Try these seven things to find your keys to a happy life.
Most believe that happiness is just a feeling you sometimes stumble upon – if you’re one of the lucky ones. But what if it were possible to actually unlock it and have it readily available to you by using specific keys to a happy life?
It turns out there are very specific things you can do to experience more happiness in your life. But before getting into the keys to a happy life, let’s explore what happiness truly is and why it’s so important.
What is happiness?
Happiness is often thought of as any positive emotion. Words that people will often use to describe being happy include bliss, joy, gratitude, contentment, delight and enjoyment.
Yet these terms aren’t specific enough for happiness researchers because they want something they can measure. Researchers tend to define happiness as “subjective well-being.” And this means that the more satisfied people describe themselves as being along with the amount of positive emotion they experience, the greater their subjective well-being and the greater their happiness.
What this points out is that happiness is about much more than a fleeting or temporary emotion. Happiness is about the experience of more positive than negative emotions and an overall sense of satisfaction with your life.
Why being happy is important
It turns out that there are more benefits to happiness than just a general sense of feeling good.
- When you’re happy, you’re more likely to have healthier lifestyle habits including a healthier diet, getting regular exercise, even better sleep.
- Your immune system is stronger so you’re less likely to catch colds. You’re more resilient to stress.
- Happiness can help lower blood pressure.
- Happy people tend to live longer.
- Your perception of pain may be reduced – especially if you have a chronic pain condition like arthritis.
It also suggests that you’ll be more successful across multiple areas of your life besides your health. These areas include marriage, friendship, work performance, community involvement, and mental health.
The same research even shows that happiness precedes many different types of success. In other words, we start to achieve more of our goals and find greater satisfaction in our lives when we’re happy.
Why your keys to a happy life will be uniquely yours
What’s interesting is that there isn’t just one way to find happiness. Happiness, just like every other emotion is a personal experience.
Despite its personal nature, we can often recognize happiness in others – just as they can recognize it in us.
The problem is there isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula for happiness. That’s because it is a subjective experience. What makes you happy may not make me happy.
For example, I love to find interesting bugs in my yard. I’ll take pictures and watch how they behave. I’m thrilled when I find one I’ve not seen before. (Below is a picture of a rhinoceros beetle that I found on my back porch.)
Despite how much happiness I feel when I find an interesting bug, some of my friends aren’t so happy to see the pictures or hear the stories I tell about the creatures. (Maybe you don’t like seeing the picture of the rhinoceros beetle either.)
Because we are all unique, what exactly brings us joy will be unique too. However, there are some similarities in what tends to bring people happiness.
What are some areas to examine to see if you can dial up your happiness?
The following seven categories capture some of the most common ways people report finding happiness.
- Decide you want to be happy
It might sound silly, but sometimes simply deciding you want to be happy and then following that decision up with appropriate action can make you happy. It doesn’t mean that you’re flipping some kind of happiness switch by deciding to be happy. It does mean that you’re paying attention to your thoughts and attitude.
Happiness is easier to attain when you have a positive attitude and tend to be a glass half full kind of person. It’s also easier when you can manage your emotions and thoughts so you can redirect them toward happiness when it’s appropriate.
When you decide to be happy, you’re taking responsibility for your happiness. You’re not letting someone else have control over whether you’re feeling contentment or happiness, but if they contribute to it that’s icing on the cake.
Taking this responsibility on means that you’re going to do what’s necessary to experience more joy in your life. You’ll look for ways to increase the pleasure you experience in each and every day.
- Expect to be happy Our perceptions color everything about our experiences. Have you ever noticed that when you expect to have a bad day, you usually do? Well, the same thing happens when we expect to be happy.
Positive expectations can help form our experiences into good ones. Of course, unexpected things can still happen, but when we choose to expect that we’ll be happy we tend to gravitate toward happiness.
One of the easiest ways to condition yourself to be happy is to look for joy in each day. It may be just a fleeting glimpse of a cloud that reminds you of a tree or a flower, but when you take the time every day to notice when you have a positive emotion, you’ll start building your expectation of happiness.
