Seven Simple Keys to a Joyous Life by Inna Segal

Image Two hands with smiley facesHow to Choose Happiness: Seven Simple Keys to a Joyous Life on Beliefnet might be helpful to those of you wanna-be happy people who don’t know how to or just don’t believe that happiness really is a choice.

Many of the experts on happiness say that being happy is a choice; that it is a decision you make every morning, that today ‘I am going to be happy’. But how is it some people manage to have that inner contentment and others struggle to put a smile on their face? I have asked thousands of people what makes them happy or unhappy and have discovered certain repeating themes: People feel happy when they have a fulfilling relationship, a career they love, great health and energy and variety of interests.

Often those people have a positive attitude to life and they see challenges as opportunities to learn and grow. Here are seven keys which can help you experience more joy and happiness in your life. Read the full article here.

While I agree with most of what Inna writes in her article, I would like to add the possibility of happiness is there even when you do not have everything you want in life. It’s the rough patches where you need your dedication to being happy the most. The biggest key is to make the decision to be happy…it’s that simple. Focus on the positive, practice active gratitude, and tackle each “problem” as an opportunity and not some insurmountable obstacle.

Photo credit: Doriana S.

6 comments

  1. It’s kind of strange I suppose, but don’t spend a lot of time contemplating whether or not I’m happy. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I just expect to be happy. Isn’t that our natural state? Do people who are unhappy wake up and think, “I’m so unhappy?” I’m not trying to be smart, I’m quite serious because I just don’t know. I’ve been nervous before, depressed, agitated, angry and yet I don’t know if I’d ever use the word unhappy. Don’t get me wrong, there are things that I have been unhappy about, but does that make me, as a person, unhappy? Or simply a person who is not always happy about everything all the time. Help me out here, Leah!

    There are areas in my life that I hope will one day be different, but I know I’ve got to live in the meantime. I find lots of things to laugh about in the run of a day and there are many, many things to be joyous about.

  2. Laura,

    How I look at it is, if you are genuinely happy, then you either do not get depressed or when you feel a negative emotion – like loneliness, depression, jealousy, sadness, anger, worry, etc. – you realize it much quicker than an unhappy person would because it is unnatural for you to remain inside those feelings and outside happiness. Consequently, you are then able to escape the emotional ambush much, much quicker.

    This life choice requires a high level of self-awareness.

    I’ve been around a lot of unhappy people and many would not characterize themselves as such; instead, they’re “lonely, sad, depressed, discontent, just living, working on being happy” and on and on. But if you ask them if they’re happy, “Sure” or “Yes” is typically the answer (that’s where their level of self-awareness is key). They are in that negative state of being – a hostage to their emotions – because they are so far from their happiness to begin with.

    They wake up with thoughts of “I don’t want to go to work; my job sucks.” Or they go through the day with thoughts along the lines of, “If only I had [fill in the blank] then I would be happy.” When a good yet small thing happens to them they don’t appreciate it; they want the big thing they had in their mind all along. But most unhappy folks wouldn’t even be able to communicate these thoughts because they are that lost inside themselves, i.e. little to no self-awareness.

    Is this making any sense?

    Sure, I get stressed. Yes, I even have my down in the dumps days here and there. But even when I’m in the deepest valley of those emotions I know I can climb back out at any moment because I am not those things, I am happy, and it is my choice whether I will feel those things, think those thoughts, and for how long.

    Sometimes I have to verbally say out loud, “What in the hell are you down about? Your life is blessed. So what if you don’t [fill in the blank] — you have exactly what you’re meant to at this moment.” Most times it’s just a mental reminder. And voila! I’m back.

    Now, people have accused me of not having compassion or not having a heart because of my ability to cope, “bounce back” or look at situation without emotion. My response? [Insert loud raspberry here.] I feel things deeply — I cry during commercials for pete’s sake; I laugh at the goofiest things and the saddest things — but I choose not to allow anything I don’t want to feel to overcome my happiness.

    My lack of worry also seems to offend people. I hear most often, “But it’s good to worry about some things.” To which I reply, “No, it’s not. It’s good to be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.” The thought of my daughter driving, for instance, tickles my worry button and then I remember as long as she is prepared (a good driver) then everything else is what’s meant to be.

    Does that mean I don’t love or care about my daughter deeply? Hell no! But I sure couldn’t function and live happily if I worried about what might happen to her every time she was out there in the world. (I won’t even go into the reactions I get when I tell people I don’t feel guilt either.)

    The fact that I am not lonely, ever, automatically earns me an “introvert” label. Yes I like to have my alone time, away from people and the world; however, I also love being out there amongst the humans. As a writer, how could I not? Observation is one of the funnest things to do and it’s free. But when I’m by myself, going to a movie or out to lunch or just sitting on my porch, I truly enjoy being with me in the moment. That freaks people out for some reason: just being on their own out in public. Again, my belief is if you’re happy and love yourself then you would enjoy those solo moments every bit as much as you would if there were one, two or a group of other people.

