Abraham Lincoln once astutely observed that 'most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be'. In other words, they decide how happy they will be.
This means happiness is a choice. What a powerful idea!
Most people live their lives as if they have no control over their own happiness. They believe it is the result of their circumstances - that other people and the events of their lives determine how happy they will be. But it's not true!
This erroneous thinking stems from confusing cause with effect. The reality is this: you are the cause; your circumstances are the effect. It is the interaction of your thoughts, feelings and actions - your attitude - that determines the conditions you will experience in life.
This means that you make yourself happy, or unhappy, based on what you habitually think, feel and act upon. Expecting other people and your circumstances to 'make' you happy is not only unrealistic; it sets you up for disappointment.
Successful people know that the secret to happiness is living from the inside out. The outer is always a reflection of the inner. When the inner attitude is good, the outer circumstances will tend to be in harmony.
So why is it important to want to be happy?
Let's look at some of the reasons why it pays to choose to be a happy person.
Happiness is the perfect antidote for worry and anxiety. Some of you will remember the Bobby McFerrin hit, "Don't worry, Be happy". The simple, catchy lyrics of his song expressed a great truth in a very funny way! ("In every life we have some trouble, when you worry you make it double.")
Happy people are better equipped to handle the stresses of life. Stress is an important factor in the high incidence of today's big killers: heart disease, stroke and cancer. Anything that reduces stress is conducive to better health, and that includes a happy disposition.
Happiness increases your quality of life. Happy people tend to have a more optimistic outlook on life. They generally expect things to go well for them. This positive expectant attitude becomes somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophesy, in that more often than not, they do attract or manifest more satisfying outcomes.
How then do we choose to have more happiness in our lives?
I offer you the following 12 tips that you can implement to substantially increase your ability to be happy:
Understand and accept that you are responsible for your own happiness. In the final analysis, you create your own happiness, or lack of it.
Stop playing the blame game. It's pointless blaming someone or something else for your lack of happiness.
Stop postponing your happiness. Don't put your happiness on hold until that perfect future event arrives or that special person comes into your life. (It may never happen.) Choose to be happy now!
Practise being grateful for all the blessings you already have. When you cultivate an attitude of gratitude you recognize you are rich in many ways, not only in terms of money.
Forgive others when they don't behave in ways you want them to, or you feel they have offended you. Withholding forgiveness hurts only the person who holds on to resentments.
Stop comparing yourself to others. Understand that you are not defined by what you have, or do, or what others think of you. You are never in competition with anyone else. Your value comes from your uniqueness.
Adopt an attitude of expecting that things will work out well. Very often, that's exactly what will happen - you will get what you expected!
Stop taking life so seriously! Don't sweat the small stuff. Avoid the trap of thinking that your need to be right is more important than your need to be happy.
Be receptive to change. Everyone knows that change is inevitable, so why complain and try to resist it. Adopt a mindset that embraces change and you're bound to be a happier person.
Discover the power of laughter. Laugh every day, and do so with gusto! As the saying goes: 'Laughter is the best medicine' - and very likely the best way to neutralize anger!
Stop listening to and/or watching the news. So many people insist on taking their daily dose of bad news, even if it affects their mood for their day. Most of the news is depressing anyway, and usually there's nothing you can do to change it for the better.
Avoid negative people, as much as possible. While they're not responsible for your negative feelings, they can create a gloomy mood that can erode your happiness, unless you know how to counteract it.
Remember that happiness is your choice. When all is said and done, you alone are responsible for making that choice. Nobody else can take the credit or the blame for your happiness or lack of it, so choose wisely.