- Be grateful An attitude of gratitude, practicing appreciation and accepting what is can all influence how happy we feel. Research in positive psychology has verified that there is a positive association between being grateful and happiness.
Part of focusing on gratitude means that you’re not complaining or focusing on worry without searching for the cause of the worry so you can resolve it.
Being grateful doesn’t mean that you’re always on the lookout for something amazing to be thankful for. You can be thankful for the little things. You can be grateful for a good stretch, seeing someone you love smile or even just the feel of the sunlight on your face.
Gratitude can also easily flow from everyday victories. Maybe you need to celebrate that you got the dishes washed or loaded in the dishwasher. Maybe it’s time for a high five with your puppy when they understand what “Sit” means. Maybe you deserve to celebrate the prospect of the day when you first open your eyes in the morning.
- Forgive Most get forgiveness and condoning poor behavior confused. Forgiveness is about letting go of an experience and choosing to move on from it. It is not about condoning or approving of poor behavior in any way.
When we can forgive our shame, guilt, anger, resentment and any trauma we may have experienced, we tend to feel lighter and happier. Shame, guilt, anger, resentment and trauma weigh us down and keep us from being our best.
When we can accept and forgive ourselves and others for imperfection, we can be more present. And when we’re able to focus more on the present moment it’s easier to find the joy inherent in it.
- Be Connected Feeling connected is empowering. And there are all kinds of ways to feel connected.
You can feel connected to yourself, to others and even to the ineffable life force that flows through us all. Some call this sense of connection love.
You also can feel connected to your purpose and passion. Most of us feel a great sense of contentment when we’re connected to our passion and purpose in life.
You can achieve connectedness by increasing your self-awareness, practicing self-care, meditating, spending more time in nature and contributing to the world in some way.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.” Happiness can be found through actively choosing to connect.
Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.
- Be You It’s nearly impossible to be happy when you don’t allow yourself to be who you truly are. When you try to mold yourself into who someone else wants you to be, or who you think you should be you’re disrespecting yourself. And it’s pretty hard to be happy when you’re disrespecting yourself and pretending to be someone you’re not.
When we truly embrace our imperfections and unique perspective, we become confident. Confidence then allows us to more fully explore our world and our place in it. And the exploration allows us to expand our limits and be even more fully ourselves.
Think of it as a confidence-happiness cycle. As we get to know ourselves even better, we feel more confident and experience more contentment. And the more easily we can recognize our keys to a happy life.
- Share Your Happiness Have you ever noticed that it tends to be easier to match someone’s emotions instead of bringing joy with you? But what if you do choose to share your happiness – even with a smile. Doesn’t that make you happier too?
Sharing your happiness is one fairly easy way to expand your happiness and that of those you encounter. You can share it through a great story, a hug, a kind word, or even a smile.
These seven paths to finding happiness are just the beginning. You may find your keys to a happy life within this list or just be inspired to search in another direction. Finding happiness requires action and you won’t find your sustained sense of wellbeing without taking action.
What if it doesn’t work?
However, finding happiness isn’t always easy. Sometimes we have challenges that we need support to overcome. Sometimes that support and encouragement can come from family, friends or a life coach.
But if you find that you have difficulty finding or sustaining happiness no matter what you do, it might be a good idea to talk with a therapist. Therapists are trained to help people find the support they need to begin finding their keys to a happy life.
The good thing is that we all have the capacity to experience happiness as more than just a fleeting emotion. We just need to find our unique keys to unlocking our wellbeing and contentment.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation for personal support in finding your keys to a happy life.
Looking for more information about how you can have a happier life? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Building A Happy Life.
You can co-parent with minimal contact & still raise happy kids.
You would think that two adults could figure out how to handle co-parenting after divorcing. It sounds like a no-brainer, “mature” thing to expect — that parents would naturally put their children above their own feelings.
But if life followed the ideal, couples would walk down the aisle once and for good, and co-parenting wouldn’t have to exist.