    By the way, I’ve concluded that most of the time the reason for one’s unhappiness is not the situation and/or emotion itself, but one’s thoughts in reaction to the “bad” situation or negative feelings. For some reason humans want to tell themselves the worst things possible because they tend to think the worst thoughts first. That one stumps me…maybe it’s a nature versus nurture argument?

    Life is what we make it, period.

    I made the choice about seven years ago to build mine on a foundation of happiness, so that no matter what happened, the ability to remodel or rebuild was always there at the base of my being. Because, let’s face it, there’s some pretty sucky stuff floatin’ around out there just itchin’ to crash into someone’s life, which means it’s only a matter of time before an unforeseen event will test my foundation; therefore, I choose to support myself from the inside out.

    The worst thing that could happen is death; thus, as long as I’m still breathing I’m still one up on the mofo who runs this crazy experiment. < grins >

    And please don’t think all this happy junk is coming from someone who’s never experienced the crap life has to offer or seen the dark side of the people she knows…man, that would be nice. No, I’ve lived an interesting life: I’ve been abused, sexually and emotionally. I’ve been homeless. I’ve been physically assaulted. I’ve been betrayed by those closest to me. I’ve been terrified by the thoughts I allowed to occupy my mind. I’ve witnessed first hand what I hope most people never have to.

    So I know how big choosing happiness really is.

    That is why I am hugely passionate about helping other people realize happiness is always there, just waiting for them to embrace it; to consciously live one’s life instead of believing it’s all up to God or the Universe or Fate or another person. When they really “get” that – when it becomes a part of who they are – then it is impossible for an outside force to make them unhappy.

    My apologies if that was more of a response than you expected < smiles >. But hopefully this sheds a little light on where I was coming from with my above post.

  3. P.S. A couple more articles on the subject:

    How to Be Happy All of the Time by Charlotte Craig

    Happiness Is a Decision by Dante Petrilla

    P.P.S. By sharing in the above comment some of the “bad” things I’ve experienced in my life I was in no way attempting to garner pity. I was simply proving that all people can be happy if they choose.

    Also, I left out my failed marriage (at 18 years old), being a single mom for 12 years, being cheated on by boyfriends, having my heart broken by boyfriends, not having a boyfriend at 32 years old, etc.

    Because, to me, those life experiences are typical: they are not “bad” things. They are circumstances that taught me SO much about myself and other people, I couldn’t imagine my life without them. For example, you don’t know how special being “in love” is unless you’ve lost the love of your life.

    I’ve said it once I’ll say it again, sometimes you NEED some adversity to show you just how strong you really are. If everything were easy we’d learn nothing – never grow.

    [End of Leah’s sermon on happiness…for now < wink >]

    1. I’m in total agreement with you Leah on the fact that the unhappiness people experience is due to their own thoughts. Our thoughts are what makes us unhappy, especially those ones that we are unable or unwilling to let go of.

      We’ve all had crappy things happen to us unless we live in a bubble all by ourselves. If it doesn’t happen to us specifically it happens to someone we love. There’s no way around it. It’s part of the human experience.

      I’ve noticed that the people around me who always see me happy, and cracking jokes and generally up, have the impression that some how my life is that much better than theirs. That they have reasons not to be happy. But you’re right, dwelling on things is not the answer. Worrying doesn’t change a thing. (Okay I’ll admit to be a bit of a worrier where my kids are involved but I’m also learning to check myself when I feel those worry times coming on and have faith that all will be fine.)

      I do plan to go through this life happy and content where I am. There will still be disappointments and sadness along the way, but I think a really good thing to do is to feel gratitude for where we are in this moment and trust that we are in this place for a reason. If we want to move past it, we will when and if we are ready.

      Interesting conversation Leah, as always!

  4. Wow, I really like how you get to the heart of the matter!

    I’ve believed for a long time that self-awareness makes the difference in a person’s outlook. Being aware of other people and the world in general, knowing how others live and seeing that our own problems aren’t so bad, makes a difference too.

    I’ve seen myself on both sides of this fence, depending on what stage of life I was in at the time. Right now, I’m kind of in-between. Sometimes it’s a day-to-day fight with myself.

    1. Yep, most people are too scared to look at themselves, so it’s easier to blame another person or a circumstance. Why in the world would they want to focus on their culpability when they can shift focus to someone or something else?

      It’s only when we overcome that fear of looking at ourselves through honest eyes, taking responsibility for our actions and thoughts, and holding ourselves accountable for our actions and thoughts going forward, that we are able to step onto the path toward true happiness — a happiness that is chosen, not earned or given to us.

      The choice is not an easy one, obviously, or else there’d be billions of happy people walking around. Most of us are taught we are not in control of our lives, emotions and thoughts. Someone makes you mad. Something makes you successful. We’re taught that happiness is outside us, something we must seek out. So it takes tremendous effort and dedication to break through lifelong conditioning and accept the freedom in choice. And, perhaps, the freedom scares people, too.

      As long as you don’t give up during the day-to-day fight, you’re keeping yourself open to the greater possibilities and growth < smiles >.

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