Are you ready to discover how to be genuinely happy?
Happiness. Genuine, effortless, unencumbered happiness. It’s the Holy Grail of our pursuits, the quest of our madness in a world bent on having more, more, more. We work harder, condense the contents of time, and speed up the hamster wheel with every step. All in an effort to be genuinely happy.
Every year, on the International Day of Happiness, the World Happiness Report is released. It ranks countries based on their residents’ life satisfaction, rated on a scale of 1-10.
The telling results? Negative feelings – anger, sadness, worry – have significantly increased over the past decade.
And, for all the bragging rights beheld by “America,” the United States doesn’t even make the top 10. Not even close. (Top honors go to the northern European countries.) Seems there is more to being genuinely happy than “living the American dream.”
So, what is it that all happy people know about being genuinely happy? If nationality, income, social status, and even health status aren’t assured predictors of happiness, what are the predictors?
One thing’s for sure when it comes to the secrets to happiness: Being genuinely happy is a choice…and an inside job.
Here are 9 things that all happy people know about being genuinely happy:
Happy people have a positive outlook.
There is inherent truth in that great perspective your elders used to counter your childhood complaints: There are always going to be people better off and worse off than you.
Happy people know that there are always going to be situations that don’t elicit a “yippee” from their attitude. Everyone suffers loss, everyone experiences personal injustice, and everyone has more than a welcomed share of “those days.”
But when a $6 latte spills down the front of her favorite designer dress, the happy person knows how to choose her response. “Dang it! Well, how fortunate I am that I can afford this coffee and nice clothes to wear.”
Happy people are grateful for what they have.
This doesn’t mean they have no ambition to improve their lives. It simply means genuinely happy people are focused on what they do have, not on what they don’t have.
Happy people are more likely to see possessions as fluid than as property that must be hoarded and guarded with their lives. (Yup, even with recent the fears of COVID-19.) They are as happy to share as they are to receive.
And, even as they strive to improve their lives, they are fully satisfied with (and grateful for) what they have.
Happy people are happy for others’ success.
We all know what the tug of jealousy feels like. Someone else gets something you’ve always wanted or believe you deserve, and your first thought is, “But I want to win Powerball!”
Happy people know there’s always enough for everyone. Enough success. Enough love. Enough happiness. They also know that pinning others down with jealousy only serves to suppress themselves – and their relationships.
And they don’t fake their excitement for others. It’s genuine. It’s also contagious. Inevitably success finds them, and all that goodwill comes pouring back to them.
Happy people don’t compare themselves to others.
There is always that fine line between comparing to get a gauge for progress and comparing as a gauge for the ego.
Genuinely happy people aren’t preoccupied with “keeping up with the Joneses.” They may observe some of the Joneses’ behaviors and decide they are worth emulating. But they don’t attach their self-worth to having the same possessions, titles, or successes.
Comparisons are only for self-improvement, not for competition.
Happy people take risks and confront their fears.
We all know someone who’s always the first in line for life’s tallest roller coaster. And they sit in the front seat with their hands in the air and a smile on their faces. It can be downright maddening and intimidating to watch!
Happy people aren’t reckless with their lives, but they don’t let fear stop them from living.
When Eleanor Roosevelt wisely counseled that we should all do something everyday that frightens us, she knew something about happiness. Turns out that leaning into the sources of our stress and fear unleashes creativity, increases productivity, and prepares us to handle change and adversity.
Happy people cherish and nurture their relationships.
We’ve all heard the adage that, if you finish this life with a handful of good friends, you have been blessed. Genuinely happy people know this in spades, and they are mindful to take good care of those relationships. They lead with kindness and compassion, no matter what the relationship.
They understand that you get out of relationships what you put into them. And they know there is no price you can place on the treasure of a good friend or beloved family member.
Happy people forgive.
Happiness is a light, elevating emotion. It can’t lift you if your life is weighed down by grudges and the daily ruminating of past hurts.
Happy people, as part of choosing happiness, choose forgiveness as a conduit to being liberated from negativity.
Happy people laugh.
Laughter is such good medicine – physically, emotionally, socially – that happy people won’t live without it. They know how to laugh at themselves and the ironies of life without laughing at the expense of others.
Because they don’t take themselves too seriously, they’re able to let go and experience the lightness and sparkling brightness of laughter.
Happy people keep their childlike wonder.
Having a sense of awe is an expression of humility – a sense of being small in a huge, wondrous world.
Happy people hold onto that capacity to be awed. They know it connects them to the world and to all forms of life that inhabit it. It makes life more enjoyable and less stressful, and it increases cognition while decreasing materialism.
And that is totally awesome!
Perhaps no one summed up the secret to happiness better than Abraham Lincoln: Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a divorce and life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation for support in putting together the pieces so you can begin feeling genuinely happy.
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.
Not all thoughts are true – no matter how much you believe them.
Living in an unhappy marriage can feel like no life at all. The imprisonment of feeling trapped and seeing no way out can extinguish your vitality and your hope for the future. But even in the worst of experiences that beg for an escape route, divorce isn’t necessarily a panacea. Whether or not you wanted the split, you probably didn’t anticipate thinking, “I have no life after divorce.”
