Things I’ve learned about happiness as I face seniorhood.
Despite what some people may think, I’m not a grumpy guy. I don’t walk around with a chip on my shoulder. And I don’t sit in a rocking chair on my front porch, telling the local kids to get off my lawn. No, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned how to become a happy person. And the good news is, you can be a happy person too!
Given some of the comments I’ve received from a few folks over the past couple weeks, I thought I should address this in a blog post. Because, though I may write articles about my pet peeves, or the declining intelligence in the human race, I generally don’t complain. I’m far too happy to bother griping about things I don’t control. Life is too short!
I tend to write from a place of irreverence. I would hope that was obvious.
I’m Really Not Hard Done By
Like so many of us, I’ve had my share of tribulations. I’ve had moments in my life thinking I’ve been done wrong. Moments when I thought the world was unfair and against me. And that sometimes led to a nasty temper tantrum as a young adult!
But as I got older, I tended a little more toward critical thinking, compassion, and patience. That patience thing was a biggie!
But I also know I’ve had a pretty good life, and I don’t have much to complain about.
I don’t compare myself to others, because I can’t possibly know what trials and challenges they may be facing. And I recognize that there are many folks who face daily trials and obstacles that I couldn’t understand. But I do notice one thing; too many people are looking for something that will make them happy.
October 10 is World Mental Health Day, a day to raise awareness of mental health issues, and to mobilize efforts to support mental health. And as my contribution, I want to help you find your happy place. Because happiness does wonders for our physical, spiritual, and mental well-being!
The thing is, happiness doesn’t just happen because something good came your way. Happiness is a choice. You don’t need to wait for happiness to happen, just choose to be happy today. If you take anything from this post, let it be that. In a nutshell; change your attitude, not your circumstance!
Dr Karl Pillemer, PHD, is Professor of Human Development at Cornell University. He wrote a book back in 2011 entitled “30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans”.
The book details his journey to learn what older people know about life that the rest of us don’t. So he interviewed over a thousand people over 65. One of his key takeaways was, “Happiness is not a passive condition dependent on external events…Instead, happiness requires a conscious shift in outlook, in which one chooses – daily – optimism over pessimism, hope over despair.”
So the big question is; how do we become a happy person? For most, it should start by figuring out how you define “happy”. Some people think being happy means having an absence of negative emotions. But no one can realistically go through life on 100% positive emotions. We can’t all be Emmet from The Lego Movie!
How To Become A Happy Person Starting Today
Moreover, different cultures can define happiness differently. So nailing down an all-encompassing definition of happiness gets a little tricky.
But the American Psychological Association has come up with a decent, generalized definition that fits a variety of circumstances. They define happiness as “an emotion of joy, gladness, satisfaction, and well-being.” And other experts use the term to describe a deeper sense of fulfillment, satisfaction, or contentment. Sound good! Let’s continue!
And because I’m such a helpful, happy person, and I just want the same for you, here’s 3 tips to becoming a happy person.
I know you’ve heard this before. Practicing an attitude of gratitude leads to a happy life. And it’s true! Gratitude leads to higher levels of well-being and happiness. Therefore, learning how to become a happy person begins with gratitude.
There are several ways to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. For example, letting those people close to you know that you’re grateful for them. In addition, you can begin or end your day thinking about the things in your life you’re grateful for. This is something I’ve adopted over the past year or so. And it really does make a big difference to my day!
And if you really want to go all in, keep a “Gratitude Journal”, writing daily a list of things, people and circumstances you’re grateful for.
Now, does some of this sound just a little to “woo-woo” for you? Get over it! Get out of your head and be grateful.
So, did you know that having strong social relationships leads to improved happiness and well-being? And I’m not talking about having 500 Facebook friends. In fact it is said that close relationships and warm connections with other people are one of the biggest elements of happiness.
Now I should point out, I’m not always so great with this one. I like my own company, and sometimes it feels easier to just be with myself, rather than getting together with friends.
Haven’t spoken to a close friend in a long time? Take ten minutes and call them up. And you’ll make both your days.
Or connect with a nearby friend or family member and go for an evening walk. Again, it benefits both of you.
Moreover, it’s okay to be an introvert. You can still make connections with those close to you without turning it into a party. Just take that small step and reach out.
Yes, one of the best practices for becoming a happy person is the one most people won’t do.
Now be honest, how many of you can sit in a quiet space and do absolutely nothing for 10 or 15 minutes? I’m betting most of you don’t, won’t, or think you can’t.
And I’m not talking about quietly scrolling Instagram or your Facebook feed. No, I’m talking about sitting and being alone with your own thoughts, just focusing on your breathing.
So for those of you who think you need to be doing something, or you’re wasting your time, it’s time to get real.
We are not “Human Doings”, so stop acting like one.
How about this? A 2020 Canadian study published in Frontiers of Psychology found that;
“Mindfulness-based practices have broadly been found to have several benefits including, but not limited to, reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as enhancing attentional focus, working memory capacity, cognitive flexibility, positive mood, resilience, immune functioning, interpersonal relationships, and well-being.”
Okay, so now you have all the tools to become a happy person. All that’s left is to actually use them. Make this year’s World Mental Health Day count for something in your own life. You’ll be a happier person for it!