The world is not all sunshine and lollipops. It just isn't. Stuff happens, and we get caught up, and we forget about what's really important. Suddenly, we're not happy. We look around and we see other people looking happy, and we wonder what's wrong with us. Why are we so miserable?
So, first things first: You need to understand that even really happy people are not happy all the time. They do, however, have internal wiring that causes them to react in three basic ways when bad things happen and their in-the-moment happiness is quashed. These hard-wired responses are what keep them, in a general way, happy no matter what.
Sadly, not everyone has the wiring that generates this internal sense of continual happiness. In fact, most people don't. However, with a small amount of conscious effort, the effects are relatively easy to replicate. In fact, you can do this no matter how down you feel. Just use these three strategies:
1. Reframe it.
When something bad happens, instead of focusing on the negative you can "reframe it" in ways in which you see the positive side, or at least the potential for something positive. For instance, if you get laid off or fired from your job, the natural reaction is to wallow in shame and fear about the future. But the happy person's reaction is to see the situation as an opportunity for something new and better.
Maybe it's a chance to go back to school and start a new career, or to search for a new job at a better company, or to escape a horrible boss, or to stay at home and spend more time with the kids, or whatever. Remember: No matter what happens in life, there is always a positive side. Many people find that even a cancer diagnosis has a silver lining, as it gives them some much-needed impetus to reassess their lives and their priorities, helping them to understand what is truly precious.
Happy people stay in contact with loved ones, especially their partners, their close friends, and their immediate family. They are especially likely to turn to these emotionally intimate connections when things are really good or when life gets tough. These folks innately understand that a joy shared is a joy doubled while a sorrow shared is a sorrow halved. So when you're feeling down, reach out to the caring people around you and tell them what's taking place.
The simple act of doing this, even though it usually doesn't change the situation with which you're struggling, will almost certainly improve your mood. In similar fashion, you might focus on the well-being of others for a short while, especially those who are less fortunate than you, by volunteering or offering your time, expertise, and love in some other way.
3. Get grateful.
Over the course of many years, my colleague Brené Brown, with the help of countless research assistants, has interviewed tens of thousands of people of all ages, races, religions, political persuasions, sexual orientations, etc., focusing her work on happiness. And she has found one primary difference between those who are happy and those who aren't: Happy people are grateful for what they have. And it doesn't matter what they have, as long as they're grateful for it.
These individuals tend to focus on their strengths rather than their weaknesses, and to automatically reframe problems and regularly connect with others. Because of this, they are more hopeful, less stressed out, and less likely to be anxious or depressed. If you find that you're struggling with gratitude, get out a pen and some paper and write out a 10-item gratitude list. Don't be afraid to express gratitude for the fact that you have a roof over your head, food in the fridge, clean air, clean water, etc. Try to also include a few of your strengths on the list, like intelligence and a winning smile. If you do this, the results will amaze you.