Happiness is not the absence of obstacles; it is an inner reservoir that helps us handle whatever comes our way. When we recognize that our true nature is happiness, we are reminded that though life happens, it’s up to each one of us to choose how we interpret and deal with whatever comes our way. Whatever we can do to amplify our joy sends more of it into the world. The seven happiness habits: mindfulness, gratitude, wellness, generosity, authenticity, social connection, and purpose support this energy with proven practices that allow us to reconnect with who we really are on the inside.
Happiness is not just a state; it is our very nature, and if we happen to forget that because of the challenges that come our way, it is also a skill that anyone can learn. Be proud of yourself that you have started this journey. You are already increasing your awareness of the many practices you can use to empower your life. Start with one and take it on for a week; you are building a foundation for sustainable happiness and lifelong growth. Happiness and the ability to access your inner resources is your birthright. Good news: you are already on your way.
Sadness will take its course, and you will cycle back to feeling better. If you want to accelerate that process and not get stuck in rumination, tune in to your inner resources.
Another thing you can do is make sure you are not always alone. We can get caught in a cycle of thoughts that’s hard to break. To change your perspective, go for dinner with a friend from time to time, or take an outing, see a concert, take a hike in nature. Being together is good medicine. It reminds you that this too shall pass, and you are not alone.
Sadness is a part of life, and it makes joy all the more poignant. It’s important to know both sides, because when we shut out sadness, we also close down our capacity for joy. They are like both sides of a coin; each one is necessary. Sadness is not the enemy; observe its lessons so that you can move on. It is a portal to our next level of growth. Use it to clean house, clarify who you are and who you want to be. It will release old energy, guide you back to your own inner wisdom, and connect you with what is most important in your life. Sadness helps you make room for joy.
Hope, desire, and passion are powerful drivers to move you toward your best life.
Hope, when harnessed, leads to greater well-being, a more resilient mind-set, and greater productivity.
Desire ignites your potential and gives you the juice to reach for your goals. When you align your desire with what you value most, your life takes on more meaning and you create opportunities to grow into who you were meant to be.
Passion is like an inner fire that activates your joy. When engaged with your passion, you feel life flowing through you in wonderful ways. When you keep passion out of obsession, it will enhance both your energy and your relationships.
The good news is that hope, desire, and passion all contribute to sparking your purpose, your reason for being, your ikigai. Explore what you want to focus on and what gives you joy. Remember to keep your valve open to see the goodness all around you and all the potential within you. It is never too late to meander toward your purpose. Every experience, if approached with curiosity and awareness, gets you closer. This time is rich with opportunities.… Let hope, desire, and passion guide you toward what you want in life, while liberating the best within you.
Fears are there for a purpose. They can point us to our intuition and shift us back on course to be aligned with our true nature. Take a moment to acknowledge your willingness to look at all the parts of life. It is not easy to look at our fears. Recognize your courage and readiness to bring these aspects to the surface.
Now think of an image of pure shining energy that is covered with the shadow layer of fears. You are that pure energy, and the fears are simply a covering. They do not define you, nor are they who you really are. Think of fears as a part of yourself that feels separate and basically wants to return to the central core. When this shadow/fear layer feels safe enough to share its lessons, then the layer of fear can be released. When we learn from our fears, their energy transforms into wisdom. The sooner we can come to peace with our “shadow” (difficult or more painful) layer of beliefs, the sooner we can take the learning within the situations and move forward. When we intentionally explore these unsettling beliefs and release them gently, then we remind ourselves of our true nature and reconnect with the core essence of who we really are.
By using anxiety as your messenger, you will get more in touch with what your mind, body, and soul need, and with this information, you can support a new level of being true to yourself and make the decisions that help you thrive. Anxiety does not make you a freak. The reason so many people are experiencing anxiety is because the culture is anxious, the world is more anxious than ever, and we have not yet learned to manage our addiction to social media.
It takes intention and some effort to sift through the healthy anxiety and the kind that invites us to look deeper, maybe reconnect with our priorities and tweak how we are choosing to live. In that sense it is a clarion call to awaken to the fact that we can course correct, we can make choices, and we have more options than we may know. Anxiety is not a dead end—on the contrary, it is an invitation to grow.
Having healthy confidence is sometimes confused with having high self-esteem, but they are really not the same. The tricky thing about self-esteem is that it depends on external success, and it is based on how you stack up against others. Here’s how it works: When we are feeling successful, then the self-esteem is in great shape. Let’s say we ace a presentation, do well at a sports game, or win an argument, and we judge ourselves as valuable—life is good. The downside is that whenever something does not go right, whenever we make a mistake or fail at a goal, we judge ourselves as unworthy; the self-esteem fizzles like a balloon losing all its air.
