How to Be Happier

counseling therapy santa monicaOne of the biggest frustrations I hear from my clients is their reaction to friends and family members telling them that “happiness is a choice” and to “just be happy”.

Although their loved ones mean well, these comments tend to create a sense of invalidation and failure for those who are on the receiving end. The truth of the matter is that if you want to fully experience overall happiness, you must also recognize the various other feelings that will inevitably arise as you go through life.

It often feels counterintuitive for people to lean into their negative feelings. This is understandable, as we all tend to want to avoid discomfort, and we are conditioned to ignore or escape from unpleasantness. In addition, because people often fear being labeled as complainers, they can confuse complaining with acknowledgement of distress. Those feelings that arise need to be processed or else they will come back to haunt us, creating obstacles to happiness. Feelings such as anger, sorrow, hurt and fear provide us with important information about relationships and situations so that we can make decisions accordingly. They are not to be so quickly dismissed, no matter how tempting.

The key is to allow yourself the space and permission to identify, acknowledge and process (not stay stuck in) whatever it is you are experiencing. This works best with a sense of curiosity, not blame or judgment. We cannot help how we feel when we have an internal reaction to a situation, circumstance or interpersonal exchange. This is also true when depression or anxiety is present. If you pay attention to what it is you are encountering and then understand the reasons behind it, you will be in a good position to actually realize your needs with clarity, sensitivity and decisiveness. This will not only allow you to address any hurdles to happiness, it will facilitate your ability to separate your reactions from your responses so that you can proceed in the most beneficial way possible.

This pattern of awareness can provide a solid base on which to build a happier existence.

There are additional tools that you can incorporate to promote further well-being and prosperity. These include:

  • Replacing the word should with want
  • Getting into the habit of acknowledging the things in your life that provide you with a sense of pride, accomplishment and gratitude. Focusing on these positives can serve as a comforting container to surround unavoidable emotional challenges
  • Shifting away from blame, whether towards yourself or others
  • Spending more time in the present, as opposed to the past or future
  • Breaking the habit of comparing yourself to others
  • Practicing your ability to live life intentionally, which means getting in touch with what you want and why you want it, so you can act in ways that support and influence your chosen outcomes
  • Remembering to make the time to partake in activities that bring you enjoyment
  • Connecting with community

The path to happiness is not about putting blinders on. Identifying and addressing barriers as well as creating opportunities for growth and satisfaction will provide you with a foundation on which to fully experience peace of mind, joy and fulfillment.