How to Stop Looking for External Happiness and Be Happy Now
Happiness is Not External
Sometimes it is easier to look at the things missing in our lives than it is to appreciate what we already have. Gratitude is the true path to happiness, but gratitude is only achieved when you can look at your current situation and enjoy your current life without trying to fix anything. If something new comes into your experience and it brings you joy, then add it to your gratitude list.
The problem occurs when you find areas of void in your life that you feel need fixed in order to bring you happiness.
Stop Focusing on the Voids
A void is an area of your life where you feel something is missing. Sometimes you can’t put your finger on what’s missing, but you know that if that something would change, you would be happy.
The more attention you give to a void, the larger the desire to fill the void becomes and in some cases, an individual will keep buying new things or starting new relationships to fix the problem. Your happiness should never depend on the fulfillment of a void.
To be truly happy, you must feel grateful for your current situation.
Change Your Focus
Instead of focusing on what’s missing, focus on the good you already have in your life. There is always something to be grateful for and it's impossible to focus on a negative thought when you're focusing on a positive thought.
If you have a roof over your head, focus on being grateful for having a place to live. Go deeper in your thoughts by focusing on why you’re grateful for having a place to live (since we’re using that example), such as: protection from weather, a place to take a shower, and familiar surroundings.
Use this exercise and list more good things in your life followed by why you consider these things to be good. Enjoy life as it is and don't try to force life to fit an idealized picture.
Know Needs verses Wants
In today's world, our society is fixated on material objects and obtaining the next best thing.
As trends change, our clothes and shoes need updated. As phones add more features, we have to have the next series for the new colors and extra camera features. The false need to obtain more items to achieve true happiness just leaves us with a constant craving for the next shiny object.
This is addiction. You're just looking for the next high.
The new phone, the new clothes, the new car, the fancy latte, and even the bag of chips give you a temporary high that releases feel good chemicals in the brain. It's not reality. Once that temporary high goes away, the craving returns and you're again seeking happiness through external items and circumstances.
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Looking at Maslow's hierarchy of needs, we know our basic needs include physiological needs (food, water, air, shelter, a place to sleep, clothes), safety needs (security, a job, health, and resources), a sense of love/belonging (social, connections, family), esteem (self-esteem and respect, recognition, confidence, independence), and finally self-actualization (achieving full potential).
The most basic needs are physiological and safety.
Always remember that somewhere in the world, there is someone happier with less than you currently have. As long as you're basic needs are met, you are rich. Always be grateful if you have shelter, food, clean air, and clothing.
Take a moment to say thank you for your needs being met.
Path of Least Resistance
The path of least resistance means do less and accomplish more. This is why meditation is so effective at improving an individual’s wellbeing because you’re quieting the mind, which leads to less destructive mind chatter.
A quiet mind doesn’t care that Tracy has a bigger house and new car and it doesn’t care about your spouse not putting the toilet seat down. With meditation and gratitude techniques, you’re able to heal your thought patterns and change your current internal perception.
Instead of pulling up Google and looking at the real estate market, the car lot, or sales at your favorite department store; put the phone or computer down and do nothing. Whenever the urge or craving arises, take it as a sign to sit quietly.
There's no need for mantras or positive affirmations as a quiet mind is always better than a conflicted mind. This technique does not put abundance out of reach, but instead allows you to connect to your higher self and align your thoughts naturally to bring more of what you want into your life.
So, Let’s Do This!
Every day, start your gratitude list and leave space below each item to write a secondary list of why the item brings you gratitude. Keep the list with you, so if your mind starts to wander [which it will], you can review what makes you grateful and add to the list as needed.
Meditate for at least 5 minutes daily. Although the longer you're able to meditate, the better, I would rather you sit for 5 minutes daily than 30 minutes a couple times per week. Do this by sitting or lying quietly with your eyes closed. Focus on your breathing by mentally counting four seconds with each inhale, holding the breath for four seconds, and exhaling for six seconds. If thoughts entire your mind, acknowledge that you have a thought without paying attention to its context and then return to focusing on your breathing.
Throughout the day, if you start focusing on the missing in your life--do mini meditations of closing your eyes and following the above mentioned breaths just for a couple minutes followed by reading your gratitude list.
Overtime and with regular practice, your mind will gravitate toward joy and have less cravings, so you can be happy with your current circumstances.
What are you grateful for? Please share your comments and below!