For all the reasons to be happy in this life, there are times when everyone struggles to find them. Personal losses, relationship changes, even too much status quo — they can all put a fog over an otherwise sunny disposition.
We’ve all watched the human-interest stories at the end of the nightly news. You know, the ones that make you feel humbled by the ability of people who, in the face of tragedy, manage to stay happy.
The ones that make you want to be a better person and work on your own attitude because of someone else’s inspiring attitude.
The ones that make you remember your own childhood and the fact that children are inherently happy, even in poor countries.
And every Christmas we are reminded by the Whos in Whoville that material possessions are just bonus to genuine happiness. They aren’t the reason for it.
What is essential can’t be taken — even by a grumpy Grinch — without our permission.
So what are you supposed to do when you find yourself overwhelmed by negative circumstances and emotions? Is it possible to be happy in the midst of loss, grief, injustice, and insecurity?
Living in the past, especially with regret; holding onto grudges and not forgiving; always striving for perfection. These are just a few of the ways that you can sabotage your own quest for happiness.
These negative mindsets can also blind you to the happiness that has already been present in your life.
The short-answer, fortune cookie wisdom to the search for reasons to be happy is that happiness is a choice. It’s a perspective that you choose as a constant in a life full of unpredictability and loss.
While there are many ways to go about building a happy life, there is a common thread that, in one way or another, underlies them all.
While not considered a virtue in the biblical sense, gratitude is considered the highest of virtues in the moral sense. The Roman philosopher Cicero even called it the “parent of all other virtues.”
To be in a state of gratitude is to be in a state of awareness and celebration of the gifts of the present.
To choose gratitude is to choose to seek what is good, positive, and possible in every moment, every circumstance, every person.
And, in the same way that two objects can’t occupy the same space at the same time, two thoughts can’t occupy the same brain space at the same time.
You can’t be busy looking for the good in the world and simultaneously stewing in anger or fear.
Gratitude helps you find reasons to be happy because it’s a mindset of recognizing sources of happiness.
It’s what makes you slow down and consider the gifts of the moment. The breeze that just swept through your hair. The ladybug on a flower. A warm day in winter.
The stranger who smiled and waved. The just-because card in your mailbox. The forgiveness from someone whose feelings you had hurt.
The simple meal you made for dinner. The exhausting workout you had. The pound you lost.
One more day of sobriety. Two bags of clothes cleared out of your closet. Three grandchildren coming to visit.
The reason gratitude is directly linked to happiness is that it puts a positive spin on the past, present, and future.
Of all the things you could focus on in your past, gratitude will draw to mind all the ways you have been blessed. It will remind you that you have always been provided for, even against the odds.
And isn’t it amazing that you can, from where you stand today, transform the power of your memories of the past?
In the present, gratitude opens your heart and prepares it to see all that is good. It sets your radar on high alert for the infinite reasons for happiness.
Even when you find yourself confronted by negativity or injustice from other people, you will find the kernel of goodness.
You will seek to learn something from those with different opinions and beliefs.
And you will marvel at your own ability to allow love and respect to rise above the need to “be right” or win an argument.
All because your heart is aware of goodness. And your heart’s awareness becomes your mind’s attitude.
Gratitude can even shape your future by giving you hope and trust that good things will come. You have already conditioned yourself to know that you will find goodness because you always look for it.
I’m sure you want to know how to create a happy and healthy life for yourself. Who doesn’t?
But did you know that gratitude is directly linked to health, in part because it motivates you to do healthful things?
So, all those happiness-inducing activities like exercising, getting out into nature, and eating well are all rooted in gratitude.
The realization that life is a fragile gift not to be taken for granted is inspiration to take care of it.
Happy people are more active and take better care of themselves. They feel better. Their pain tolerance is higher. They don’t become entrenched in little irritants.
Exercise, for example, releases endorphins. Endorphins make you feel happy. Feeling happy within yourself makes you want the world to feel happy, too.
And, as is always the case with doing good things for yourself or others, goodness begets goodness.
Wanting others to be happy and healthy energizes you to reach outside yourself to help them. It also requires that you want yourself to be happy and healthy too.
And, no surprise here, being generous and volunteering your time and resources eventually circle back to increase your own happiness.
Finding reasons to be happy doesn’t have to be an epic search for the Holy Grail. It’s a mindset, not a quest.
And nowhere is happiness more powerful than in the most mundane activities that make up the majority of life.
Sometimes happiness is as simple as singing a Disney song while doing the dishes, or feeling indulged by clean sheets on the bed.
And it is always as simple as prioritizing the happiness of someone else.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation for support in putting together the pieces so you can create a happy and healthy life for yourself.
Looking for more information about how to live a happy and healthy life? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Building A Happy Life.