When we measure ourselves by factors that are beyond our control, like a job promotion, or the number of likes on a social media post, then we are giving others control of how confident we feel about ourselves. This prompts the question—is that the choice we want to make? When everything is perfectly in sync, all is well. But when any one thing goes wrong, the most anticipated results can blow up in no time flat. Being dependent on external circumstances is a setup for eroding confidence instead of building it up.
Though anger often gets a bad rap, there are some situations when its potent energy is pivotal to protect those who have been mistreated. Some situations require that level of intensity in order to drive change. For Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and the suffragettes, anger was the rocket fuel needed to address social injustice. They were able to use that energy and channel it toward improving conditions for the greater good. Sometimes called moral or social anger, it’s all about shining a light on situations that are toxic and shaking things up to create a better world. Isn’t it interesting that all these groups used nonviolent tactics? Unlike hate groups or corrupt political regimes, they made the deliberate choice not to let anger steamroll them into bloodshed. They were able to harness the intensity of the emotion to power up positive change.
Anger can be an instinctive volatile reaction or it can be a source of emotional information that focuses your attention to make you stronger, more determined, and more protective. Anger is one of the most powerful emotions, and using it wisely not only can make your life better, it can be a catalyst to move humanity forward. When people feel threatened, anger arises. When it is used consciously, it can restore stability, remove danger, and bring you back to your essential self, where you can feel secure enough to deepen your authenticity and come from love. Every insight you gain, perspective you expand, and activity you experience moves you closer to finding the advantages in each emotion and living more fully no matter what comes up. Trust that you are on your way.
Tolerance, Acceptance, and Empathy
Tolerance creates a template (similar to the Golden Rule) for humanity to coexist, and acceptance fosters a welcoming spirit and brings us closer, but empathy can bring out the best within us.
Empathy is simply the ability to walk in another’s shoes, to imagine what it would feel like to be in their position, and to look at life through their eyes. It also helps open understanding, dissolve divides, and create meaningful connections. Empathy is one of the cornerstones of emotional intelligence. Being aware of the emotions and states of others through recognizing their body language, expressions, and unspoken cues is a definite advantage in forging more meaningful connections. People who are empathic are less judgmental, less irritated, enjoy better relationships, and are generally happier. Sounds all right to me!
Guilt and Shame
In a world where we are supposed to be “happy,” shame is not a topic many people want to spend their time chatting about. This emotion is sneaky, often hard to detect, and it’s something we tend to hide even from ourselves. According to Thomas Scheff, professor emeritus of sociology at UC Santa Barbara, “In modernity, shame is the most obstructed and hidden emotion, and therefore the most destructive. Emotions are like breathing—they cause trouble only when obstructed.”9
Shame gives rise to addictions, eating disorders, and other attempts to control, numb out, or deflect the bad feelings. In contrast, guilt leads to healing addictions, taking action to rectify the past, and finding solutions for the present and into the future. Where shame furthers a feeling of lack of control over what will happen, guilt fosters a hope that “I can make this better.”
This suggests that when we want to help get someone we care about onto a better course, it is more helpful to focus on the behavior that needs changing instead of making the person feel badly about themselves (“Next time, walk the dog as soon as you get home” versus “You’re no good with pets; I can’t trust you to take care of anything”). This can be an overt or subtle distinction, but it is a powerful one.
There are people in the news who change the world in business, science, and tech, among many other disciplines. Some get Nobel Prizes, but most do not. There are famous change-makers like Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. who grab the public’s attention. But most people never are known—they make an impact, but much more quietly.
Actually, many of these people are probably right in front of your nose. Look at the teacher who is showing kids their potential, the musician who brightens the lives of people through his instrument, the tech leader who is raising the human bar by giving generous paternity leaves as well as maternity paid time off. There’s the social entrepreneur who fights for sustainable resources, and the yoga teacher teaching a classroom of kids or seniors, the artist who is bringing beauty into the world. When a natural disaster strikes, people from all walks of life rally to save those who are stuck in the wreckage. A firefighter returns to the scene of the fire to save those who were left behind. Someone starts a crowdsourcing campaign to help a colleague pay for a necessary medical operation. A kid stops the bully and befriends the one who has been singled out.
Unsung heroes come in all shapes and sizes. They are all around us, among us, and within us. Recognize the people in your community as the leaders they are, and recognize that quality in you as well. It doesn’t matter how big the gesture—it matters that you make it. Everyone has the capacity to be that person for someone else.
Love, no matter what its form, opens the doors to our true nature and to us showing up as our best selves in the world. It is what brings us together, helps up connect deeply, and fuels positive change. When we love, it cracks us open to experience the fullness of life. It reminds us of why we are here and allows us to see that life is calling us forth. Love is who you are; let it shine, and you will send a ripple farther than you know. You have the seeds of greatness already. Water them often—you will see through your own experience that everything you need is inside of you.