Guide to Happiness :D

Posted: January 21, 2011 in The Warped Wiseman
Tags: , , , ,

Cut from facepunch.com:

Caution: Wall of text. There’s no tl;dr for this one.

Do you want to be happy? That may sound like a silly question to you, but before you can work to achieve happiness, you must be sure if you really desire it. There are alternatives to being a happy person. If you’ve given up on the world, on the human race, or on hope, you probably don’t want happiness. Instead, you may want to live a step back from the colorful side of life, viewing it with your cynicism in an area full of grey. Personally I don’t empathize with it, but some people choose that lifestyle to be better artists, because that’s how they’ve been
raised, or because they have low self-esteem. Either way, I hope to provide some insight with you on how to
reach happiness. I’m going to break what makes you happy down into three simple categories.

If you have decided that you’d like to be a happier person, first you must examine your life right now. I recommend that you create a list, mental or physical, of the most meaningful parts of your life. It can be something small, like Cheerios, or something bigger, like a relationship with a person. There is no limit. Try to make each thing simplified, though. If you’re going to list, “Playing soccer with Joe,” list them separately as, “Playing soccer” and, “Joe.” Then make a list of the things that bring you the greatest sadness, boredom, or anger that have a say in your life. Again, it could be small, like having to clean after a long day, or it could be big, like how you feel about your
self-image. Got those in front of you, or clearly defined in your mind? Good, that’s the first step. Take your time. There’s no need to rush this. It takes a while for me to think of all of the things that make me happy.

Now look at the things that make you happy. Ask yourself, why do they make me happy? Try to spend a bit of thought on it, maybe seeing if there’s more than what’s on the surface of your reason that comes to mind. By the way, and this doesn’t have to do with my main point but it’s fun to ponder, how many of your reasons make you happy because they benefit you in some way, not someone else? Once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to see more clearly, is it more the people in your life that make you happy, doing activities that make you happy, or having things that make you happy? What did you list the most? People, activities, or things? Or, did you make a list that’s balanced between two or even all of these categories? What do you value? Now you’re looking at happiness in a different way. The isolated parts of your list are coming together. Your perspective is broadening.

If it’s the people that make you the most happy, you value your connection to society. Having relationships with more than a few people makes you feel involved in a community/communities. Relationships give you a sense of belonging and significance in the world, which is, to some degree, comforting to you. You like security, knowing you have a support group; you have people to fall back on. You may enjoy being there for others, like being the one people go to for advice. If it’s the activities that make you the most happy, you think of movement as the necessary flow of life more than others. You might feel your club activity or volunteering makes your life more purposeful or gives you a more complex character or fulfillment. You might be afraid of letting life go by while you’re wasting your time, slowing down and being immobile. During breaks, you might enjoy the beginning, but after a while, you’ll feel restless. If it’s the things that make you the most happy, you may have an unstable home environment or a degree of inconsistency in one or more aspects of your life. You can always see your things, touch your things, and they will look and feel the same. They won’t go anywhere you don’t put them, they won’t grow, they won’t change, and they won’t ever leave you. They are your shield as well as your constant. You may also be a person who likes to be in control. The people in your life cannot be controlled. Activities can only be controlled to a certain extent if you are the person or one of the people arranging them. Objects are manipulated by your will, and if the things are entirely yours, solely your will.

If you relate to one area strongly, that’s okay. If you relate to all three just about equally, that’s also okay. There’s no answer that says you’re a balanced person, or that you need to increase a part of your life. This is just to reflect a bit deeper on who you are.

To improve your happiness with people:

Try to fix any bridges you may have burned or that others have burned. Sure, you might love to hate someone, or you just can’t think of the thought of seeing their face(s) again. First off, if you love to hate someone, that might be fun, but it’s not nearly as fun (or as healthy, in my experience), as indifference towards them. You don’t need to see their face for this process or even talk to them. This depends on how you want this relationship to change. It needs to change in some way, but the choice is yours. You can completely eliminate it, or you may try to repair it. Either way is better than leaving loose ends, hurt feelings… and staring at ashes of where a bridge used to be. You know what I mean.

