I work at “being happy.” I meditate. I listen to affirmations. I focus on the positives. And yet, I often still find myself frustrated, discouraged, or disappointed. Yes, the lifestyle I’m cultivating has reduced the amount of time I spent feeling those things, but it doesn’t feel like the happiness I’ve been seeking.

It can feel like the universe is playing a joke on you, providing exactly what you need, then challenging you in equal measure. Yesterday, I dealt with chronic physical pain, but finished the day anticipating tomorrow, setting intentions to live that day exactly how I wanted.

I ended up not sleeping at all last night. This morning, exhaustion, frustration, and pain had me ready to quit before I started. I moped. I read. I listened to some positive affirmations. I tried to meditate. Every failed attempt to get back into a positive state of mind actually pushed me further away from my center.

That’s when I realized it wasn’t the universe fighting against itself. It was me fighting it. Yes, effort is required to redirect a bad mood. But the pressure we put on ourselves to overcome challenges can build on itself, making us feel less capable, more out of control.

The secret is forgiveness. Accept that wherever you are in this moment is OK, and consider every step toward releasing negativity a victory. Sometimes, all it takes is making a conscious decision to stop worrying about it and be present. That’s not happiness. It’s something deeper.

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Happiness is elusive, fleeting. But joy is not. The instant you internalize that every moment you experience is a gift, you'll be flooded with an overwhelming sense of calm. You know this moment of your life is being lived to its fullest.

That assurance is present in the back of your mind, even when everything seems to go wrong. When your body aches, when you miss your train, when your relationship is struggling. Even then, when you take a moment to stop and appreciate what you do have, the sense that this moment is perfect will be inescapable. You'll celebrate the single breath that tells you you’re alive. That is joy. And I’ll take that over happiness any day.

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