5 Steps to a Happier Life
Change your attitude, change your life.
A friend confided that she wakes up each morning with a tight feeling in her chest. “The news is so frightening, life and family pressures pull me, and sometimes I just can’t take it anymore.” It is easy to fall into negativity but we can help ourselves become happier and more positive.
While there are certain situations we cannot change, our attitude and spirit can most definitely influence our moods. When we focus on transforming our outlook we breathe new energy into our daily lives. If you want to be a happier person, begin by identifying where you can change.
1. Happiness is Our Choice
It is time to stop pointing fingers. Blaming others, being the martyr in a relationship, or thinking that it’s always someone else’s fault is a waste of our time and energy. We can accuse our boss, spouse, mother in law, or ‘karma’ for our unhappiness. Or we can decide that we choose our feelings, and no one can force us to choose misery. Once we accept that happiness is a choice, we begin to own our life. The moment we realize that this is true we start taking responsibility for our actions and moods. Life is too short to walk around in a chronic state of unhappiness.
2. Stop Expecting
We create our own obstacles by expecting behaviors and actions from others and then being let down. Once we stop anticipating we can move on and grow wiser. Too often we feel slighted or overlooked while in reality we caused our own bad feelings with unrealistic hopes.
A mother of teens shared that she is constantly being disappointed by her own mother. Birthdays, anniversaries, and graduations go by without being acknowledged. Every conversation is a self-centered dialogue. Here is this woman, already a mom of grown kids herself, finding herself lost in child-like emotions because her mother cannot meet her expectations.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if things were different? Of course it would be. But her mother is not changing and that’s a fact.
After years of hinting, discussing, and analyzing the bottom line is that the only way to stop feeling frustrated is to stop expecting alternative behavior. If this mom can take her experience and use it to acknowledge her own children with love and attention, then at least the experience will have been purposeful.
3. Invest in Friendships
Ethics of the Fathers teaches us to “Acquire for yourself a friend.” Our sages recognize how vital companionship is to our quality of life. Hundreds of Facebook friends don’t count. One good friend, who is loyal, kind, wishes you well, and shows good character is all you need.
But time creates distance. We become obsessed with our careers, engrossed in parental duties, busy with balancing budgets and responsibilities while good friends are left on the wayside. Sometimes we need to take a step back and ask ourselves if we have invested enough hours and energy into our relationships.
Spouses count as friends too. If all we do is talk about the kids, problems, and credit card bills we have failed to cultivate the most cherished ingredient of marriage. Love cannot grow without nourishing the friendship between husband and wife.
Our burdens become lighter and our joys become sweeter when we share them with friends. Don’t wake up one day to realize that you have lost touch and taken the best people in your life for granted.
4. Put the Past Behind You
Stop living life while looking in the rear view mirror. We bring ourselves down when we can’t let go of past hurts and mistakes. Allow yourself to say goodbye to the chaos that has hounded you. This takes inner courage and strength. But if you continue to hold on to the pain you will never see yourself as a potent force in your life. You are grieving, hurting, and aching but you are not living.
We are either the sons of our past or fathers of our future.
Victor Frankl explained that we are either the sons of our past or fathers of our future. “When we are no longer able to change a situation –we are challenged to change ourselves.”
I often meet people who tell me that it is impossible for them to be a good father or mother because their parent was such a failure. Instead of working on parenting skills they opt to walk away from their families and spend years talking about what dysfunctional parents they had. A new generation is being raised and there is another vacuum in the place where love and guidance should lead. What an awful way to live.
You can break the cycle and fix the mess if you can make peace with your past. Ask yourself this question: How can I make my today better than my yesterday? Give yourself real goals to help you move on. Embrace the people in your life instead of creating barriers. If you see that you are struggling with holding onto a grudge or that you can’t move forward, realize that you are allowing your past to destroy your future. It is up to you to discover the desire within to live life better. Studying Torah’s wisdom, surrounding yourself with positive people, and concentrating on choosing emotions like tolerance and patience instead of anger and resentment are all keys to finding serenity.
5. Rid Yourself of Envy
Jealousy creates bitterness. It brings out the ugly side in a person. Envy consumes –it does not allow you to enjoy your blessings. Instead you are too busy counting everyone else’s good fortune. Resentment grows as you view others Instagram photos, track vacations on Facebook, and attend weddings and Bar Mitzvahs with a begrudging eye. “What about me?” you wonder.
You don’t realize how unpleasant your comments have become. You slowly suck the joy out of every happy occasion. By focusing on what you believe you are missing, you lose touch with the good that you have been given. Discontent eats away any satisfaction you may have had.
Many wonder about the power of ‘ayin hara’-the evil eye. Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler teaches that an evil eye only has power on someone who possesses an evil eye himself. If one has a good eye and wishes others well, he has nothing to fear. Let’s use this teaching as a catalyst to rid ourselves of envy. We will discover that contentment is within reach. How much happier we will feel!
Why continue wasting emotions and energy on negative thinking? Despite the challenges it is possible to change our attitudes and transform our lives. Happiness is within reach. You can put these five points into practice and work on making it happen.