It seems like our culture is based on fear. Fear that we’re not creative enough, smart enough or a good enough person. For most people, they’re great at looking like they’ve got it all together, but depression and anxiety has risen to epidemic levels in the US, despite our obsession with self-esteem and positive psychology. As a society, we’re having a hard time letting ourselves actually feel good.
Why is that?
You probably have your own ideas as to why you’re looking so hard for happiness. It’s a more complex issue than advertising, big pharma and self-help books claim. One cause, I believe, is because you don’t let yourself be happy.
You have a pre-set notion of who you need to be or what you need to do before you can let yourself feel good. Psychotherapists sometimes call this your shadow self. You don’t truly value happiness for yourself. And the fear that you don’t deserve happiness is the main reason you don’t feel it- or resolve the job, diet or relationship that is making it more difficult.
So why should you let yourself be happy?
Authentic, grounded happiness has a lot of perks. You know, the type of happiness that comes from your own psyche rather than an environmental adjustment like taking uppers or sugar or winning at the slots. Happiness gives life color and depth.
Have you ever noticed a time you were feeling sort of blah and your best friend walked into the room? Suddenly things weren’t so boring and flat after all. When we’re unhappy, life is something to be avoided rather than lived to it’s fullest. Have you ever been angry over a circumstance, and then you got a new perspective? Almost immediately, you were happy the person cut in front of you or ignored you. Happiness gives life meaning and purpose.
Happiness has a number of other benefits. When you are sincerely happy, you have a stronger community, closer relationships and life favors you more personally and professionally. Your immune system is stronger, your genetics less troublesome and you live longer. Happiness is healthy, and in the long term, cheaper and more efficient at creating the life you want.
Sincerely happy people are very grounded, seeing a situation clearly without judgementalism and choosing the most effective solution. Grief and trouble has less of an impact, you behave more considerately and respectfully and in return, people treat you with more respect and kindness. Happiness equals success. But you probably already know most of these benefits of being happy, the trick is…
How do you find happy within your unhappiness?
You hear many tools about how to feel happy: be in the now, just breathe, smile inside… These tools are great in a pinch, the trouble is, they don’t take care of the bigger issue, why you don’t let yourself be happy. So here’s a quick exercise that works almost every time…
1. Ask yourself when you’re feeling off “Am I sincerely happy? Why or why not?”
2. If you’re not happy, for a brief moment, look past your circumstances and ask yourself “Why do I think I don’t deserve to feel happy?” or “Why am I not letting myself be happy?”
3. Here’s the brain-bender. Ask yourself, “What do I need to believe right now in order to feel happy”. Do you need to believe everything has a positive purpose? Perhaps that you enjoy life more because of your personal challenges. Do you need to believe that whatever you’re going through is part of your process of personal growth and has great value? Or my favorite, I deserve to be happy because I am a miracle. Keep looking until you find a belief you can buy into that gives you permission to feel happy.
Irregardless of your beliefs about life, you can find a way around them to reap the benefits of being happy, valuing feeling good and making good choices. The self-help community calls this “Walking Through Your Walls”. When you truly value feeling good, you’ll make decisions that continue supporting that state of being.
In reality, you don’t need to act happy in order to be happy. Happiness is a state of mind and body so I invite you to feel happy even when you’re grumpy. Your life will thank you for it.
Rita Hickman and Van Archiquette run Living Naturally, a non-profit that creates experiences of happy and healing. Find us at inspiremassage.com