“He's simply got the instinct for being unhappy highly developed.”
~ Saki, British author (1870 - 1916)

Happiness is not about what you own, who you married, or what you collect. Happiness is feeling good – not having your life look good – and it can only be felt right now, in this moment. It cannot be projected into the future or relived from the past. Interestingly, people don’t necessarily know how to be happy. We are busy. We know how to do stuff and get things done.

Generally, there is a pervasive discontent in society as we struggle to keep up with our own expectations, society’s expectations, and our family’s expectations. And when we cannot meet the unrealistic expectations about who we should be and what we should be doing, we feel bad. Guilt, shame, fear, disappointment, self-doubt even self-loathing erupts in us resulting in constant movement because if we stop, we might have to actually feel these “bad” feelings and that’s too upsetting to consider!

Inevitably, reality hits us, usually with a series of events meant to smack us in the face so we have no other option but to face our reality. These can be an illness, the sudden death of someone you know, a cancer scare, a friend’s affair or divorce, or even turning a certain age. It can be your weight when you step on the scale. Whatever the event, suddenly your world is turned upside down and you can no longer deny that you are not happy living the way you are living.

Interestingly, it may not be what you are doing that’s making you unhappy. You may have a great life. However, how you think about your life and what you are doing may be your difficulty. In other words, your thoughts and your beliefs are what may be causing your angst and your discontent.

Your Emotional Message System
As humans, we are blessed to have such a wonderful emotional system to inform us of things that require our attention. Many of us, however, are completely ill-prepared to handle this system and have not learned how to use it to our benefit. So we fumble about doing the best we can. It’s not like we are born with an instruction manual on how to deal with our emotions. And if we as adults don’t do it well, we will not be able to teach our children how to be emotionally competent.

Mastering your emotions is part of your human experience. The learning starts when you are a child. You learn by watching your parents and how they deal with emotions. You also learn through instruction. What were some of the messages you learned growing up? What response or reaction did you receive when you expressed an emotion? How was anger handled in your home? What about sadness, disappointment, or frustration? How did your family mourn losses? Were people generally happy? Did they know how to enjoy themselves?

Being told, “Don’t cry,” when you were sad has made an impact on you and may have created a belief about how you are supposed to deal with sadness. If your parents screamed at each other all the time, then you learned something about how couples get along. If no one talked to one another for days on end when they were angry, then that has left its mark on you as well. Unearthing your hidden beliefs about emotions and learning to be at choice rather than at the mercy of these old, unhealthy patterns will help you to feel in control about your emotional state.

Emotions are inner messages. They provide you with information which you can use to guide your behavior. Emotions enrich the experience you have while you are in your human form; they permeate every aspect of being human. There are no “bad” emotions. Emotions just are. We judge them as “bad” because we may not like to feel them or we fear them because we don’t have the skills to manage these emotions when they show up.

But people have just as much trouble with the “good” emotions such as happiness and joy as they do with so-called “bad” emotions such as anger, grief, or depression. We find ourselves spending most of our time worrying, full of anxiety, in a state of fear, and full of self-doubt. And because this is what we are used to, we are habituated; it’s more comfortable and familiar than happiness, joy and love. In order for us to change, to learn to be happy, then we must create new habits, habits that support our ability to embrace and experience the “good” emotions.

The Path to Happiness
The path to happiness – to respect, to inner peace, to feeling good about yourself and to being confident – is by honoring yourself and doing the things that make you feel good or comfortable. And when something feels bad, don’t do it. Choose to spend time with people who you enjoy being around. And when someone does something that feels bad, then tell them about it and, if need be, instruct them on what would feel good for you. If they don’t want to oblige and continue to do things that are of no value to you or that hurt you, then instead of trying to get them to change, just stop spending time with that person.

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? So, why is it so hard?

It’s hard because there are so many things that get in the way of eliminating what feels bad and moving toward what feels good. We get in our own way. Most of the time, our heads get in the way; we do a lot of second guessing and we don’t trust ourselves or our feelings. So we behave in ways that do not reflect what we truly want and, therefore, our results are not what we want. This makes us unhappy and we don’t know how to make it better.

In addition, other people have their own heads and thoughts to contend with. They don’t do or say what they really mean either and we spend a lot of time guessing and making assumptions about what they want from us. It makes communication really, really difficult. And we wonder why there are so many single people and the divorce rate is so high!

At the most basic level, the path to happiness is to identify and eliminate the things that feel bad and identify and include the things that feel good. Each day, you have the opportunity to discover new things that you like and don’t like. Practice by being on the lookout for how you feel. It will take time, but with each choice you make to be happy in that moment, it will become easier and eventually, it will become habit. Then you’ll start looking for things that feel good and add value to your life and you’ll actually repel things that don’t. You’ll become attractive to good things! It may be hard to imagine, depending upon how you feel today, but one day at a time, with focus and a desire for change, you will succeed at happiness.

Author's Bio: 

Julie Fuimano, MBA, BSN, RN, CSAC is dedicated to helping you break through the barriers to your happiness and success. She is a masterful coach, a motivational speaker and world-renowned writer and author. For additional resources and to sign up for her inspiring e-newsletter, visit NurturingYourSuccess.com or email Julie@NurturingYourSuccess.com