We all know that being an adult doesn’t guarantee wisdom, discretion, or even maturity. And bringing children into the world doesn’t guarantee that parents know how to parent. (And it certainly doesn’t guarantee that they will know how to handle co-parenting after a divorce, especially when one parent hates the other.)
Once upon a time, children of divorce were awarded to their fathers because women couldn’t own property. (Yes, children were considered property.) Fast forward to the Industrial Revolution and on into the mid-20th century, and that all changed.
Today’s adult children of divorce can easily expound on the custody arrangements of the mid- to late 1900’s. They normally lived with one parent (usually the mother) and saw the other parent only every other weekend.
The concept of co-parenting is still relatively new and, like every other model of post-divorce parenting, has its issues.
One of the obvious challenges is how to handle co-parenting when one ex hates the other. The risk, of course, is that the hatred will pass through the children or, at the very least, affect their well-being.
In order to gain perspective on co-parenting when there is an undercurrent of hatred, it’s important to first understand healthy co-parenting. Among the twelve requirements for successful co-parenting are the following:
- clear boundaries
- open dialogue between parents
- consistency in rules and parenting styles in both homes
- absolutely zero tolerance for disrespectful talk about the other parent, whether in front of or from the children
When co-parenting is seen through this lens, it’s easy to see how parents wouldn’t know how to handle co-parenting with hatred on board. After all, something as basic as having an open dialogue with or not bad-mouthing an ex can go against what feels instinctive.
If you are on the receiving end of an ex’s hostility, co-parenting will require some extra forethought and strategizing. But if both of you can at least agree on one non-negotiable — that the kids come first — you can make co-parenting look seamless. And, more importantly, you can ensure a healthy, happy upbringing for your children.
Below are tips for how to handle co-parenting with an ex who hates you. Some will rely on common sense and mature communication skills. And some will open you to the advantages of current trends and technology. Collectively, they will set everyone up to succeed without forcing incompatible exes into uncomfortable scenarios.
- Remember your non-negotiable: the kids.
All of your co-parenting efforts should revolve around this commitment. Your association with your ex no longer has anything to do with your marriage. It is now only about how to handle co-parenting.
If you are going to maintain this parenting arrangement, you are both going to have to rise above your personal feelings and old hurts. Co-parenting is a generous arrangement for all involved. And if done in a healthy way, it optimizes a child’s chances of living a happy, well-adjusted life. It also makes life easier (and more comfortable) for everyone in the child’s life.
- Set boundaries.
It’s to be expected that negative feelings like anger, resentment, and even hatred don’t disappear when the divorce decree is signed. So, if your ex hates you, don’t let the hostility stop you from asserting healthy co-parenting practices on behalf of your children.
Until the iciness from your ex melts a bit, you will have to rely on clear boundaries to minimize your contact. Having boundaries in place will help you feel more secure in your co-parenting arrangement. You won’t feel so threatened or fearful of unexpected power plays by your ex. And you won’t have to guess about how to communicate with someone who hates you.
- Get organized and document everything.
It’s difficult enough to keep track of kids’ schedules when everyone lives in the same house. But when there are two homes and two ways of doing things, organization is essential.
Consider taking advantage of online technology to help both you and your ex be great co-parents without having to spend much time in direct contact. Here are five online communication tools for co-parents.
Using a custody calendar will ensure that everyone, including the kids, knows what’s going on where and when. And using a digital expense tracker can make sharing expense information easy…and always documented.
If you and your ex have a hostile relationship, it’s important that you document any agreement violations. As much as we would all like to believe that divorced adults would know how to handle co-parenting, problems sometimes arise. Having documentation can make for quick resolution of problems, especially if the courts become involved.
- Change your expectations.
Obviously you shouldn’t lower your standards for the care of your children. But be realistic in your expectations of the person you were once married to. And don’t expect more of your ex than you did when you were married.
- Use a third party for transfers if necessary.
If you and your ex can’t live up to an amicable exchange of the kids, it may be best to have a trusted third party transfer them. You can even choose a neutral site to avoid uncomfortable feelings or the temptation to launch into an argument.
- Don’t bad-mouth your ex in front of your kids.
