How can you be happy? This is a question that has been asked by every generation of humans since we managed to get past the hand-to-mouth mode of surviving. It’s asked many ways: How can I achieve happiness? How can I find happiness? What does it take to be happy?
Before we can achieve the goal “to be happy,” it would help to know exactly what happiness is. Most dictionary definitions do little more than give synonyms or examples of what might produce happiness. We’re going to do a little better than that here.
Before we can achieve that elusive goal, however, we first need to build a firm foundation with a few basic principles of Psychoharmonics®. The ultimate goal of all behavior is to be able to consider yourself a very worthy person – a 10 in today’s popular language. For most of us, that goal also requires us to feel that other worthy people also consider us to be a 10. This hardwired desire is what has helped us and our ancestors stay alive: the most worthy people, like the most worthy wolves, get the best food, the best living quarters, the best sex, and the most respect. What constitutes a worthy person, of course, depends upon how we each have been programmed throughout our lives. In the western world, physical attractiveness, athletic prowess, wealth, intelligence, power, etc, usually are given pretty high ratings. Thus star entertainers, who often possess all of these attributes, tend to be considered 10+’s, although they sometimes rate themselves so low that they commit suicide.
That puzzle aside, the Psychoharmonics® definition of happiness is that state of being when we feel like a 10 and that feeling is reinforced by the behavior of others that indicates they also regard us as a very worthy person. Joy would be defined as temporary bursts of extreme feelings of happiness that might be produced by the achievement of a highly motivated goal that tends to greatly elevate the self-assessment of one’s worthiness and promises some guarantee that this elevation will endure. Good examples of events that might produce joy would be winning the lottery, gaining an assurance that an adored person returns that love, sharing a sexual climax with a true love, having a good meal when you’re hungry, or simply being presented with a long-desired ice cream cone by a doting parent. Joy can be produced by any rapid relief from a large amount of tension produced by an effort toward the achievement of a much-desired goal.
With that said, then, how can I achieve the elusive state of happiness with at least occasional bursts of joy and have these achievements endure for any substantial length of time?
Actually, the next step requires you to take a hard look at yourself. Who is this person that you would like to be happy? What do you like and dislike? What are your major attributes and deficiencies? What are the basic elements in your own value system by which you judge yourself and others? We are urged by ancient philosophers to “know thyself.” If you overrate yourself, you meet with many frustrations in your chosen career as well as your social life. If you underrate yourself, you miss out on many opportunities that might aid you in your pursuit of happiness.
As you work on figuring out who and what you are, an absolutely essential first step toward achieving happiness is to identify and cancel any and all impossible goals that you might be harboring in your own mind. You can discover how to achieve that possible goal by reading some of the other articles in this website that explain the philosophy of Psychoharmonics®. As you’ll learn from these studies, trying to achieve impossible goals produces stress. You cannot be happy when you’re stressed. Goals are impossible because of time, space, and circumstances. You can’t be here now and somewhere else now. You can’t do or undo anything yesterday or even a moment ago. And you can’t set goals for anybody or anything except yourself. Once you identify and cancel at least the major impossible goals you’ve been wrestling with, you’ll then have much more energy to devote to possible goals that will further contribute to your happiness.
An impossible goal that’s hard to spot sometimes is the conflicting goal. That’s when you are torn between two choices: stay in an unhappy marriage or run away with the love of your life; buy the red convertible or the more practical SUV; eat the piece of pie or stick to your diet. And the list goes on. Even the smallest set of conflicting goals causes a little stress. A big step toward consistent happiness is gained when you become skillful at identifying these culprits and eliminating them as quickly as possible.
Close to the top of your list of positive, possible goals should be the discovery of an intimate other if you don’t already have one you can trust. This is a person that you love, meaning you regard that person as a 10 and your relationship with that person makes you feel like a 10, thereby helping you to achieve the “ultimate goal” of feeling worthy on a regular basis. You must be sure this relationship is authentic and that your high regard is returned unconditionally.
We all need people, whether we admit it or not. We humans, like other social animals, are programmed to live in a tribe. You cannot experience true happiness as a loner. As the old song says:
“People who need people Are the luckiest people in the world, We’re children, needing other children And yet letting our grown-up pride Hide all the need inside, Acting more like children Than children.
