Simple Rules For A Happy Life

Simple Rules For A Happy Life

During my third year of college, I was asked by a lecturer what my goal in life was. My young, naive, 21-year old self, simply answered: “to be happy and free”. 

It was a much simpler time when I was asked that question by my university lecturer! Thinking back, it was a time in my life devoid of any true worry, except for the blasé stress of tests and exams. There were no bills piling up, rent to pay, fridge to fill, meals to cook or health issues to worry about. Life seemed endless and seemingly limitless. Now, my fully mature, adult 35-year old self has had to realise that happiness and freedom are not as easy to achieve as it seems. 

It is also true that happiness and freedom are indeed very complicated facets of life. This becomes even more apparent when illnesses and conditions such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder and anxiety add another layer of complexity, seemingly unwilling to let you discover or maintain eternal happiness. 

Throughout my life, I have firmly held onto the belief that we are responsible for our own happiness. People eventually disappoint, relationships fail, beloved pets pass away and earthly possessions break or get stolen. So it just doesn’t make sense to place the responsibility of my very own happiness on any of these things. It is also true that I wallow in a very deep depressive space, more often than not. But I was reminded of my “happy and free” goal again today, when I read this quote:

You’ve always had the power, my dear. You just had to learn it for yourself. – Glinda, the Good Witch 

Such a wonderful life lesson Glinda gave Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz! Some people spend their whole life searching for happiness. While you may think wealth, power, and fame will make you happy, you may be looking in the wrong place. In fact, all the riches in the world won’t guarantee a happy and fulfilling life. And I do know that finding even a glimmer of happiness is very difficult when you find yourself in the middle of a depressive month or year, so let’s take baby steps at a time. Following are the “Four M’s” – four easy to remember and achievable steps you can start taking right now toward a happier life: memories, mindset, meaning and moments.

  1. Memories matter more than things. Material wealth is often assumed to lead to happiness. However, keeping up with the Joneses places artificial demands on you that undermine your happiness. These demands force you to work harder and harder to cross a finish line that keeps moving further and further away. Remember, material possessions get old and wear out. Memories last forever.
  2. Your mindset matters. Rather than getting upset and blaming someone else if something goes wrong today, take control over your emotions by saying, “what can I learn from this experience?” Resolve today to learn how to develop positive thinking and a positive attitude toward yourself, the people around you and your life. Look at the bright side, see the good in people, challenge yourself, be grateful, believe in yourself, and have faith.
  3. Give your life meaning. Everyone was put on this earth for a reason…what’s yours? Find your purpose and pursue it with gusto. It’ll add bounce to your step, make your heart smile, fill your soul with pride, and be proof positive that you’re making a difference. Remember, when you do something for satisfaction rather than reward, the reward is often the satisfaction of doing it.
  4. Make every moment matter. Live every day to the fullest rather than reliving the past or worrying about the future. The fact is, precious moments pass in the blink of an eye. And once they’re gone, they’re gone forever. Remember, life is like playing musical chairs — you never know when the music will stop.

If you are used to living with a “glass half-empty” mentality, that’s ok. Optimism is a learned behaviour, and with practice, your self-talk will contain less and less self-criticism and more and more self-acceptance. You may also become less critical of the world around you and be able to handle stress more constructively.

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