And don’t allow your kids to speak disparagingly of their other parent in front of you.
Taking the high road may feel impossible if you have an ex who hates you and lets you know it. But remember your focus — the kids.
- Think like your children.
Your relationship with your ex is not your children’s relationship with their other parent. Except in rare cases, the parent-child relationship is forever, even if the parent-parent relationship ends.
You may not be able to stand the thought of your ex, but remember that your kids each reflect qualities of both their parents. They are entitled to a relationship with both of them. So separate yourself from your children’s relationship with their other parent.
Co-parenting is about making it safe and easy for your children to have a relationship with both parents. And children will do anything to make sure they have access to them. It is, in essence, a form of having access and connection to themselves.
Parenting is tough enough when everything is seemingly perfect. And it’s extra tough when done across divided homes.
Co-parenting may have as many rules and pragmatic considerations as it does benefits. But if two adults are able to rise above themselves and their relationship, they can model for their children the best in relationship and social skills.
And they don’t even have to see or talk to one another to do it.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I help people figure out how they can best co-parent post-divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re ready to take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach, you can schedule a private first session.
Looking for more information about how to handle co-parenting? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Co-Parenting.
You can move forward from the betrayal if you start with these 7 steps.
Who knew that one day you’d be searching for help on how to overcome marital infidelity? It’s not an experience anyone really expects will happen to them. After all, when we marry, we all believe that we’re different, that something as painful and heinous as betrayal on this level would never ever happen to us.
Yet, here you are, wondering if you can survive the horrendous pain of your spouse’s affair. And what does surviving even mean? Do you want to stay married? Do you want to leave? How can you even begin to think clearly enough to know what you want?
When it comes to knowing how to overcome marital infidelity and move on with your life, the truth is that you need to take things slowly – at least at first. Discovering your spouse has been unfaithful is traumatic. It shakes not only the foundations of your marriage and family, it shakes the foundation of your reality.
You begin to question what is real. And wonder if s/he ever loved you. Because you assume that the only way s/he could have betrayed you would be if s/he didn’t.
The reasons behind a person’s cheating are rarely simple. They’re usually quite complicated. And it’s the complicated nature of marital infidelity that can make knowing how to get over it and move on so challenging.
However, the best place to start healing from your spouse’s choice is by focusing on you. This doesn’t mean that you stop being a parent or that you ignore your other responsibilities. It means that instead of trying to figure out what your future holds right now, you focus on taking care of yourself.
It’s only when you’ve worked through some of the trauma that you’ll be able to make bigger decisions about your marriage.
To help you begin down the path of healing, here are 7 items for you to consider adding to your how-to-overcome-marital-infidelity to-do list:
- Accept the facts Denial is a normal reaction to learning something that you wish wasn’t true. It’s a protective mechanism to help you only deal with so much at any one time. However, it’s not useful in the long term. Denial can actually prevent you from moving on with your life if you don’t move through it.
So, no matter how much you wish it hadn’t happened. Your spouse cheated and you found out. When you can accept these facts, you will begin releasing yourself from the trauma.
- Reclaim your power – no more victimhood
It’s incredibly easy to believe that everything that’s happening is your spouse’s fault. And their choice to cheat is definitely 100% their fault.
However, when you remain a victim of their behavior and choices, you are powerless to change your life. And you’ll remain in the pain you’re feeling right now until your spouse – somehow – makes things right.
As hard as it might be, you need to find a way to believe that you are strong enough to heal and move on with your life – with or without your spouse. When you do, you’ll know that you are no longer a victim.
- Allow yourself to feel & constructively express your emotions Without a doubt, dealing with betrayal is traumatic. With the swirl of emotions, it’s normal to at first wonder if you can get over it. Then, it’s normal to begin wondering how to overcome marital infidelity with the hope that you’ll eventually be able to move on with your life.
The range of emotions you’re likely to experience can include everything from rage to despair. It can be helpful to recognize that part of what you’re going through is a grief process. And grief, just like all emotions, needs to be worked through and expressed constructively.