If you want to repair the relationship, you’ll need to talk to the person. It can start with a letter or a phone call (but try to avoid texting- not enough characters or you’re not saying enough). If there was an incident that was your fault, apologize. Even if you don’t feel entirely sorry, swallow your pride temporarily and get it over with. You once liked this person for a reason, right? If it was there fault, you obviously somewhat want to forgive them. You need to fully accept future contact with this person after they’ve hurt you/someone/something that matters to you. Send them a note that you forgive them. It doesn’t have to be mushy and gushy. It can be formal. Just reach out and get it over with- I’m sorry, or I forgive you. If he/she chooses not to respond to you, then you can just let the relationship go, knowing you tried. There will be no “what if” lingering in your mind later on. If the relationship continues, hold no hostility, bitterness, or resentment toward the person. It’ll make your efforts go to waste. You’re working on a clean slate, here. Leave the past in the past. For this to work, you have to ask yourself- is it really worth it?

If you want to let go of angry feelings toward someone and terminate the remains of a relationship, you need to decide whether or not you want to contact them. If you want to contact them, I recommend not doing this face to face or over the phone. If you see them face to face, hand them a letter and then walk away. Write them an
e-mail. What you should say should not be mean. As easy as it could be to insult them, to get back at them for whatever they’ve done to you, don’t. Take the high road and be the better person. It’s not as fun, but it shows you have a higher character than they do. You have integrity. It can go something like, “I’m sorry that what happened between us went the way it did. I would prefer if we didn’t associate with each other for the time being. I feel it would be easier on both of us. Please do not contact me in the future.” If you don’t say anything hurtful, it can’t be used against you, and it won’t be awkward anymore.

If you don’t want to communicate with them, then you need to let go of them in your mind. Picture the person as vividly and as detailed as you can, standing before you, head to toe. Now, picture one of three things.
1. Picture them turn around and walk away from you until you can’t see them anymore.
2. Picture an eraser. Erase them, bit by bit, until all you’re staring at is blank space.
3. Picture them shrinking, getting smaller and smaller, until they vanish.

You only need to do this once, but take your time and do it well. Then, begin to let go of your emotions towards them. Quit thinking about how they’re mean, how they hurt you. The way to do this is to realize that they’re just not worth it. You’ve got better things to do with your time. You have better things to think about. They’re going to live on without you. They already have suffered a loss. 🙂 No, seriously! Valuing yourself doesn’t make you egotistical or cocky. Anyone who thinks that are just caught up in the hype of a lack of self-esteem being a cool fad.

So enough on those broken bridges, now that they’re under reconstruction. Let’s focus on the positive bonds you’ve already formed. Your friends, your family, even acquaintances- relationships from all three of these groups are important to your happiness, so why not strengthen them even farther? I find that even if you’re already close to someone you’ve known for years, you can still somehow find an unmade connection, connect it, and be even more close. With your friends, say something a bit farther out there than you normally would. Do you love your friends? How often do you say it? Just say it, “I love you,” or something like that showing how much you care. Be sincere and keep a straight face. They might respond by making a joke out of it or acting like it was weird of you to say, but don’t be discouraged. That doesn’t mean you failed; that means they didn’t know how to handle upfront affection. They’re still going to remember that fondly.

Why not get a bit closer to those acquaintances? Invite them to something a group of your friends are doing, or make an effort to have a longer conversation with them. Be careful that you haven’t judged them entirely on their first impression; they may make a lovely friend, even if they didn’t reach out to you when you met them. Maybe they need that extra push. Not that you should be pushy, but that sometimes people who are shy or aren’t as confident can’t initiate a solid friendship as well. Not only will you create a potentially stronger relationship by reaching out, but you’ll have gained experience socializing in a way you might not be the most comfortable with, which can be looked at as prep for the work environment.

As much as we all love and are addicted to our mp3s, cell phones, laptops, and all of those other attention-sucking devices, they can be a burden on parents, siblings, cousins or other family members who want to spend more time with you. I’m not saying you should cut back to so many hours per week or something like that, because I couldn’t do that, but if your family member is acting particularly lonely or bored, you should consider pausing what you’re doing for a while and playing with them. Yes, playing. Get out a board game; you’re never too old for Scrabble. Sure, you can bond by working together on chores that need to get done, but once and a while you need to enjoy relaxing and non-dishwasher soap related excitement, too.

Exercises you should try:

1. Say, “I love you,” a lot more to people you care about and love, whether that love is romantic or platonic.
2. Complement the people in your life. Strive to complement three times a day.
3. Learn some new jokes (clean jokes, in case you’re in a professional setting) that you feel comfortable telling. They’re great as ice-breakers, and a laugh is best shared among friends anyways.
4. friends you’ve known longer, bring up old memories and try reliving them again. This is usually very funny if you choose the right scenario.
5. Plan for the future. Plan activities that will come years down the line, like a road trip to a favorite travel destination, or going to the Olympics. Even if it won’t happen, you’ll have that tie with them that’ll make you closer. My old best friend for years, Jane, and I planned a road trip across the country and made little jars to save money in for years. It won’t happen, but we both remember that time with love.
6. Smile at your friends more often. Be careful that you don’t only come to them to complain about your day or seek advice.
7. Try to say hi to a new person at least once a month. Even if you’re in a coffee shop and you see someone sitting alone, be friendly. You might make even more friends that way.

