#15 Three Ways to Pursue Happiness
We can and should pursue happiness despite our circumstances. The pains of life can be devastating leaving us bitter, scared, desperate, anxious, and depressed. But, we aren’t supposed to stay there. When bad things happen, we won’t be as jovial as when all is right with our personal world, but we can get to some level of happiness. This post shows you three ways to pursue happiness.
Robin and Roger’s Story
My best friend, Robin, and her husband, Roger, have endured the most painful life circumstances I can imagine. They’ve lost both of their children to rare illnesses. After the loss of their oldest child, Raina, I felt helpless because I couldn’t help my friend feel better. Later, when their son, Roger, died my helplessness turned to despair. My strength to give support melted like the heavy snow of early spring.
Empathy is Not Easy
Support means “to bear the weight of, especially from below.” So, to support someone, we must get under the person we are supporting. To get emotionally below someone, we must imagine a greater pain. This requires empathy and understanding.
Relating to and understanding pain greater than that of Robin and Roger was unbearable. My natural instincts (subconscious mind) wanted to avoid the level of pain I needed to imagine. I wanted to retreat – to run away from the situation until things got better.
Admittedly, I had to gather my strength. So, I took a two day trip where I hiked in the mountains. My time spent in nature got me out of my natural self. It allowed me to think through and get hold of what Paul refers to as my spiritual self. I was able to put my feelings behind my thoughts and faith, and rely on God’s love so I could better support my friends.
Tragedy Does Not End Happiness
As the days passed, I paid attention to Robin. Surely, she and Roger had days when pain eclipsed any trace of joy. But, I was amazed how they kept going. They managed to laugh again, celebrate, and share in good times. I witnessed a couple, whose lives were shattered, put the pieces back together in a way that’s inspired me and taught me how to pursue happiness.
Some months after Raina passed, I remember asking Robin, “How do you do it?” Her answer was simple and straightforward, “You just do it.” No matter how many times I asked, her answer was the same.
Robin’s answer seemed disproportionate to the depth of her pain and her ability to attain what I saw as a good level of happiness. So, I watched her more closely. I also researched ways to get happy. My observations coincided with the research I did. Robin intuitively knew how to pursue happiness.
Three Ways to Pursue Happiness
Both Robin and the research established these three ways to pursue happiness. They are:
1. Choose to be happy (“You just do it.”)
2. Have something to look forward to
3. Have someone to love
Your Independence Allows You to Choose
Your happiness belongs to you. Therefore, it’s your responsibility. You can share it with others, which we call spreading good cheer, being kind and generous, helping, and forgiving. Or, you can keep it for yourself, which is being greedy, selfish, narcissistic, victimized, suspicious, and vindictive. Your independence allows you to choose what you want to do.
Happiness Isn’t Stolen, It’s Surrendered
Happiness is fluid and flexible. Therefore, you must constantly choose if and how much you want. There will always be someone or something that seems to try and steal your happiness. Unlike stealing physical property, if someone steals your happiness, they don’t have your peace, joy, love, satisfaction, freedom, or contentment. Why would anyone want to steal what he can’t use?
It’s not that people or things steal our happiness. Rather, it’s that we surrender it by giving the opposition more power. It’s easy to do this because contempt, fear, anger, shame, guilt, and jealousy are inborn. These natural emotions are the weapons we use to survive and the opposition for our happiness. Every day we must choose what to do…use our weapons to survive or live happy.
Choose to be Happy… or Not
Our natural emotions are rooted in our subconscious mind. Since our subconscious mind never sleeps, it’s already active when we awaken. Therefore, we wake up in the natural every morning. This is when we make our first choice.
If we focus on how we feel and what we feel like or don’t feel like doing, we will add more activity to our already active subconscious mind and spur on the negative feelings that are already there. This can lead to bitterness, irritability, resentment, a mean spirit, and a wicked heart – and that’s before we’ve had our morning coffee! From this point, the route to happiness is a lot longer and more arduous. So, we ask ourselves, “Do I stay or do I go?”
You Just Do It!
If you wake up every morning and turn on your thinking brain instead of focusing on how you feel, you will activate your spirit and create a more direct route to happiness. You can do this by making your first thought one of gratitude. Thank God for a new day and new opportunities. (Don’t be afraid to get on your knees to do this.) Then, expect good things to happen by telling yourself something good is going to happen today. Finally, commit to making this, “The best possible day I can.”
You might call these prayers, but they are still conscious thoughts that you choose to make. Your conscious thoughts give you power to be peaceful during stressful situations, be satisfied with your accomplishments and efforts, give your fear up to God’s strength, and maintain self-control so you can be free from guilt and shame. This is how you choose to be happy. You just do it!
Have Something to Look Forward to
I noticed that Robin planned a lot of future activities. So, she frequently had something to look forward to.
Think how you feel when you anticipate a fun event. For many of us, Christmas Eve was especially exciting as we anticipated getting toys. Part of the fun for a vacation is planning it.
Create Good Times for Good Feelings
Everyone should have pleasure. It lights up the joy center of our brains, lifting our spirits. But, we can’t always have the same level of pleasure as a big vacation or Christmas Eve provide. We have to create things to look forward to.
As a little girl, when I complained about feeling sick or doing something I didn’t enjoy, my dad would tell me, “Think how good you’re going to feel when you’re better” or “Think how good you’re going to feel when you all done.” He taught me how to look forward to something better.
We don’t have to have extravagant activities to look forward to. We can simply set ourselves up to look forward to something that brings us joy.
Give yourself something to look forward to. Make plans to meet someone for lunch, order something that you have to wait to receive. Remind yourself of a favorite show that’s on after you get home from work.
Have something to look forward to in the short-term, intermediate-term, and long-term. Anything from watching a special show at night to planning a cruise for next year will keep you moving forward in your dreams and thoughts and in your pursuit of happiness.
I’ve admired the closeness Robin and Roger gained after their losses. Certainly, they stumble in their relationship now and then, but I would say, they are the loves of each other’s lives. In addition, God blessed them with a granddaughter and adopted grandchildren who they adoringly love. Robin and Roger have surrounded themselves with good friends, but they are also good friends. They have many people to love and who love them.
Having someone to love doesn’t necessarily mean a romantic connection. When you have someone to love, you have someone to think of other than yourself. This takes you out of your natural state and puts you into the realm of giving. Just by thinking of someone, you give that person your time and attention. It brings greater joy to give than receive (Acts 20:35).
You can love someone you barely know just by giving him/her some help. Think how you feel when you help someone. Research shows that we get a Dopamine boost when we help someone. This causes more activity in the joy area of our brain. We receive joy when we give help to others.
When we love someone, we put another person ahead of ourselves. This allows us to be humble, kind, generous, patient, hopeful, merciful, forgiving, loyal, and empathic. It takes us out of our natural state and brings out the best in us which leaves us with joy, peace, satisfaction, freedom, and contentment – happiness.
Be Inspired to Pursue Happiness
Despite your situation, you can be happy. Do what Robin and Roger have done; follow the three ways to pursue happiness.