21 Jan Choosing Happiness: It’s Never Too Late to Be Yourself
People come to me to address unhappy circumstances in their lives, and I’m happy to help. As a psychologist with over two decades of experience in helping people make the changes that they need to create happy lives, I’ve witnessed how connecting with their authentic truth is essential to creating meaningful change.
Recent studies show that 1 out of 12 Americans is abusing substances, 1 in 8 is taking antidepressants, more than half are feeling disconnected from their jobs, and many are unhappy in their relationships. I believe now more than ever that people need support to find the courage to be true to themselves.
People give many reasons for not being true to themselves:
• Fear of rejection or looking selfish. • A tendency to try to please people. • A hesitancy to take up too much space. • A dread of making others uncomfortable. • Not trusting themselves to make the right moves. • A fear that life won’t support them if they step out of their comfort zone.
In the end, all these reasons come down to deciding whether or not we’ll choose what seems practical and reasonable or choose what truly inspires us and brings us joy.
Our reality is subjective, determined by our experiences and shaped by our thoughts and beliefs. Many of us have an objection to feeling joyous. Something in us resists feeling wonderful, resists the fullness of life. Religious doctrine has contributed to this.
Bliss, as Joseph Campbell recognized, is our natural state. You can see this bliss in babies or young children. It’s there whenever nothing is disturbing them. Bliss arises spontaneously when our thoughts and reactions don’t get in the way.
Yet, as Marianne Williamson shared eloquently in her book A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles,” which I’ll paraphrase here, we have a fear of being who we really are in all our magnificence. Something in us fights the bliss. Thoughts and reactions can block the feelings of our true self.
We also strangely believe that there’s just so much happiness to go around, as if happiness were distributed like pieces of pie. We tell ourselves that we’re only entitled to a limited amount, less we take more than our fair share or rob someone else of their happiness quotient. We also believe that our happiness will hurt other people, which causes us to dim our radiance and live with far less joy than is possible. This is the phenomenon of anti-bliss.
Happiness is not a pie, although it may bring us a moment of pleasure going down.
Happiness is not divided into a limited number of pieces.
Happiness is the fundamental state of our being, the nature of our humanity. There’s an infinite supply of happiness. We no longer need to be driven by the voice in our heads, with its stories of fear, anger, grief, and guilt. We can choose to live in a state of bliss that entails listening to and following the heart, rather than anti-bliss and being driven by the mind.
Ask yourself these questions:
• Am I living the life I want to live? • Am I letting fear stop me from following my heart? • Have I made changes but become discouraged by what seem like setbacks? • Do I find it hard to listen to and follow my own voice because the voices of society, friends, and family drown me out? • Am I concerned that my happiness will hurt others? • Do I please others at my own expense?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’re not alone.
Being yourself is about creating a life that brings out your talents, gifts, values, personal truths, sensibilities, and passions. It’s about discovering what’s in your heart and having the courage to actualize your desires by stepping out with faith in yourself.
Here are some tips to help you choose happiness:
1. Every day, write down eight things that you’re grateful for
I call these my “grateful lists.” This list may include things like a roof over my head, the air that I breathe, clean water to drink, friends, and the ability to see (with reading glasses). When we connect with what we’re grateful for, it raises us up.
2. Take time to slow down and smell the roses
We live in a fast-paced time. We’re trying to keep up with emails, texts, and tweets not only from people in our current lives but we’re now also connected to everyone we’ve ever known through social media. We’re always on the go, trying to best ourselves and others with bigger and better things when the best thing we could do is slow down. When was the last time you stopped to watch a sunset or took a relaxing walk? We need to feel our feet on the ground and to be in our body, not 10 steps ahead of it. Allow yourself to linger in the moment and appreciate the smaller details of life—to be in this reality, not just virtual reality.
Our environments matter. When we have broken things or too many things on our desks, in our closets or in our homes, it causes us stress. Begin to remove the items in your home that no longer bring you joy. Fix, donate, or throw out broken items and clothes that don’t fit or are out of style. Pare down. Keep only the things you really love and need, and you’ll find that this will bring more happiness and peace into your home.
4. Surround yourself with beauty
This will mean different things to different people. I have a membership to the beautiful Huntington Gardens near my home. But this could include buying yourself flowers, taking in art, going for walks in nature, sipping tea on your deck, or going to a spa. Beauty uplifts the spirit. Be intentional about connecting with it.