To improve your happiness with activities:
Your strength is probably when you’re in a public group setting, and your weakness is probably when you’re sick with a cold alone at home with nothing but a TV to keep you company. You probably try to get up and get paperwork done with snot coming out of your nose, right? I’m going to provide some insight into embracing your strongest talents as well as your weakest ones, and what to do when you just can’t or shouldn’t do anything.

What’s that thing or two you’re really good at doing? Drawing? Helping animals? Paintballing? Whatever it is, you’re not doing enough of it. That’s the mentality you should have. Even if it’s your job, even if it’s your business, your career, you haven’t done enough yet. When asked what they consider their best painting to be, many artists say, “The next one.” You should always be striving to do more. The moment you get comfortable is the moment that someone’s going to start doing whatever it is better than you and take your place. This will make you the best that you can be. You must be motivated, and never get comfortable with your level of skill. Strive to be more.

Was there ever something in your life that someone had you try to do or that you set out to try to do and failed miserably at it? Yep, it’s a burned bridge again, except it’s not with a person, it’s with a moment in your past. Did your horrible first grade art teacher give you an F on a drawing project, turning you off from the thought of drawing completely? Did someone close to you completely shoot down an idea for a club you were going to start? Face your fears and go back to it. I can guarantee you’ll do better on it now. For one thing, time makes all of us better. You’ve gained experience down the road. For another, it won’t be your first time trying it. Go back into it seriously, even if it was something that now seems ridiculously simple. Don’t let your fear overtake you. You are going to feel so amazing when you get that well deserved sense of accomplishment. Even if you still don’t do it completely how you would have wanted, try to let go of the perfectionist tendencies for a moment and realize that you did better. Also, this is not something for your friends to criticize. Don’t show it to them, or explain, if it’s something that includes other people, that you’re not looking for feedback. The world doesn’t need to judge you 100% of the time.

You also have those talents that are sorta developed, but they’re not really going anywhere and you haven’t given them enough time to progress. This may be because you don’t know enough about them to really see if you like them or not. Our, they’re something a bit more difficult. Even if it’s not as fun as the thing you’re amazing at doing, you should set a block of time out at least once a week to work on these activities. Then you’ll at least be able to fairly judge on whether it’s something you’d like to continue, you’ll have more experience and will be able to have conversations on the subject. Don’t knock it until you try it though, right?

There’s going to be some days when you look out the window and it’s just pouring outside, or you’re down with the cold or flu, and you really just need to stay indoors and probably rest. These days, if I let them, I admit, make me feel like I have cabin fever. I’m going to share what personally helps me. If you need to stay in bed and you feel like you’re missing everything and the weight of the world is piling on top of you, make a list of all the things you need to get done. Then write down the dates of when you’d like to get those things done. Then reevaluate it. Some of those things can wait, can’t they? How about getting some help from friends or family to get some of those items tackled? Release the stress and look to others. You are not responsible for everything, and you don’t need to be. Focus on getting well. Would you rather your sickness or reason to stay in bed be prolonged, keeping you from your things longer?

If you’re simply trapped in your house for whatever reason and you want to get stuff done, first eat. That may sound silly, but when I’m very busy I actually forget. Get a good meal in you first. Then, again, make a list of all the things that need to get done. This will keep you from trying to do it all at once, which will be counterproductive. Rearrange your list to go from most urgent to least urgent. There you go- now you have an order to tackle things in. Blast some good music, turn on lots of lights or open the windows if it’s bright out, and get it done. Don’t forget to take breaks and do things you enjoy! Having fun can be an urgent matter, too.

Exercises you should try:
1. Use a planner. I can’t stand them, but I use them anyways because they’re helpful. If you don’t want to use a planner, use a calendar you can hang on your fridge.
2. Try something like meditation. Even if you don’t want to completely meditate (it’s hard to have the patience for it), take some time every so often to do nothing (nothing doesn’t mean browse the web) and unwind your brain. You don’t have to think every moment of the day.
3. Pack more protein snacks and carry a refillable water bottle. Busy people sometimes have trouble with their diets because they’re rushing around, subject to vending machines. If you bring protein snacks, not only do you not have to spend money out, but you’ll have more energy. The water bottle will be better for the environment and you might drink less soda, which is never a bad thing.
4. Ever forget to look at those reminders you write for yourself, which makes the whole operation pointless? Keep the post-it notes on your bathroom mirror. You won’t forget to look at them that way.
5. Try to spend more time outside. Even casual sunlight exposure can make a person feel better.

