“I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”” –Kurt Vonnegut
Happiness isn’t an end or some sort of supreme goal that sticks with you once you’ve achieved it. It’s a fleeting, ephemeral state of mind. Happiness is only made possible by emotions with fewer positive connotations, like unhappiness and anxiety. It’s only natural that we occasionally experience these negative emotions, but this makes it all the more important to learn to acknowledge happiness.
Realizing you are happy doesn’t negate happiness; it solidifies is and can help prolong it once you realize you have the capability to be happy at any moment, just not all moments.
1. Stay mindful.
It’s pretty clear that you won’t be able to acknowledge happiness if you aren’t living in a state of present-awareness. If you’re worried about the past or the future, this thing we call ‘happiness’ remains but a lofty ideal, only achieved when your experience matches up perfectly your expectations (naturally a very rare occurrence). But, if you cultivate mindfulness and work towards constant appreciation of right now, you’ll find bursts of bliss becoming more and more frequent.
2. Express gratitude.
Perspective is a pain– no matter how good some people have it, it seems they can always find something to complain about. Don’t be one of those people. Count your blessings, whatever they may be. Make a list of things you’re grateful for; express your gratitude to the people in your life who deserve it. You’ll soon realize you have more reasons to be happy than your possibly jaded perspective may have originally thought of.
3. Don’t put a negative twist on happiness.
In the past, I’ve been in dark emotional states and thought cynically about happiness. I recall, a few times, thinking, “Any happiness I achieve in this mindset I will have no choice but to acknowledge as a forced lack of unhappiness.” In other words, I felt so unhappy in general that I lost faith in the idea that happiness could exist independently from my negativity. Not true. When spontaneous happiness arrives, enjoy it. Don’t write it off as anything other than a great thing.
Simple: embrace happiness and you’ll be happier.
4. Be comfortable with yourself.
We live in a world where enticing food advertisements that have enabled the obesity of millions are followed by ads for all the clothes and beauty products we try to cover up our illusionary physical inadequacies with. We’re told we’re either too fat, too skinny, or too average– nothing we buy or do is ever enough, according to advertising (how else can you keep selling products, after all?!).
This is a super-size portion of BS. You have plenty of reasons to be proud and comfortable with yourself. Enjoy yourself. You’re all you get; take care of the mind, body, flesh and bones. Exercise, eat well, read books, fall in love. Confidence is a difficult skill to master both physically and intellectually in a world where, to paraphrase philosopher Bertrand Russell, “the ignorant are sure of themselves and the intelligent so full of doubt.”
One could argue that happiness is the state in which one is not judging or doubting oneself. Find comfort in the fact that, if you embrace your life and appreciate what you do have, you can reach that state at any time. It’s all in your head.