When you allow yourself to experience and work through your emotions, you’ll find that they eventually dissipate. If you choose instead to bottle up your feelings, then chances are you’ll find that the pent up emotions will come bubbling (if not exploding) out at unexpected and potentially inappropriate times. They’ll also keep you tightly tied to your spouse’s betrayal.
- Forgive Yeah, this is a tough one for most people. That’s because most confuse forgiveness with condoning bad behavior.
In this case, forgiveness is about refusing to let your spouse’s behavior, his/her affair partner’s behavior or even your behavior keep you a prisoner of the marital infidelity. Forgiveness allows you to move on with your life. It allows you to take the necessary lessons and use them to create a new and better life for yourself – with or without your spouse.
The other thing you need to know about forgiveness is that it can’t be forced. You’ll know when you’re ready to forgive all those involved and experience the freedom that comes with it.
- Nurture yourself Sometimes it’s really hard to take care of yourself when you’re feeling so hurt. Yet, you need to. You need to for yourself, for everyone else who depends upon you, and for everyone else who loves you.
So make sleep, eating well and exercise a priority. When you have these three working for you, it makes everything so much easier – including knowing how to overcome marital infidelity.
You may also want to pamper yourself with things like listening to your favorite music, getting a massage, taking a walk outside, or anything else that just makes you feel good about being you.
Trying to numb the pain of the betrayal with drugs or alcohol is definitely a bad idea. However, a little over-the-counter painkiller may be OK. Dr. Helen Fisher suggests that taking an Advil or an aspirin might be helpful in caring for yourself because it affects the pain centers in the brain that are impacted by loss.
- Accept appropriate responsibility Taking responsibility does NOT mean that it’s your fault your spouse cheated. Instead, it means that you choose to learn and grow from the experience.
Most marital infidelity happens for one of four reasons: unmet emotional needs, sexual dissatisfaction, lack of communication, or psychological issues.
When you take appropriate responsibility, you’re able to look at the root cause(s) of your spouse’s betrayal and know the part you played in the dynamic. Then, you can choose how you’d like to learn and grow based on this knowledge.
- Set a vision/intention for what moving on with your life means Once you’ve put in the effort to begin your personal healing journey, you’ll start to have the capacity to think about what moving forward means to you.
Do you want to work to heal your marriage? Many couples do this successfully after infidelity.
Do you want to work to create a new life for yourself as a single person? Many people do this successfully after infidelity too.
The key is that after you take the time to process some of your betrayal trauma you’ll be better able to make big decisions like what does moving on with your life after being betrayed mean for you.
When you discover your spouse’s betrayal it can seem counterintuitive to focus on caring for yourself. You might believe that you need to make a decision about the future of your marriage first.
Yet, learning of such egregious behavior from the one person you trusted to never behave like this is traumatic. And the only way to begin moving forward is to first deal with your trauma so you can more easily have the clear-headed capacity to decide what’s best for you.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I work with individuals struggling with how to overcome marital infidelity. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
Looking for more information about how to overcome marital infidelity? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Surviving Infidelity.
Yes, you can get over it.
Divorce isn’t a sign-and-done deal. Its aftermath can be emotionally eviscerating, leaving you to think you will never be whole again. (But you will be.) You may wonder if you will even recognize the signs of healing after divorce, given how badly you feel in the moment. (But you will.)
By the time two people get to the point of deciding to divorce, there is usually a lot of pain already under the bridge. Whether the marriage has been on slow dissolve or has suffered the blow of betrayal, divorce is the culminating loss of a great dream.
Even the most amicable divorce is an explosion of what was once at least somewhat predictable. You knew what you had, even if you didn’t have what you wanted. Your kids knew where “home” was. And your life was defined by the story you all wrote together.
But there is always a tipping point to mounting discord and disappointment, regardless of the cause. And reaching it can be shocking and surreal when you are left teetering on the precipice of an unsure future. Will there ever be healing after divorce? And will there be signs of healing after divorce to help guide you into future happiness?
The answer, believe it or not, is yes.