To improve your happiness with material things:
Your “best friend” might be your mobile phone, your iPod, your laptop. (That’s not an insult- sometimes I say it msyelf!) You get very real happiness from interacting with a game, rather than with a person; you might prefer shopping at the mall alone rather than with friends because you don’t care about the social experience. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you might find that your wallet cries in pain from being so skinny every once and a while. Have a super high paying job, so it’s not really an issue for you? Great! But even so, there’s still ways you can manage your money to make it stretch longer. This section will be a bit shorter, but you can feel free to contribute what you’d like.

You may have the compulsion to buy that new iDevice as soon as it comes out. It’s shiny, it’s thinner, it has more features, it comes in a new color! I don’t blame you. Still, if you want just a little while, you’re going to get it cheaper- we all know this. Yet so many people still buy the new thing the day it comes out. Why? Is it because of impatience, wanting to keep up with the latest and greatest? Before you get something right away when it’s released, ask yourself the origin of your desire for the product right now. Ask yourself, what’s going to happen if I wait a week? Two weeks? Two months? If you recognize what you’re doing and reflect on it, you might see that the world won’t end if you buy it a little later on- and your wallet will thank you!

But let’s say you do want that new iDevice right now, even after thinking it over. You can’t afford that all at once, right? Now I’m not going to get into credit and debit and yah de yah, because you already know that already. Go with me here. If you like to have nice new things, you need to learn how to save your money. Create a budget and see how much you can put away per paycheck, per month, whatever you choose, comfortably. If you put away a little along and along and resist spending it on impulse items, not only will you learn to live more efficiently, but you’ll be able to get that new iDevice or Android or whatever. (Not trying to be partial to Macs here, promise.)

Exercises you should try:
1. Cut coupons. Yes, you might be made fun of for acting like a 60 year old woman, but they can go a long way. However, be careful you only use coupons on things you already buy, not buy new things because you have coupons- that will be counterproductive.
2. Recycle cans. I don’t do this because I don’t buy as many canned drinks and such, but my boyfriend goes through them fast and gets cash from them once a month. Not only will you get more money but you’ll help the environment, which is something to feel good about. 🙂
3. If you need to, get on food stamps if you’re not already. My family went for years without signing up for them when we could have been getting free food each month, and that was not smart at all. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
4. If you have an artsy side, craft. You can start by giving your first handmade creations to your beau or mom, or anyone in your life who you know will appreciate anything you give them. Then as you progress in your skills, you can develop personal tastes in what you like to make and make things that are worthy to give to friends and coworkers. Even though you have to buy the materials, most likely you’re going to spend less money than if you bought things for others. Not to mention you can find materials to use for free. I made a very detailed dreamcatcher for my boyfriend for his birthday from feathers I collected for months. They’re so much more meaningful that way.

I’m not done yet. As much as this helps, you have to work on eliminating negativity in your life for your journey to happiness to come full circle. You won’t be able to eliminate contact with certain horrible people in your life and you won’t have to stop paying bills, but you can still cut back on your sadness and worry. It can even start with how you act here on Facepunch. If there’s a user you’re having a quarrel with, back away. Do you like to argue? Do an experiment and avoid it for a few days. See what happens. Chances are you might find that you don’t miss it. Do you have a self-destructive friend? Remove your ties to them if they’re just dragging you down. You’re not obliged to save the world- if you try, it’ll just take you down with it.

Another thing that has helped me is to open my mind to change and develop a more global viewpoint. Embrace customs and people of other cultures. Put in more effort to learn about them. Your world is bigger than your home, your town, your country. Reflect on your morals, your principles. Were they taught to you? Which ones do you really believe? These are the things you live your life by, so examine them, and see if you want to perhaps change them. Open your mind and your heart to principles from other cultures and take what you can from them.

This guide isn’t meant to prove that I’m right and I’m not saying I know everything about the world or that this guide will help everyone. You might feel that this doesn’t completely apply to you, but I encourage you to take what you can from it. I put my heart into writing this, so I hope I can spread a bit of happiness in return. Also, this thread is meant to start a discussion. Talk about the things that make you happy, your happiest experiences, or what you think of what I’ve posted. How important is happiness to you? Love, breathe, enjoy the sunshine. Have a happy day. 🙂

-Facepunch

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