Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year's reflections: Reaching happiness

Sunrise at Long Beach Island

Today is New Year's Day, a day many people use to reflect on the past and plan for the future, both of which usually are connected to some level of happiness or content. This got me thinking about a piece I'd originally written in 2007 about reaching happiness and decided to update for today as I consider my goals for 2016. The original title I'd written to was "The Myth of a Secret to Happiness."

If the secret to happiness was located in a treasure box, this is one box most people would probably love to find the key to unlock it and discover its contents. Throughout life many people are in pursuit to find everlasting happiness, some are able to achieve a level of happiness while others continue to desperately seek a semblance of it. Is there a such thing as true contentment? Is total happiness even attainable? Or is the level of content simply something that comes from within oneself?

While many things are unknown, one thing is for certain, there is no one fits all answer or secret to finding true happiness. If an individual looks into his or her inner self, this is the first and most important step in the journey to discovering true happiness.

Approaches and lessons I've experienced to help set the tone to keeping my energy positive include:
  • Not letting negative people or situations maintain a "rent free" residence in my head. People cannot and do not have the power to change the behavior of others, so why let it consume you? Personally I've found once I've "let go", things suddenly seem so much easier, almost as if a huge burden has been lifted.
  • Adversity can have a positive effect, it doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing. Life has its challenges and puts roadblocks, sometimes big ones, on the route to achieving happiness, but these bumps in the road are often the hurdles needing to be crossed to lead a person to appreciate good times or learn something important.
  • Satisfaction with inner self makes you happier than any material things possibly can. Does the definition of happiness equate to getting every single thing you could ever possibly want or need? Material things are tangible and can temporarily bring happiness, but they cannot truly fulfill an inner void. Those voids ultimately surface later on.
  • Finding the ability to be comfortable in your own company and enjoying it is one of the important paths to take to happiness. A large part of achieving happiness is first learning how to like yourself.
  • Living with the philosophy of being proactive and not reactive. This is a big one for me. Choosing words and actions carefully rather than rashly responding allows time to think. I've found focusing on the positive instead of the negative does amazing things to the psyche. Anger and resentment can turn out to be big roadblocks in the journey to happiness.
  • Happiness comes from within, and then external factors perhaps enhance it. Finding peace with oneself and one's surroundings contributes to achieving happiness. It's OK to make mistakes, part of the happiness journey is learning from mistakes.
  • Learn from the experience of others. I once made a friend, it was a brief friendship, we lost track years ago, but some words of wisdom he shared with me will stay with me forever. It changed my outlook on life. I doubt he even had a clue the positive energy he sent my way had such an impact. People often drift in and out of one another's lives never even knowing what effect they've had on someone else. 
Reaching happiness is no mythical secret, but I believe it can be reached through a series of self-reflection and positive energy. Disappointment, anger and regret have a tendency to consume an individual's persona and get in the way of happiness. However, we can push that stuff aside to reignite good feelings and move to a happier life.

Once you get there, share it with others. Happiness has a tendency to be contagious.
Happy New Year! Wishing all the best things for you in 2016.

Photo credit: Leigh Goessl/All rights reserved