Knowing about happiness intellectually is different than understanding its practical complexities. It’s easy to say don’t do things that make you unhappy and only do things that make you happy. But life isn’t linear. We don’t live only happy or unhappy moments. If we watch our Facebook feed or Twitter stream, we can see something that makes us laugh and something else that makes us cry in the same sixty minutes.
If you want to be happy most of the time, you have to figure out how to do it despite the chaos, unhappiness and annoyances. Those things are going to happen to most of us every single day. We all have to interact with the drama and annoyances of other people. We all experience uncontrollable events. And we all deal with the consequences of our own decisions, some happy and some not-so-happy.
If we let ourselves it’s easy to be consumed by what’s wrong. After all, we’re conditioned by our quest for self-improvement to analyze, review and make adjustments to fix what’s wrong in our life, or in some cases the lives of the people that we know. Sometimes that has its purpose and place. But if we’re always thinking about what needs to be fixed, then we’re not focused on the present–instead we’re focusing on the future. And the present is where happiness happens.
When I’m in one of those overwhelming moments, if I can discipline myself enough to stop and take a few deep breaths, it clears my mind and soothes my soul. It grounds me and brings me into the present moment instead of whatever overwhelming moment I was in. Once I’m there, I try to think of five things, no matter how small or inconsequential, that made me happy that day.
When we focus on noticing what makes us happy, we’ll actually be happy more. If you don’t believe me, then play a game with yourself today. Count your happy moments when they actually happen. Mark a line on a piece of paper, on your phone notes or even be silly by marking your wrist with happy moments when they happen.
Recognizing and even counting your happy moments won’t eliminate unhappiness. But it does allow you to accurately compare the day’s unhappiness to the day’s happiness. On a day when someone like a cashier annoys you, it’s always easier to remember than when a cashier made you grin.
But ironically, a month from now, you probably won’t remember most of the annoyances or dramas that minimized your happiness. Instead you’ll remember the softball games with friends, the times spent cooking dinner with your family, or the walks you took with your dog.
We’ll never ban all unhappiness. But we can be happy most of the time when we recognize and value that happiness happens too!