We all have at least one person in our lives who is always happy. These people smile constantly, exert perpetual friendliness, and seem to take with stride whatever life throws at them. When we see noticeable happy people, we often covet what we think they have: money, a good family, friends, etc. We even become jealous that they have a life that warrants constant happiness, while ours is full of bumps, trials and, well, downfalls. But the truth is that happiness is not based on our circumstances in life, but how we choose to act in those circumstances. Happiness is a choice, and if we choose to exhibit joy in all circumstances, our lives can be significantly improved. Here are four ways to live a happier life, despite your circumstances and material possessions.
1. Forgive those who have hurt you.
Holding a grudge can be one of the most damaging actions we can take against our personal happiness. People hurt us all the time, and we often think that this hurt warrants long-term hate toward those people. However, holding onto anger against those who have hurt us often causes more damage to our own emotional well-being than that of the person at which we are angry. We bottle up hate, full of rage whenever we see that person, and this reaction can turn an otherwise pleasant mood into a negative one, all because we chose to hold a grudge against someone. Instead, choose to forgive. Realize that we all make mistakes and that no matter how much someone has hurt you, hurting them will not minimize any of the pain you feel personally. Choosing to forgive and let go of grudges will allow you to feel at peace toward situations you previously felt harmful emotions toward, and will overall lead to a happier lifestyle.
2. Purposefully change your mindset
Circumstances change. People change. Life throws hard situations at us at the times we least expect it. In these instance, we can either choose to react negatively, breaking down and building up anger and sadness, or change our mindset to react with happiness. Our automatic reaction is not always to feel joy toward all things, but if we actively choose to change our mindset, convincing ourselves that we can be happy even in the most difficult of times, that happiness will become a reality. Looking at difficult situations as blessings in disguise will allow us to be optimistic toward whatever is thrown at us.
3. Realize that people aren’t perfect...and neither are you.
We often have higher expectations for those around us than we have for ourselves. If someone hurts us in a small way, we react harshly, while if we hurt someone else in a small way, we brush it off as a mistake or minor issue. Something has to change. No one in this world is perfect, and therefore no one will perfectly please us; that’s just human nature. If we begin realize that pleasing everyone is impossible, and that everyone we come into contact us is struggling in similar ways to how we struggle, we can realize that expecting the world to always treat us nicely is unrealistic and have more understanding towards others, overall giving us a more joyful perspective.
4. Fake it ‘til you make it.
Even if we decide to be happy at all times, actually feeling happiness is sometimes harder than it looks. However, research has shown that our facial expressions tend to psychologically affect our emotions, and that smiling can actually make you feel happier. So put on a fake smile and act like you are happy until that fake reaction becomes a reality. Not only will it cause your mind to think you are happy, it will also show others that you can have joy even in hard circumstances, and maybe inspire them to live similarly.
Living with joy at the forefront of your mind will allow you to feel more at peace with your life and with how you interact with others. Being angry and upset only creates stress in our lives, doing way more harm than it does good. It’s time we as a culture begin to control how we react to what hurts us, choosing to let joy triumph over hate.