To aid you in finding and establishing or authenticating such a valuable relationship, you would do well to thoroughly study Psychoharmonics® in one of my books linked on these websites: https://doctorstress.com/ or http://psychoharmonics/ Making a poor decision when choosing an intimate other, or when being chosen by another person as his/her intimate other, can result in the wasting of many years of your life – or worse. It can take your life itself. Many negatively programmed people make very persuasive sales pitches to lure another person into a relationship and then totally renege on their promises. The skillful con artist taps into your value system and then pretends he/she is your perfect mate, but as soon as you’re hooked, the act is over. Thus you have the abused spouse, usually a woman, who puts her life at risk if she dares object to her treatment or, heaven forbid, tries to escape. You’ll find plenty of articles online to help you identify potential predators who now have a very handy weapon with the advent of the Internet. Read as many as you can find. The information could save your life. It’s hard to be happy with a black eye, hair ripped out by the roots, and broken bones.
With that tidbit of depressing truth out of the way, let’s now move on to the positive. First of all, accept the fact that nothing outside your own head can make you happy unless what’s inside your head is capable of accepting and appreciating it. “Appreciating” is a key word here. Most happiness coaches would agree that considering and expressing gratitude for what you have helps generate happiness. “Gratitude,” of course, implies there is someone to whom you feel grateful. Most of us have no trouble filling in that blank with “God.” You can give your happiness a jumpstart every morning as soon as you open your eyes by reviewing in a prayer the things for which you are grateful. Making a list of all the things that make you feel blessed and keeping the list in your pocket or purse also serves to buoy your spirits throughout the day as you see the list and review those positive thoughts.
Spending your whole day and night enmeshed in the hard, bumpy, clanging, stinky, nerve-jangling, artificial environment that humans have created makes it a bit hard to shift into a mindset of gratitude. If at all possible, get away from the buildings and highways and find a place that’s still pretty much the way nature would have it. Sitting on a beach watching the sunset is perfect. Walking down a nature trail and really looking at all the plants and wild critters that call it home also sooths the spirit. Look at it. Touch it. Smell it. And, for the moment, be a part of it. Digging in your own part of the earth and making beautiful things grow also is a good happiness pill.
One ploy I use to help me be happy with who I am and what I have is making use of this little mantra: “Who do I want to be? Me! Where do I want to be now? Here! And what do I want to be doing? Enjoying this moment!” That helps me to cancel a lot of impossible goals all in one fell swoop. If you’re going to be doing something, even it’s cleaning up a bathroom, creeping through morning traffic, or attending the funeral of a friend, if you get your mind right, you can find at least a tidbit or two of happiness even in those circumstances. Just as happiness does not pour down upon you from the outside, neither does stress, sadness, and despair automatically jump up and grab you from your environment. Stress is a choice; so is joy. Once you learn how, and stop trying to use kindergarten-level emotional skills to deal with adult challenges, you can make your own day be whatever you want it to be.
A clever saying to keep in mind tells us we should always seek to make lemonade out of the lemons in our life. You lose a job and find a better one or start your own business. You get dumped by a mate and find your true love. You develop a serious illness and it catapults you into a healthier lifestyle. You’re never defeated until you give up!
A really great way to get out of the doldrums is to just put your own problems aside and commit the day to helping other people with theirs. The most hurtful kick in the head to happiness is the feeling that you’re useless. Anybody able to function and do for themselves is able to function and do for others. You don’t have to be a hospital volunteer candy striper to be of use to others. Start in your own home with your own family. Make it your mission to be useful wherever you are. With a smile, open and hold the door for others, no matter what their age or gender. Take a stray cart back into the store. Pick up that piece of trash on the sidewalk. If you have a special talent, share it with all who can use it and would appreciate it. Avoid the temptation to push yourself on others – no “tossing your pearls before the swine.” As I once told a Sunday School class of senior ladies, however, you also can serve others by letting them serve you. When people offer to provide you with a gift or service that is useful to you and you’re pretty sure there are no undesirable strings attached, accept the gift with gratitude. And don’t make the mistake of diminishing the value of the gift by saying, “I owe you one.”
