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Simple question...hard to answer: How to be happy?

Jacob Lund

Hi everyone...let’s get into the big question. The BIG question. How to be happy. Yup, the answer to one of humanity’s most pondered questions...we want to know. And by the way, if you have the recipe, please share it! Seriously though, there’s no one answer to this question, as it means something different to everybody. Maybe that’s the key? To find out what your idea of happiness is and pursue it.

Let’s see what others have said when posed with this tough question...
What does happiness mean to you? The answers...

“Coffee and pilates in the morning. My cat, little furry creature of happiness. A turquoise sea with pine tree scent all around and crickets chirping in the background. Kisses and cuddling. To travel the world and see as many amazing places as possible…or reading a really good book that takes you away. The touch of the sun on my face and body, sunsets - My favourite music. The little things in life that are actually the biggest of them all, because those are the moments that create your life and make you feel alive. Alive and kicking.”  - Nina

Thibault Penin/Unsplash

“Talking with friends. Laughing for no reason...just for the sake of laughter. Going to the movies by myself and enjoying the solitude. Freshly-washed sheets. Rain on the roof when I can stay inside and simply be. A cold glass of bubbles on a porch as the sun goes down. Planning and looking forward to the holidays. Feeling amazing after a hard workout. Watching my niece and nephew grow. Going to the weekend market and buying freshly baked sourdough, hot coffee, and local produce. Writing stories. Reading books. My loved one whispering “I love you” before we fall asleep.” - Sophie 

“Knowing my family is healthy, happy and safe. Having a weekend ahead of me with absolutely no plans or obligations. Spontaneous trips away. Watching my favourite movie over and over secret. Conquering a new recipe. The feeling that I’m reaching my goals. The feeling that it’s okay if I don’t quite reach my goals, as long as I tried. Waking up and knowing I’ve got more time to snooze. Watching my dog eat treats. Sitting on a plane not knowing what to expect from my destination when I land.” - Shane 

What can we learn from these answers? Well, first of’s the simple things in life which make us happy. Not many people would say “lots of money, fancy cars, big houses and lots of fame”. And if they did? I assure you their “happiness” wouldn’t last long and they would find themselves craving simpler, more meaningful pleasures. 

Connections with others, ourselves and the wonder of the world around us are important. Physical activity and connecting with the body through fitness makes us happy. Nature makes us happy. Intimacy and affection make us happy. Striving and achieving makes us happy. Simply relaxing and feeling at peace with everything makes us happy. Laughing and sharing makes us happy. Food makes us happy! Being content with where, how and who we are makes us happy. 

What makes you unhappy? 

Now that we’ve seen the great side of happiness, let’s look at the darker side...unhappiness. Remember that being unhappy is a part of life at some time or another. The trick is to recognize your unhappiness, find the cause and make moves toward solving the problem. None of us are 100% happy all the time, but no one deserves to be unhappy 100% of the time either.

Here are the top reasons for unhappiness when we asked people what brings them down and undermines their happiness: 

- Fear of failure and the pressure to succeed and “be someone”
- Social media pressure and FOMO. Seeing other people’s fancy lives on social media and feeling inadequate in comparison
- Boredom in work and relationships 
- Feeling lonely and disconnected from people and surroundings
- Feeling stressed, overwhelmed and bogged down by responsibilities 
- Feeling unhealthy and unfit 

Jared Rice/ Unsplash

How to deal with being unhappy and how to change things

First and foremost, if your unhappiness is beginning to be unbearable, unmanageable or starting to make you feel hopeless and afraid, go and talk to someone ASAP. You may need a little help with getting through depression, which is completely okay and so many people out there are in the same boat! 
But if your unhappiness is more of discontent, frustration or a generally low and unmotivated feeling, you can turn it around. Here are some tips for changing your mindset and circumstances to go from unhappy to happy…

- Get rid of the fear of failure. Failure is part of life, it’s part of success. Failure means you tried. Find out where that pesky fear is coming from what you’re really scared of. Is it that people will judge you? Who cares, they’re not worth your time. Is it that you won’t be able to ever succeed? You will, just keep going. Life’s too short to be scared of failing. The most important thing is to be brave, bold and to try. 

- If social media makes you anxious and envious of others’ lives, romances, bodies, and jobs...get rid of it. And remember, it’s fake anyway. People curate their social media lives to look like how they want to be perceived. You can never know the truth of someone’s life. Even if they have the most glamorous holidays, hottest body and buckets of money, it doesn’t mean they’re happy. Start living in the real world and focus on real connections, conversations, feelings and experiences. See the joy in imperfection, mundaneness and normalcy. 

- If your job is boring you to death and you have the opportunity to leave and find something better, do it. Give yourself enough time to make the change but don’t leave it too long or you may never leave. Take the leap and let yourself free-fall for a while (if you can. I understand we need to feed our kids and pay the bills!). If you can’t change careers or jobs, do what you can to make the job more meaningful or challenging to you. You could retrain as you keep your current job. Go to night classes or take an online course. This will help your brain to stay stimulated and will lay the groundwork for you to switch jobs or careers in the future. 

- Get out of abusive relationships. Get out of relationships which you know aren’t going anywhere. This is a tricky one and requires a lot more than a paragraph! But if you’re not married and you don’t have kids...get out of that dead-end relationship now, take the breakup pain and begin to start your life fresh, new and excitingly solo. Better to be single and have the whole world ahead of you than be in the wrong relationship and feel suffocated. 

- Reconnect with friends and family if you’re feeling lonely or as though you’re drifting away from them all. A text, email, phone call or quick visit is all you need to do to get the wheels rolling again. Tell those closest to you that you’re lonely. Talking about it is sometimes the very best remedy. Just hearing from your loved ones that they love you and are there for you can brighten everything in an instant. Initiate get-togethers, join classes, go to local events...anything you can do to get yourself acquainted with the world and the people around you again. 

Jacob Lund/ Shutterstock

- Learn to say “NO”. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed and overworked. Pick your biggest priorities, focus on them, and leave the other responsibilities on the back burner for a while. Take time to relax and do nothing. Relaxing is not lazy, it doesn’t mean you’re not a hard’s crucial for a healthy mind and body. Breathe. Meditate. Watch trash TV in your jammies. Do anything you need to do to unwind and just be you. 

- Get out and walk every day or join the gym and do group fitness classes with a friend. Dance in your lounge. Eat nutritious foods and avoid too much alcohol and sugar. Drink water. Don’t undereat. Build your muscles and feel your own amazing strength. Don’t compare your body or fitness with anyone else, it’s your journey and your unique body. Get the blood pumping, the heart rate racing and feel physically alive. 

And finally? Know that it does get better. Life moves on and phases change and adjust. You will be happy again, you just have to let yourself. Let go of the pressure to be anything but your wonderful self, no matter what that means. Be in the moment, enjoy the little things, cherish your family, friends, and health, be grateful, be silly, laugh, eat, dance, be naughty, don’t take it all too seriously. You can do it! 

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