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Why I Stopped Pursuing Happiness

February 19, 2014

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The pursuit of happiness is a phrase I’m sure you’ve heard many times before.  It’s part of the Declaration of Independence, it’s a song, it’s a movie, and I think it’s something we’re all trying to do. But I want to take a moment to challenge that phrase.

Synonyms of pursuit are chase, hunt, and search. When did we start chasing happiness?

I’ve spent my fair share of time on the hunt for happiness, trying to figure out how to be happy, determining the things that make me happy, and most of all, why I wasn’t happy. I finally realized though that all of the time I spent chasing happiness could have been spent just simply being happy. Happiness doesn’t have to be so difficult or challenging. It’s something that was within me all along. After I finally realized this and took the pressure of feeling happy off myself, I actually felt it. I felt happy.

Here are 7 lessons I learned in my pursuit of happiness:

  • Smile and smile big. The saying “keep smiling people will wonder what you’re up to” is so true. When you smile not only do you feel better, but you make others feel good too. Your radiance from a simple smile can have more of an impact than you may think. Try smiling for an entire day. Even when something makes you angry or makes you want to frown, push the corners of your lips upward and let that smile shine. I promise you’re going to want to keep smiling the next day too.

  • Self-reflection. Of course there’s always room for improvement, but it’s also important to recognize your strengths. Through self-reflection we can learn from our mistakes to help ourselves reach a calm state of mind, and it also allows us to forgive ourselves for mistakes we have made in our pasts.  Practice self-reflection daily. By giving yourself time to reflect at the end of each day you’ll recognize how many positive things are in your life and turn negative moments or thoughts into opportunities for happiness.

  • Say no. We’re always moving from one activity to the next, which doesn’t allow us to fully live in the moment. Having the ability to say no to things that aren’t really what you want to be doing or aren’t in line with your passions and interests will give you more time to enjoy the present moment. Take a few of those precious moments for yourself. Knowing how to be happy alone is a serious confidence booster. Confident people are happy people.

  • But not all the time. It can be really easy to get in the habit of saying no and taking time for yourself, but being social and interacting with others can have immense health and happiness benefits. People with many friendships and social connections are proven to experience less sadness, loneliness, low self-esteem, and problems with eating and sleeping. So while it’s great to love thyself and spend time alone, keep the appointments that are important and fun on your calendar.

  • Disconnect from technology. Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are all great tools to stay in touch with your friends and family and up to date on the latest happenings, but social media can sometimes have negative effects on our self-confidence. We start comparing ourselves to others and feeling bad if we don’t have what someone else has or aren’t living as seemingly “cool” a life. I’m not saying to disconnect completely, but try having a conversation with a friend without looking at your phone or watching an entire movie without surfing Facebook.

  • Help others. Whether it’s running a 5k for a charity you’re passionate about, planting gardens, cleaning up your city, or becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister, philanthropic endeavors and good deeds will significantly boost your well being. Regardless of the time commitment, each good deed you do will make people react positively to you, which will in turn make you feel good about yourself. Ergo, more good deeds equals a happier you.

  • Stay true to you. The unhappiest people I have met in life are those who aren’t true to themselves. They’re the people who are constantly following the crowd and trying to fit in. Find your hobbies, passions, and dreams and go for it. You’ll find that letting yourself experience things that bring you joy will bring you a happiness you didn’t know was within.

Being happy is a choice and it’s up to you to take actions that make you happy. But remember, it doesn’t have to be a pursuit, a chase, or a hunt. Happiness comes from within yourself, and only when you open up to the endless possibilities the world has to offer will happiness find you too.