“The habit of being happy enables one to be freed, or largely freed,
from the domination of outward conditions.”
—Robert Louis Stevenson
A habit is something we do again and again until it becomes almost second nature. We can develop bad habits as well as good habits. When we have a habit that is not serving us or the people around us, we usually try to take steps to release it. If it is a good habit, such as meditating every morning, getting our daily exercise, and eating food that keeps us strong and healthy, we feel energized and experience a variety of other positive benefits as well.
What if we were in the habit of being happy? What if our go-to state was happiness? I believe that happiness is a state of mind that we achieve through practice and repetition. It is a choice we make in each moment. I admit this is a pretty far-reaching goal, but it is possible to develop a “happiness habit” so that even when we are thrown off course and feeling stressed, we can learn to live each feeling in the moment, take action when necessary, and return to a place of well-being: happiness.
In my book The Practice, I define my personal happiness this way:
For me, happiness is knowing that I am strong, capable, confident, secure, loving, and compassionate; it is knowing that within me is everything I need to handle whatever life sends my way, and that not only will I be okay, I will thrive.
Here are some ways I have found for uncovering the happiness within each of us:
- Invite gratitude into the moment.
Feeling thankful brings happiness. When we are able to know what we feel grateful for, it becomes our conditioned response when times are tough. Life is difficult; that is a given. But if you can consistently shift your perception from what you don’t have to what you do have, you will be stretching your gratitude muscle. Make a list of all that you are grateful for in your life and hang it in a place where you will see it often!
- Challenge yourself to do your best.
When we do our best, we naturally feel a sense of accomplishment. We feel happy with our effort —maybe not the outcome, but at least the effort. If you approach your daily tasks and interactions with the intention to give it your best effort, your sense of self-worth will reflect that. What is your best? This changes each moment.
- Be aware of your daily actions.
Have you ever asked yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Being aware of each action and paying attention to the choices you are making is how to start shifting from “This is always happening to me” to a place of power and responsibility. When we live this way, we are happy. We take actions that benefit others, including ourselves!
- Be Present.
Focus your attention on the here and now. This is our number-one biggest challenge in life! Focusing on yesterday’s worries and tomorrow’s concerns can keep us from developing a fresh and happy outlook moment by moment. These worrisome thoughts are actually a habit in and of themselves! So, this is truly a practice: Whenever you find your mind wandering to unproductive thoughts, notice that you have left the present moment, and be vigilant to bring your mind back. I use my Sacred Mantra, my breath, and affirmations to train my mind to be in the moment. If my mind starts to worry or if anxiety is rising, these tools help me create a new pathway in the mind. And that is how a happiness habit develops!
Abraham Lincoln said: “People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.” We can make up our minds right now to choose to be happy, strong, and loving. Develop a happiness habit today: Choose to honor each moment, become aware, take actions, and consistently be fully alive in every moment of the day.