A recent Harris poll reported that only 33% of Americans describe themselves as being “very happy.”
So does that mean that not all happiness is equal? Assuming there are different grades of happiness, how can we go from minimal, short-term happiness, to long-term happiness which no doubt equates to being very happy?
Short-term happiness would be the thinnest form of happiness, I imagine, because it means you’re only happy for a reason. In other words, you got a new job, a new relationship, or maybe you’re finally getting that divorce — and therefore, you’re happy.
And while no form of happiness is permanent, this form of happiness appears to be the most fleeting. Because what happens if you don’t like your new job, or if your new partner leaves you for someone else after a week? The initial happiness will probably fade quicker than a temporary tattoo.
Being very happy, on the other hand, is where your happiness can survive work drama or bleak dating prospects.
This doesn’t mean that very happy people blindly accepting whatever is happening to them. On the contrary, they are usually the first to initiate a change in circumstances, especially if they feel they’ve done everything they could do to aid or repair the situation. Daily meditation and gratitude exercises are now widely accepted as tools to fortify your happiness.
But I wanted to present other, less obvious action steps that we can use right now to go from short-term to long-term happiness.
1. Don’t be easily discouraged by unfavorable circumstances.
As we usually see with time, life circumstances aren’t always as bad as they look, or as good as they seem. Despite what strange things happen, remember that life has an uncanny way of turning out for the best. Instead of being guided solely by external circumstances, strongly consider what you’re feeling in your heart, and practice making your final decisions based on the still small voice within.
2. Let go of control.
One of my favorite internet memes is “Don’t worry, nothing is in control.” There is very little that any of us are in control of. Even our own minds are operating on autopilot for much of the time. Therefore, practice letting the chips fall where they may, and accepting people as they are. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have expectations. We all do. But when they are not met (and as you know, this happens more often than not) try to adjust your expectations to accommodate the reality of the situation.
3. Increase your adaptation energy.
Since change is a common thread in all aspects of life, one of our greatest assets can be our ability to adapt to change. Without being able to adapt, we stay reliant on external factors going in our favor, which is the set up for the majority of the suffering we may be experiencing in our lives. While divorce, loss, and health challenges are a reality for many people, we must try our best to be supremely adaptable if we want to increase our happiness.
4. Cease to look at people or situations as the source of your happiness.
As many of us have realized by now, the "you complete me" approach to love is unsustainable and Hollywood is wrong: no person can make us happy, nor can we make anyone else happy. Instead of looking to get happy from a person or a job, we must view relationships and/or jobs as outlets for the happiness we have inside, and instead focus on how we can give more happiness.
5. Accept others.
This one seems too obvious to mention, but we all succumb to criticism and judgement? If you look close enough, everyone has flaws, but everyone also has virtues. Start with you. It’s not possible to accept yourself without increasing your ability to accept others. Learn to detect more of the beauty within your perceived flaws and you will dramatically increase your ability to see the best in others, which will result in increased happiness.
6. Protect your integrity as your most valuable possession.
When you live as though happiness comes from relationships, money, or any other acquisitions, you’ll be more willing to compromise your integrity in order to succeed and achieve. But not being able to sleep at night because you did something out of alignment with your moral compass is terrible for sustained happiness. As Abraham Lincoln said, “When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.” It doesn’t get any simpler than that.
8. Live from a state of abundance.
The opposite of abundance is scarcity. You may not have a lot of material success, but if you practice embodying the attitude of abundance, you will naturally become more generous and compassionate with others, which reciprocates to greater happiness within.