The realization that you have moved on from your divorce won’t come with fanfare and the passing of predictable milestones. Usually something will happen that would normally elicit an emotional reaction, and you will sail right through it.
It will be as if you forgot to remember to have feelings about what happened. And it will dawn on you that you have been this way for a while.
Here are 7 signs of healing after divorce. If you are going through a divorce or its aftermath, keep this list within reach. These signs will remind you that you are, in fact, getting over the end of your marriage.
- The memories lack their emotional power.
When you’re going through or are just out of a divorce, everything is still fresh in your mind. Your life lacks orientation, and the only things that ground you are the memories of a life you have just said goodbye to. The stronger the memories, the stronger the gut-punch every time they come up.
When you have truly come out the other side of your divorce, those memories will become facts in a story — nothing more.
Sure, you may have a whisper of sadness or regret. But you won’t feel like curling up in the fetal position whenever you remember or talk about your marriage.
- You stop wanting to talk about your marriage and divorce all the time.
Talking is a form of processing, so it’s only natural that you’ll want to bend any ear that will listen. You want a circle of supporters who will sympathize with all you have gone through and are still suffering. The urge to weave the topic of your marriage and divorce into every conversation can be almost uncontrollable.
But one of the signs of healing after divorce is not wanting to “go there” all the time. You have so many other things to talk about — like, how busy you are creating an awesome new life.
You also become more selective about when and where you talk about your marriage and divorce. And you recognize the value of professional help in processing your experiences and strategizing your future.
- You can acknowledge the good things in your marriage.
Rarely is there nothing good in a marriage — even a marriage that ends in an ugly divorce. You wouldn’t have married your ex if you both didn’t at one time enjoy one another and look forward to adventuring through life together.
When you’re going through a divorce, especially if you don’t want it, it’s easy to console yourself by disparaging your entire marriage. Somehow it takes the sting out of what you’re going through.
But the truth is, you chose your marriage. And you remained in it, for whatever amount of time, because of the good that held you together as a couple.
When you’re getting over your divorce, you’ll catch yourself remembering positives about your ex and your marriage. You’ll smile to remember some of the rituals and kindnesses unique to your relationship. And you won’t seek to cast off the lessons learned during your marriage.
- You take responsibility for your role in the marriage.
No matter what brought your marriage to an end, no spouse is totally responsible, and no spouse is totally in the clear. In the early stages of your divorce, you may be quick to blame your ex for all that wasn’t good in your marriage. But after you’ve had time to reflect and heal, you’ll find yourself taking ownership of your own stuff. You’ll have greater clarity and won’t feel threatened by acknowledging where you could have done better.
Of the many signs of healing after divorce, acceptance of personal accountability holds the most promise for a future relationship. It signifies growth and emotional maturity and shows that you learn from all your experiences.
- You stop stalking your ex.
It’s exhausting to keep your ex on an emotional ball-and-chain. Checking your ex’s Facebook page, driving by your ex’s home or office, asking mutual friends for information on your ex — it’s so much work!
When you’re truly over your divorce, you stop doing all that. You just don’t have the interest or time — primarily because you are so busy being interested in your own life.
- You don’t compare your new love interest to your ex.
You may notice similarities between the two, but you’re not swiping left or right because of them.
If there’s a positive similarity, you embrace it as a sign that you appreciated and learned from the good in your ex.
If there’s a negative similarity, you don’t drag your negative feelings for your ex into your new relationship. And you evaluate your new love interest on his/her own merits.
- You are happy for your ex and grateful for your marriage.
Gratitude is an incredible sign of healing after divorce. And when you can combine gratitude for your experience with happiness for your ex’s new life, you’ll know you’ve healed.
There’s no question that divorce turns your life upside down and inside out. It causes pain and a slew of other emotions you couldn’t have expected. It throws you into grief, it pulls you out of your routine, and it makes you question everything.
But please trust that life does get better. And love is not a lost cause.
The signs of healing after divorce will appear when you finally stop fighting. And you will recognize yourself again — now stronger, more responsible, and power-packed with skills to love again.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I help people just like you with finding their signs of healing after divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.