Be a “Johnny Appleseed” for joy. Earl Nightingale gave some solid advice when he said, “Treat every person as the most important person on earth.” Make it your goal to spread seeds of happiness wherever you go – and remember, “Charity begins at home.” That’s where you get your best practice.
As you’ll learn in other writings on this website, you’re always operating with one or more dominant mindsets. They are love, hate, and fear. Those are the only choices, and when you’re in one, you can’t be in another. That means if you are maintaining a mindset of love, you cannot at that moment be hating or fearing anything or anybody. The mindset you’re in at any moment depends upon the labels you’re using for whatever it is that has your attention. The good news here is you can choose the labels you use. Once you put a label on a person, thing, or event, however, the mindset is automatic. If, in your silent language to yourself, you’re labeling a rude clerk as a “stupid jerk,” then you have a hate mindset at that moment that colors everything you say or do. Your goal at that moment really is to destroy that clerk. When you learn to give misbehaving people you encounter a more charitable label, such as “misguided soul” or “lost sheep,” that label then engenders a more positive attitude on your part. Anytime you’re using negative labels, you’re operating with a hate mindset. You can’t be happy while you’re hating.
It’s helpful to keep in mind that we all do the best we can with what we have to work with. We can’t choose to be a better person unless we know what a better person is and have been programmed to be motivated in that direction. That person on the highway expressing road rage is using the same emotional tools to deal with his frustration that a five-year-old uses in kindergarten when another kid takes his toy. Unfortunately, in both instances these people are doing the best they can with the tools they have to work with. The mission of Psychoharmonics® is to help people of all ages and circumstances to be better equipped to deal with frustrations in a manner that permits happiness for them as well as others around them. A brief look at the evening news on any given day demonstrates that there is an ever-increasing need for such a remedy. The beginning of every act of violence and every declaration of war is one or more negative labels that engender a hate mindset and hostile behavior.
There are many platitudes that suggest that we usually get what we expect. When you are optimistic, things usually will turn out good. Expect the worst and you often get it. “Worry” is just another example of an impossible goal. In your own mind you are trying to control a future event – or at least the news of a current event. When you worry yourself sick and the feared event does not occur, you have wasted a unit of time when you could have been happy and, at the same time, you have endangered your health with the stress. If you worry about something that might happen and then it actually does happen, then you have been twice cursed. There is a theory that many call the “Law of Attraction” that promotes the belief that you attract to yourself whatever you envision and expect. Several documentaries on the subject can be found on YouTube. If you tend to be a pessimist, viewing several of these would be well worth your while. It’s hard to be happy when you think the world is out to get you. “Feeling lucky” is just another way of saying you’re feeling happy.
Finally, to end this discussion on high note, I suggest that you make it a major goal to take life as it comes and laugh in its face. Stuff happens. Milk is spilled, tires go flat, stockings rip, diapers get full, biscuits burn, pots boil over, kids lie, pets soil the rug, birds poop on your windshield, people call when you’re asleep…and the list goes on. When these things happen and you get all bent out of shape about them, what you’re doing is maintaining the impossible goal for the event not to have happened. The result? Stress — and often a stupid reaction that you’ll later regret. Best solution? Laugh at it. If a rock from a truck tire cracks the windshield on your new car, laugh at it and be grateful that it was a small rock that didn’t come through the windshield and kill you. As the old saying wisely advises us, “Don’t cry over spilled milk.” You can’t unspill the milk, so laugh at it. If you learn to laugh at life’s minor misfortunes, you’ll add years to your life and life to your years.
If you search the Internet, you’ll find lots of other good suggestions to help you learn how to be happy most of the time and to experience at least some joy every day. Time is the medium through which all matter must pass – including you. It’s a one way street. You can’t rewind your day and play it again. If you’ll take the time to learn how to manage your own emotions instead of having them manage you, you will have taken a giant step toward a life filled with happiness. With that done, when you’re near the end of the road of life, your memories will be mostly fond ones and your regrets will be few. That is a goal well worth the trouble.