It goes without saying that healing after a divorce is different for everyone. Just as there are so many unique factors and influences that come together in the commitment of marriage, so there are in a divorce.
Not only are there differences in divorce survival from person to person, but there are gender differences in surviving the consequences of divorce, as well. In general, men tend to eventually recover from the strain of divorce, while women tend to suffer chronically. Long-term differences in income and risk of poverty along with single-parenting set the stage for stark differences in post-divorce happiness.
Depending on factors like the length of the marriage and how it ended, divorce may seem like a step off a cliff into a dark unknown. Where will I go? How will I make money? What’s going to happen to my kids? Will I lose all my friends? Will I ever trust again? Will anyone ever love me again? Will I ever be happy again? Why do I feel as if I have no life after divorce? Will I always feel this way?
Before you can get to the point of rebuilding your life after divorce, you have to confront the reasons you feel so lifeless. Even if you’re the one who wanted the divorce, you may be surprised by its emotional impact.
Cognitive science distinguishes between two types of emotional suffering: clean pain and dirty pain.
Clean pain is a natural response to an objective event. Bereavement after a death. Sorrow and grief after a divorce.
Dirty pain, on the other hand, is a subjective self-assault that comes from your processing of painful situations. Negative inner dialogues. Assumptions about others’ thoughts. Presumption of judgment by others. Conjuring up a fatalistic storyline for your future.
If you feel stuck in the belief that “I have no life after divorce,” you are living in dirty pain. You are going beyond the natural consequences of loss and debilitating your future with negative thought patterns that keep you stuck.
There’s no denying that divorce is one of the most difficult and stressful experiences imaginable. It severs all that feels familiar and directed toward the future. It can change children forever and shape their own views of love, family, and commitment.
Here are some common reasons you might be stuck saying to yourself, “I have no life after divorce.” Connecting to these reasons and allowing them to speak can actually help you let them go and embrace a new, happy life.
- You have lost companionship and intimacy.
Unless you throw wisdom to the wind and head straight from divorce to dating, you’re going to spend some time alone. And a lot of that time, at least early on, is going to be painful and exhausting.
You won’t be coming home to someone with whom you can talk. You won’t have a built-in date for dinners out and plus-one events. And you won’t have the intimacy you may have taken for granted, even in difficult times.
That loss is huge. And it is so tempting to seek refuge in the company of someone new. But the loss of your relationship with your spouse will still be there.
- You will mourn.
The loss of a marriage is a death in its own right. Even if you needed to leave your marriage for your emotional or physical safety, you will still suffer a great loss. The loss of love. The loss of your dreams. The loss of your home. The loss of your children.
Life going forward doesn’t have a script, and the life behind you has just closed its book. You will be left to feel what you may not even want to think about.
But grieving is normal. And trying to circumvent its necessity will only prolong the process.
It’s difficult to feel like you have much of a life during the grieving process, but coming back to life requires it.
- If you have children, you will have to co-parent.
Suddenly the simple things like tucking your kids in at night won’t be so simple. Your children won’t be with you all the time, and yet, your ex will be in your life forever.
After all you’ve gone through to separate your lives, you will have to come together for the most important reason of all: your children.
No matter what custody arrangement you decide on, it will place limits on your life. Instead of feeling as if your options have increased, you may instead feel like “I have no life after divorce.”
Yes, you will have time without your children. But you and your ex will have to work harder to coordinate schedules and ensure you are on the same page regarding your children’s lives.
- Your finances may be a rude awakening.
No matter how illogical it may seem, couples often stay together for the money, just as they do “for the kids.” Giving up a lifestyle to which you are accustomed, only to take a major step down in the division of assets, can be life-altering.
You may, for example, have been used to being home with the children while your spouse moved up the ranks in his/her career. Both of you were contributing your all to a common goal.
But only one will walk away with a career and income stream intact. The spouse who has had the career won’t suffer diminished rights to the children. But the spouse who stayed home to care for them may have to start from the ground up on a career.
- The loss of your dreams.
You have spent all these years contributing your individual gifts and passions to a common future and dream. And suddenly that has all been ripped out from under you.
Expecting yourself to simply walk out of your established life into a new dream with a clear path is unrealistic. You will probably feel disoriented, ungrounded, floundering for a sense of who and where you are today, let alone in the future.
And when you don’t have a sense of direction, it’s only natural to conclude, “I have no life after divorce.”
Believing you have no life after divorce is a response to the all-encompassing life-shift that comes from losing your marriage. The idea of future happiness sounds impossible in the early stages after divorce.
You haven’t lost just your marriage and family, you’ve lost a huge part of yourself – at least that’s how it feels. All the qualities of yourself that are essential to dreaming of and building a life have taken a blow. Your sense of life, order, happiness, safety, and assurance has imploded.
But know that your perception of your life – in the present and in the future – will evolve. As you accept and embrace the finality of your marriage and the changes it brings, you will have a new foundation to build on.
Your divorce may have left you feeling lifeless today. But trust that rebuilding your life after divorce will connect you to the happiness you seek for tomorrow.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. If you’d like additional support in creating a life you love after divorce, you can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice or you can schedule a 30-minute private consultation with me.