Are you happy?
It’s a question that is rarely asked. Maybe because we are all too scared of how we would answer it.
A psychologist and professor at the University of California, Sonja Lyubomirsky, researched happiness extensively and came up with a famous formula. It argued that 50% of our happiness was dependent on genetics.
This means that if your parents were miserable a-holes, chances are high that you are predisposed to being a miserable a-hole too. I can personally vouch for this one, as I am sure many of you can.
Much of our ability to be happy stems from our upbringing.
The tiny sponges we once were soaked up habits and behaviors from those who were our caregivers. I was constantly exposed to inherent misery, anger, and paranoia. I believe it had been passed down from generation to generation in oblivious denial.
It wasn’t until adulthood, the adoption of my black sheep label, and some raw self-awareness that I started seeing patterns of behavior that simply weren’t mine. They were learned; they were perpetuated by me, and I was utterly miserable.
This is why I tend to have a soft spot for the black sheep of any family. It’s not always the case, but usually, they are on a path of breaking some destructive behavioral patterns and are being ousted because of it.
There is nothing harder than being the bearer of breaking the generational curses.
However, even if we break free of generational patterns, we still seem to be lost in terms of what happiness actually is, and how we can cultivate it. More often than not we confuse pleasure with happiness. Speak to an addict, of anything used in excess, and they will be able to give you an accurate perspective of how pleasure does not bring you any kind of happiness.
Here are three ways I practice and embrace real happiness:
1. Take responsibility for everything in your life.
I had a friend who was entirely convinced that everyone was out to get her. She was a master of the victim mentality, to the point where her reputation preceded her. Everyone eventually avoided her and her relationships crumbled. Any new relationships she formed followed suit. She was left alone in her bitterness and resentment, all because she refused to take responsibility for the things in her life.
Good and bad things happen to us all.
We may not always be responsible for what is happening to us—our car breaking down, someone hurting us, being out of shape, dysfunctional families—but we are always responsible for how we respond.
People who have developed healthy patterns that cultivate happiness never ask themselves, “Why is this happening to me?”
Instead, they ask, “How can this help me grow?”
2. Practice building courage.
Fear is a human being’s constant companion. We can bank on fear being a huge player in our life. Anything that takes us out of our comfort zone causes fear and anxiety. It will constantly sabotage our happiness if we allow it.
We have to practice building our courage and doing things despite the fear. You will instinctually know when you are letting fear win. There will be a nagging sensation in your gut, followed by a million excuses.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” ~ Nelson Mandela
3. Happiness is not found in external validation but through internal validation
This is the bane of our existence. We live in a society geared to make us feel pretty shitty about ourselves most of the time, and we develop an unhealthy reliance on the validation of the external. This kind of validation is reliant on only one thing—how we appear to others.
Again, I refer to a friend, someone who I believed had it all, when I still fell into the trap of validating myself externally. She had the looks, the house, all the travel she desired, the ideal partner, yet she was the most miserable person I had ever met.
Internal validation is something we have complete control over, and it increases happiness as well as self-esteem. It starts with simply establishing what you want; how you want to live; what really matters to you; and how you see yourself sans the external.