Everyone wants happiness, but only some people know where to find it. Counting on others to make you happy is sure to let you down. Finding happiness within yourself can be a much more reliable approach. Of course, you’ll first want to figure out what that entails.
Finding happiness within yourself starts with changing the way you think and where you put your focus. In that way, you can find happiness again and again. It’s a practice that takes time, but the more often you do it, the easier it will become.
To get started, get to know these six keys to finding happiness within yourself.
#1) Acceptance and happiness go hand in hand.
Developing your relationship with satisfaction in the world will go a long way toward helping you find happiness within yourself.
What do I mean? We can turn to the Buddha to explain it. According to that dude, all existence is defined by suffering. We suffer when we’re attached — when we have expectations. We are either craving something or are averse to something. That’s the whole reason that suffering happens. And suffering, of course, is the opposite of finding happiness within yourself.
According to the Buddha, there’s no reason to despair. The Buddhist Eightfold Path presents the way out of suffering. Essentially, the Eightfold Path is a place of acceptance of your reality.
Byron Katie offers a modern voice on the topic. She instructs us to accept that the thoughts we’re thinking probably aren’t true. At the very least, we can’t be absolutely sure that they’re true.
So if you don’t like what a particular thought or idea does to you, you might as well think of something else. Sure, the new thought may be untrue, but the old one probably was too.
The way to find happiness within yourself is to release yourself from the truth that doesn’t serve you. Instead, find a fact that does. Give yourself an interpretation of reality that works for you.
Accepting Your Own Inevitable Death
Could you use some practice with this idea of acceptance? Start by thinking about your death. Sure, pondering death seems like a dark way to become happy, but it can work.
You want to reconcile yourself with the fact that you’re going to die someday. Everyone that you’ve ever met will die. That’s simply an unavoidable truth.
The evidence stacks up. Everyone, including you, is going to die. Accepting that simple fact frees you to focus on what’s most important in your life and inevitably moves you toward finding happiness within yourself.
Acceptance vs. Resistance
The opposite of accepting your inevitable death is resisting it. When you resist something, you often become more averse to it. You either say you don’t like it because it’s too awful or not good enough. Either way, whichever story you tell yourself will only lead to suffering.
We say things to ourselves like, “this shouldn’t be this way,” or “it was supposed to be different.” The problem with these ‘should’s and ‘supposed to’s is that they are just a kind of argument we are having with reality.
When you let go of these stories, you stop wasting energy on resisting what is and start to accept things, even if you’re in pain. When we stop thinking about what should or shouldn’t be, we free ourselves to move through the world in harmony with reality.
This can profoundly impact your ability to find happiness within yourself.
#2) Find out what’s keeping you from inner happiness.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to suffer. It’s not valuable or beneficial to me. Some people, though, seem to think that suffering is accomplishing something for them.
For instance, I have a friend who always says people don’t like him. “Nobody likes me; everybody hates me” — that sort of thing.
Granted, I don’t know for sure what’s going on in his head when he says these things, but he sure seems to be suffering. That’s what the look on his face says, at least.
But if he wanted to escape this particular suffering, he could.
Think about it. At face value, these negative thoughts are rather miserable. He doesn’t feel connected to anyone when these things run through his head. He’s not noticing his connection to people.
He gets a reaction from them, though. People often jump in and respond when he expresses these things aloud: “That’s not true! We love you!” This reinforces that suffering monkey. Expressing negative thoughts has become a way for him to get a quick hit of validation. Suddenly, he feels a semblance of connection to others.
If he wanted, he could figure out how to get that result without beating himself up in the process. His ultimate goal is to feel validation or connection. He leans on his “woe is me” spiel because it’s easy to get what he wants. The downside is that he loses his power.
But with some self-examination, he could figure out how to address that desire more constructively. For example, he might ask himself the powerful question, “how might I experience more connection with others?” He’d probably end up a happier person.
How about you? Perhaps you have secret reasons for doing something a particular way (or for not doing something). Take time to root out why you do what you do. Once you identify your underlying desires, you can start to fulfill them in a way that brings you real happiness.
#3) Meditation is a tool for finding happiness within yourself.
First, a disclaimer. Meditation isn’t a magic button that makes everything about your life happy. But it is a tool you can use in your quest to find happiness within yourself. It also isn’t some magical practice for peace. Meditation is great at helping you become aware of the difference between the thinker and the thoughts.
Meditation helps you notice your thinking. When you’re paying attention, you can spot your non-resourceful thoughts. Then, you can start to do something about them. This is crucial because if you haven’t noticed your thoughts, they might still have power over you.
Meditation also allows you the space to find useful things to think about. Here’s an exercise you can try right now:
- Pull up a memory of a time when you felt the happiest.
- Plant that memory firmly in your mind.
- Recognize that that thing isn’t happening in the world right now. And yet, you’ve improved your happiness just by thinking about it.
Improving your happiness in that way doesn’t take any external circumstances. Nothing changed in your environment. You found it entirely within yourself.
#4) Finding happiness within yourself in this present moment is possible.
I walked right into a spider web today. Yuck. At that moment, I’ll admit, I felt less than happy. But I didn’t let that feeling stick around.
Here’s what I did instead. It was silly, but it worked for me. Maybe a similar approach will work for you too.
- I laughed at myself. I took it one step further. I broke out a goofy British accent and said, “Got a big stick for that!” (talking about the staff I carry with me on my walks)
- Tip #1: When something threatens to derail your happiness, try being playful with the experience.
- I gave myself some reassurance. “You’re fine,” I told myself. “That spider’s long gone.” Was that true? Maybe, maybe not. But I said it to myself and found that belief in my mind. Tip #2: Instead of worrying, fill your mind with reassuring thoughts.
Note that it’s not that I am lying to myself or deceiving myself. I’m just focusing my mind on thoughts that don’t rob me of my energy and happiness in the moment.
If there had been a spider and it had bitten me, I would have dealt with it then. There was no sense in obsessing over it and being unhappy before it had happened. And even in that moment of dealing with a spider bite, I would have been able to find happiness then too.
Thinking about what might come keeps you from staying in the present. If inner happiness is your intent, then focus on being in the present moment. Look around; you are the center of the universe in whatever direction you turn. Why should the center of the universe be sad? Only if you want to. There are times when we want to feel sad. This is ok. If, on the other hand, you don’t want to feel sad, then the center of the universe can feel happy happy happy!
#5) Happiness doesn’t depend on your outside circumstances.
Goals are great. I encourage you to set goals and do what it takes to achieve them. (In fact, I recommend checking out my guide to personal development goals.)
Despite the importance of goals, they’re not the key to finding happiness within yourself. Inner happiness doesn’t depend on identifying the right goal; you can find happiness within yourself even if you never accomplish any of your goals.
That’s because internal happiness is just that: internal. It’s not influenced by what’s happening in the world around you. You don’t have to change your world to find happiness within; you can just change how you think about the world.
#6) Finding happiness within yourself is a habit you can develop.
Cultivating inner happiness is changing how you think about things and where your mind is focused. When you do that, you’ll find happiness again and again.
Will one round of changing your focus give you internal happiness forever? No. This is a practice.
The more often you remember to do it, the more readily it will come to you. Like any practice, this one takes repetition, again and again.
There’s no magic involved. It’s just the careful, deliberate work of developing an internal happiness habit.
To be truly happy, choose to find happiness within yourself. You can develop a habit of inner happiness through acceptance, meditation, and living in the present moment.