Trying to find eternal “happiness” is as elusive as trying to find the end of a rainbow and its pot of gold. What are happy moments? The moment the person you liked finally went on a date with you, that awesome party you went to, the instant you got that new car you wanted…. But then, what happened? That happiness was a rush of euphoria that only lasted so long, and that’s how it is supposed to be.
It doesn’t mean you must be miserable until sporadically happy moments appear. Instead of searching for happiness, search for something much greater, search for joy. In between the happy periods of your life you can live with joy. Contrasting the rush and euphoria of happiness that comes from external stimuli, joy is calmness and contentment that comes from within; a less transient form of happiness that we can capture regardless of how cloudy the horizon might look ahead.
“We’re not supposed to be happy all the time. We want that, but nature designed us to have emotions for a reason. Emotions are a primitive signaling system. They’re how your brain tells you if you’re doing things that enhance -or diminish- your survival chances.” Psychologists differentiate between joy and happiness by explaining that the former “stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system [think of rest]” while the latter “activates the sympathetic nervous system [think of the flight or fight response]”. It can be said that “happiness displaces pain, but joy embraces it…” and can uplift us even during the hardest moments of our life.
Not only psychologists have a say, but when it comes to spiritual views, the general notion is that joy transcends mundane happiness. Joyfulness takes a lot of will, practice, determination, and gratitude. It takes trusting yourself and life in general, and accepting the good and the bad with a positive attitude. Joy is about understanding that events, either good or bad, don’t last forever; it also means taking control of your life. Fortunately, the more joyful you are, the more likely you will be to encounter happy moments too!
Habits That Make You Joyous
1. Believe in yourself
Creating obstacles ahead of your goals will make you feel miserable inside. Go out of your way sometimes to do whatever you might be curious about, or be courageous and face that problem you were afraid to solve. You won’t fail, because even if the result is not what you expected, you did your best and you trusted yourself.
“Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment, full effort is full victory.” -Gandhi-
2. Trust more
Trusting doesn’t equal being foolishly naïve. It’s about allowing you to love, to connect with others in a deeper way, and also to forgive them. You don’t need to stick around people who constantly hurt you, and you don’t need to put yourself in dangerous situations either (that’s lack of common sense). But trust that bad situations do pas, trust that any difficulty is only an opportunity to become a better person, and trust that the best is always yet to come.
“Every cloud has a silver lining.”
3. Have positive thoughts
Easier said than done, but thoughts are part of your “inner self”, and joy needs to be cultivated from within. Life can get overwhelming, but just the same way you notice the bad, take time to highlight the good aspects of your life and be thankful for them daily (did you have food to eat today, water to drink? Are you in good health, or do you have good friends? Do you have a roof over your head?).
4. Allow yourself to be human
Being positive doesn’t mean that BEEP won’t happen. You don’t need to act strong, or become a soulless clown without feelings. The point is not allowing your emotions to control who you are. You don’t need to feel guilty for feeling sad if something is not going well. What do you expect? You are alive! You are human! You are supposed to have feelings. However, take action and control of your life and keep walking and growing. It’s okay to cry, and “there is evidence that having a good cry can make you feel better by producing endorphins, clearing stress hormones out of your body through the tears and releasing emotional tension.” Therefore, don’t worry, it is okay to feel… as long as you allow yourself to still be joyous and move on. Life needs to continue.
Joy is forever if you really make it a habit, but by choosing or creating a lifestyle that increases your likelihood of bumping into happy moments you can get the most satisfaction out of your life.
Choices That Boosts Happiness
1. Create good and meaningful friendships/relationships
Not everyone has the extroverted personality that draws people instantly, and not everyone is cut to have a million friends. But if there is a co-worker you can connect with, a family member who cares about you, or a random person you met and you thought was interesting, why not invest time and create a meaningful relationship with those people? It can make each day a lot more enjoyable.
2. Interact with the people you love often
Sometimes we get so busy we don’t invest in our relationships. However, take time to be with the people you enjoy, and it will be the best investment you will make in your life.
3. Have enough, and don’t obsess about more money, things, etc.
Eating a cup of ice cream can be very pleasurable, but eating 500 cups at one sitting can be extremely traumatic and a real pain. Working at a job you hate because it pays “good” won’t necessarily bring you more happiness. In fact, when it comes to wealth “researchers have found the correlation between personal income and happiness ‘surprisingly weak’… the association between income and happiness tapers off once people have sufficient income to afford life’s necessities and a measure of control over their lives.”
4. Be happy with your job/school
“Between the anxiety of being overwhelmed and the boredom of being underwhelmed lies the unself-conscious, absorbed state of flow.” If you don’t enjoy what you do on a daily basis you should take time to examine what do you really enjoy? It might not be easy to change your job, but if you are really miserable at it, then you should look for other opportunities. Or if you don’t like your major, then change it! Or if you don’t like the school you attend, look for other available opportunities. Don’t allow yourself to spend so many hours of your day at places where you feel miserable if you have the chance to find something else.