While pursuing happiness was a right cherished by the signers of the declaration of independence, it’s not always a good idea, in fact, it can even backfire causing more stress, shame, and anxiety.
Everyone says they want to be happy yet most of us struggle to even define what happiness actually is. When we talk about happiness we are usually just expressing discontent with our situation, wanting to be somewhere else, with someone else, doing something else then we currently are.
Find Joy in the Present and Take Mental Pictures
Emotions come and go much like waves on the beach or clouds in the sky. There are moments that are so good that I wish I could just freeze time and make the feeling last forever. I’ve learned that while I can’t stop time, I can take a mental picture and try to remember details by being present and paying attention.
I keep these mental pictures stored away for safe keeping because they are useful once that fleeting feeling of happiness has left, like it always does. Being able to remember good times in great detail during a hard times can really help you lighten up a bit.
If we define happiness by the emotion it gives us then we have to resign to the fact that it is always fleeting. My favorite quote of all time is “This too shall pass.” It’s certainly true for our emotions and I repeat this quote to myself both when things seem good and when they seem bad.
Be Honest With Yourself, You Won’t Feel This Way Forever
Not too long ago I was talking with a friend who was feeling apathetic about life. He said, “I feel so apathetic that I don’t even care that I feel this way.” I asked him if he ever felt that way before and reminded him that others, including myself, have felt that way before too.
I reminded him that he felt that way before in the past, but at some point he stopped feeling that way, and now he feels that way again. So by logic he can assume that at some point he will stop feeling apathetic again and start feeling joy. My little speech may not have made his apathy go away but he at least acknowledged the fact that it would pass.
Now just because emotions come and go does not mean that we are victims to them. There certainly are things we can do that help invite positive emotions and boot the negative, but nobody, no matter what it seems, goes around feeling euphoric all the time. Life is full of ups and downs, and it’s natural for those ups and downs to affect our mood.
I Will Be Happy When …
Now I am a big believer in working towards your goals. I grew up on Tony Robbins so I think we should all be pursuing worthy goals all the time. BUT I don’t believe in attaching our self worth to whether or not we achieve a goal in a specified time. When you approach life with this mindset you are looking for external validation and success is an inside job. If you’re looking for something outside yourself to make you happy, it’s not going to last. Goal achievement is not the key to self worth, it’s the other way around.
It’s fine to celebrate success and it’s normal to feel like you got your teeth kicked in when you fail, but let’s remember that it’s just temporary defeat.When you believe you have great worth, you will get back up, reevaluate, and try again.
Trying to Be Happy Actually Makes You Less Happy
If your focus is always on how you feel, your mood is actually likely to decline. When you put your focus on making a contribution and helping others, nature rewards you with a flood of positive emotions. I’m not talking about neglecting yourself and putting others needs before your own, I’m talking about service, purpose,, and meaning. Research shows that having purpose increases life satisfaction.
How to Be Happy If You Have a Mental Health Condition
Managing your mood can be trickier if you have a mental health condition like bipolar disorder. In addition to the normal ups and downs of life that affect our mood, when left unchecked the disorder can really shake things up. There are a few things you must do to get on a level playing field:
- Accept yourself for who you are
- Practice mindfulness and take moments throughout the day to be present
- Remember the natural ebb and flow of emotions
- Remember that bipolar disorder is an illness and requires treatment
When you have a physical condition, people bring you flowers and get well soon cards and while we just haven’t reached that point for mental health conditions yet, it’s important for you to remember that living with bipolar disorder is not your fault.
Learn to love yourself, worts and all. The fact is that if you have bipolar disorder your life is harder, other people may never understand it but you can accept yourself and even be proud of yourself for doing your best and getting back on the horse day after day, even when it’s not easy.