month or a year, write mantras on Post-it notes all over your home and poof, happiness arrives to knock on your front door. There is no doorbell-ringing happiness. Happiness is silence; it is stillness. But it’s hard to be quiet and motionless with all the noise that is whirling around and inside of us.
We live in the real world, where the unexpected is probable and things happen. Things like extra stressful workdays, fights with our partners, misunderstandings with friends and family, bad thoughts, negative body image days, everything-goes-wrong days, insomniac nights, self-doubt and worry. While it’s all a part of life, these stressors have the unfortunate effect of messing with our ability to find a blissful state of being.
My struggle with creating my own happiness
I have lived in a world much like that one. But of all those sensations, it was worry that pushed me over the edge with constant thoughts of, Am I doing this right? When will I? How can I? What if?
The truth is, I was forever in states of disarray—balancing on balls that no longer wanted to support me, on a scale that said I was too fat, on a line that wanted to see me fall. And I didn’t realize life presented transitions to teach me about me, to assist me in the evolution of myself.
The prospect of seeing the blessing in a mistake didn’t occur to me; I continued to make them, break them, beat them down, fight them and run away from them until I was too tired to run anymore and had to sit down. And at the end of the day, I blamed myself, was disappointed in myself and, on some days, even hated myself.
The truth is, I tried to keep myself too busy to notice those feelings. The negative stuff got the under-the-rug or in-the-closet treatment; I trudged forward in spite of it. The busier I was, the less likely I was to notice that happiness didn’t dwell inside me; rather, it was something I thought could be bought or constructed.
I kept myself busy because I was unhappy, and I was unhappy because I was too busy to notice.
Creating your own happiness takes time
Busy is the life that many of us are all about, as we’ve been told time and again that working more will bring us success. As such, for many of us, every second is accounted for, every moment is a chance to do something. Don’t stop moving and don’t slow down. Just keep going, keep pushing. Time’s a-ticking.
But when we’re so busy being busy, we don’t have time for much of what we love or like, and we rarely, if ever, leave time for self-care.
So why can’t we stick to those positive habits that are tough at first, but ultimately have life-changing and life-affirming results? Why do we stick to habits that make us feel worse, rather than the ones that lead to happiness?
We fall in and out of good habits so quickly because we don’t always dedicate time to maintaining them, to nurturing the things that are worthy, that foster happiness and self-love.
This sounds like self-sabotage. But it also sounds like impatience.
How to create your own happiness
However, the enigma isn’t so enigmatic—we are a society full of instant everything. If whatever we desire doesn’t happen immediately, many of us don’t want it. Or maybe we want it, but we don’t want to wait for it, put in the effort or enjoy the process of reaping the benefits. We want it now, dammit.
Look at how we live, from the convenience of food, entertainment and quick-fix promises sold with the intention of giving you a flatter stomach, a wrinkle-free face, more room in your closet, flawless eyebrows and slimmer thighs. Without any effort, we have everything our hearts desire, and then some. But most of the stuff we accrue are things we don’t even want. Look around your home, look at your life. Is it the life your dreams are made of? Or is it one that was sold to you?
Take the time to observe what’s around you.
Is it what makes you happy? If not, how can you change it? If it doesn’t serve a purpose or make you feel good, get rid of it. You do not have time for filling up space around you while your interior stays empty. Fill the inside, have new experiences and feel.
Take the time to consider your activities.
Do you do things that bring you joy to create your own happiness? If not, why not? And why do you dedicate time to things that make you miserable? Integrity matters here.
Take the time to be still.
Ask yourself some serious questions about what you want out of life and who you want to be. If you don’t look within, happiness will only be a mirage, a production of cinematic proportions. Be mindful of what it is you long for and be honest about it. Reflection must be included in the process, period—there’s no way around it.
The sound of happiness
When I slowed down, things changed. I asked myself hard questions, and I let time give me the answers.
I didn’t pressure myself—not like I used to, anyway. I sat still and listened to myself and others breathe, and I listened to the universe breathe, as if in unison with us all. Because that is what the universe does. It breathes with us, and it gives us breath.
When I sat still, I could hear what I needed to hear. I started to really notice things. I stopped being a robot and became human again. And I was both afraid and amused. I finally realized that this was living.
Are you willing to be still, too? To be mindful? Are you willing to face the silence and hear happiness whisper all sorts of secrets in your ear? Be ready, or get ready, because those secrets can help you maintain your true self and push your levels of happiness higher than you ever thought possible.
Trust me, you want to sit still. You want to be quiet. Because when you slow down and sit still and listen, you too can begin to create your own happiness.
This article was published in March 2017 and has been updated. Photo by Guas/Shutterstock
Jacklyn Janeksela, MFA, is a freelance writer and a poet. Her online self, aka that writing life, can be found here. She works for Culture Designers, Thrillist, Honey Colony, among others; her poetry is tangled on the inter-webs. Her herbal alchemy meets astrology creative business can be found here. She explores self through poetry, planets and photography @ female filet.