A continued period of high stress about what could go wrong is not good for our wellbeing. If you’ve read the works of Nostradamus, you might see the end of the world lurking around every single corner.
You probably also saw people spending time worrying that the world would come to an end along with the Mayan calendar in December of last year. Let’s not forget movies have sold millions of tickets about Martians invading. For some people this is a welcome and brief entertainment, for others this is an ongoing cause of concern.
Extreme religious sects have based their entire teachings on ‘end-of-the-world-beliefs’ – Harold Camping preached that the world would end on May 21, 2011 – a movement that controls followers through the use of fear.
Fear and worry – especially unmanageable ones such as end-of-the-world prophesy’s - can be big roadblocks to happiness, for a variety of different reasons.
“A mind that is afraid withers away; it cannot function properly,” wrote Jiddu Kristnamurti in his book “On Fear.”
Not only that, but fear can stop you in your tracks, bringing about a sense of stagnation – almost as if you’re waiting around for something. As you worry and fret, you’re putting stress on your body and mind, and as you’re on high alert for something that may never come, you’re wasting time that could be spent making life improvements and increasing your happiness.
“The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out ... and do it,” said Susan J. Jeffers in “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.”
Sure, sometimes life throws boulders in our path. We fail to get the promotion we worked so hard for, the person we thought was “the one” decides to break it off or a natural disaster strikes too close to home.
Even after a boulder passes, there will likely be others to follow. Of course we could climb into bed and cocoon ourselves against the problems of the world, waiting for happiness to miraculously drive up and knock on our doors, or we could face our fears and fight them off in a true quest for happiness.
According to Dr. Timothy Sharp, author of “The Happiness Handbook” and founder of the Happiness Institute, as with anything, it takes work to be happy.
“Those who fail to plan, plan to fail,” said Sharp. “Just like in any other life domain, the pursuit of happiness requires planning.”
But by taking action and working at happiness, we create the opportunity to realize that we are more capable than we might have ever known, boosting our self-esteem and making us feel better about ourselves in the process.
By setting goals to be happy and doing things that make you happy – essentially putting in the work – you can rock yourself out of the waiting game and sow the seeds of real happiness with clear, concise actions.
See the good in the now
Look around you and truly recognize what it is about your life that is good. Knowing how to focus on the good rather than the bad can change perceptions, meaning that instead of planning for the end of the world, you’ll instead be looking ahead to tomorrow with expectation and excitement.
“The only moment in which we can be truly happy is the present moment,” said Sharp. “The only moment over which we have control is the present moment. So be happy now. Because if not now, then when?”
This means that as difficult as may be, it’s important to stop waiting around for happiness to come.
You can say “I’ll be happy when I land the dream job, lose the weight or get married,” but chances are pretty good that even if you do land the dream job, reach your goal weight or find your soul mate, you’ll still find yourself putting off happiness for some other goal.
Even if your life is not exactly what you’ve always hoped for right now, recognize what is good about it and revel in it. Finding happiness in the now doesn’t have to be a measure of what you have, but rather how you see your life and the good things in it.
Celebrating the good in all its forms is vital to happiness.
Understand that we all make mistakes, and some of them can be pretty big ones. But we can learn from them, and grow because of those lessons, no matter how painful.
Because of the errors we’ve made, like a broken bone that heals even stronger, we are better than we were before because we know more. Rather than dwelling on those mistakes, see them as opportunities for growth, and appreciate the blessing.
Train yourself to find the positive side
The song “Keep on the Sunny Side of Life” was written in 1889, but the idea remains absolutely true.
No matter what comes your way, finding the light present in the darkness is key to real happiness.
The Dalai Lama said, “The central method for achieving a happier life is to train your mind in a daily practice that weakens negative attitudes and strengthens positive ones.”
While the idea of positive affirmations might seem simplistic, finding a way to replace the negatives with positives are key to ensuring that we feel amazing and capable, every day of our lives.
“The Power of Positive Thinking” became a bestseller for Norman Vincent Peale because the idea works.
According to self-help guru Anthony Robbins, affirmations help unleash the power within, reminding us that we are able to accomplish dreams and goals by erasing the self-doubt and negativity that can erode happiness.
Negativity is like a curtain that blocks the sun. Since the sun is an essential nutrient to grow and heal, opening the curtains and letting the sunlight in through positive affirmations can ease bad feelings and create a sense of hopefulness where once was despair.
Keep the following affirmations in your arsenal to haul out when times are tough:
- Every day in every way I am getting better and better.
- The past is gone. I live only in the present.
- My good comes from everywhere and everyone. All is well in my world.
After time – because your mind flexes and responds to this new way of thinking – you will begin to turn more naturally to positive thoughts, while the negative ones are kept at bay.
By insulating yourself from negativity, you’ll also be protecting your health, according to Dr. Christopher Peterson of the University of Michigan, who found that optimistic people have a stronger immune system than their pessimistic cousins.
Optimists tend to take better care of themselves, Peterson said, and therefore feel better – and happier – as well.
Have gratitude for the little things
Whether it’s a sunny day, a kiss from a puppy or a fuzzy blanket on a cold day, take the time to appreciate the small things in life, says author Gretchen Rubin in Good Housekeeping magazine.
“I’ve long been haunted by the words of the French writer Colette: ‘What a wonderful life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner.’ That quote is why I've been working hard at finding happiness in the small, ordinary details in life and appreciating the adventure of everyday existence,” she writes.
Life has its highs and its lows. But being aware of what’s good in your life can make those lows feel easier to bear.
To reinforce those good feelings, try to do things that you enjoy every day.
Whether you find happiness in sipping a cup of tea while watching birds from your porch, spending time with your partner, taking a long bath or walking in the woods, make time as often as possible to do the things you enjoy doing.
Make a move
Sometimes, a big jolt of change can do the trick and transform your life from bad to good and release a sense of happiness.
If you find yourself immersed in misery, fear and worry, maybe it’s time for a change of scenery.
Clearly, your job, your relationship, whatever it is that’s going on in your life, isn’t working. If you’re in a situation to make changes, doing so can make a big difference.
“You have been blessed with immeasurable power to make positive changes in your life,” said Steve Maraboli in his book “Life, the Truth, and Being Free.”
Ultimately, our happiness rests in our own hands, and we alone have the power to make the changes we need to be happy.
Sticking around in a bad situation can leave you feeling stagnant – if you do what you’ve always done, you will get the same results, many experts have said - but making a move, taking on fear and doing something unexpected, can reveal inner strength that you never realized you had.
“We can't be afraid of change,” said C. JoyBell C., author of “The Sun is Snowing” and other poetic works. “You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea.
There is fun to be done. Make it a point every day to tell yourself that today, on this new and wonderful day, things are changing. And on this day, anything is possible.
It may lead to the end of what was once a little world, but remember what the band R.E.M. said about that: “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.”