It’s interesting that some of the most miserable people in the world may have lots of money and success, while others who are dirt poor can walk around happy. Anyone who says external surroundings don’t have an impact on happiness is taking things to an extreme, however much more important than anything external are our thought patterns, perspective, and how we relate to the world through choices and actions. The saying that happiness is not something you feel, but rather something you choose – through thoughts and actions – we believe is a much closer reflection of a healthy reality.
Abraham Lincoln put it nicely, “You are only as happy as you choose to be.” That said, these choices may seem very unnatural to us at first, or at times we may not even realize there is a choice at all!
It is empowering to appreciate how much influence we actually have over our happiness, and by choosing to better care for our emotional health, we strengthen the foundation of a happier life. Some of the key principles of building emotional health are:
- High degree of self-care and self-esteem
- Developing healthy and fulfilling relationships – romantic, friends, and family
- Strong sense of purpose
- Comfort with expressing feelings authentically
- Physical wellness and lack of addictive behavior (substance, codependency, sexual, gambling, shopping, social media, etc.)
- Healthy thought patterns (removing invisible toxic beliefs) and realistic expectations.
- Peace with the past, and the ability to reconcile hurt from trauma
Lastly, while feeling happy is a wonderful goal, there is a saying that carries a lot of meaning, “The goal is not to feel better, it is to feel our feelings better.” While it is admirable to work towards achieving a better (and happier) life, the reality for us as human beings is that there are always going to be significant ups and downs. Paradoxically, when we learn to accept (and even cherish) these periods of struggle, there is a freeing feeling that helps us to achieve overall happiness. Freud has a wonderful saying: “One day you will look back to your days of struggle, and they will strike you as the most beautiful.”