Is happiness something you do, or is it something you are? Can you work on being happy or are you born a happy person or a sad, depressed person?
Heck, is happiness even a worthy pursuit?
We should only pursue or try to control things that we have some ability to control, and is happiness one of those things?
Viktor Frankl has this to say about happiness and success…
“For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it.”
Happiness is an emotion, a feeling. Emotions are unreliable, they can change without our input or desire, and because of things that are out of our control.
Trying to be happy is trying to manufacture emotions.
Try being in love; it won’t work. You either are or aren’t.
There are, however, things we can control and habits we can form that will lead to greater happiness in life.
Happiness ends up being an offshoot of other things in our lives, habits and achievements that take work, discipline, and sound decision-making.
So yes, you can become a happier person, and in this article we’ll look at concrete ways of doing so.
How to Be Happy
…By Knowing How to Not Be Happy.
There’s often more clarity in finding what not to do than what to do. When trying to be a happier person, you cannot – oddly enough – pursue happiness. Still, there are other concrete things you cannot do as well, things that will push happiness and success of any kind further into the future.
You can’t be lazy. Laziness has never won anyone anything. It’s a desire for ease over accomplishment. It will not bring happiness no matter how much momentary pleasure you may enjoy from said laziness.
You also can’t follow or act upon every one of your desires. We have a dangerous fallacy in today’s way of thinking, it’s that our desires are natural and therefor good. NO! If you’ve ever had road rage you’ll know that there’s a momentary desire to beat the living hell out of the fella in the other car.
That’s not good, no matter how you try to justify it.
Most desires, I’d argue, are horribly destructive. We have a natural tendency to opt for ease and pleasure, when it’s discipline and overcoming obstacles that gets us something better, that helps us become someone better.
Don’t ever envy or hold jealousy in your heart. To go alongside this point, you may have to shut down social media. It’s essentially viewing a small portion of someone’s life that they want you to see, devoid of anything they do not want you to see, and it almost forces comparison.
You see their life and you wish you could do what they’re doing, but you have no idea what actually goes on behind closed doors.
Never have any envy toward anyone, never compare your life to anyone else’s, never have any jealousy toward anyone.
You’re running your own race with your own struggles with your own talents, joys, struggles, and victories.
ONLY run your race, never try to run anyone else’s.
…By Knowing What Makes You Happy Over the Long Term.
Humans need work. We need achievement, struggle, obstacles to overcome, and we need to feel like we’re improving. Work – and getting better at what you do – is a necessity in life.
And it doesn’t really matter what you’re doing, so long as you’re trying to be the best at it or to simply become better at it.
That’s why happiness and joy in a given field increases over time, and why those who are constantly hopping from job to job in pursuit of something they like may never find it because they don’t give any line of work enough time to give them what they want – meaning, achievement, and bigger challenges.
Not only do you need worthy work to be happy, but you have to be working toward something or for someone or something other than yourself.
Because humans need achievement like we need air. Achievement is evidence that we’re here for a good reason, that we’ve made use of our time.
Without achievement happiness becomes far more unlikely.
From a very practical standpoint, you’re not going to be as happy if you’re fat, unhealthy, and constantly low on energy.
Simple rules to follow:
- Don’t eat too much (stay at a caloric maintenance, if not, deficit)
- Make sure you get enough omega-3 fatty acids (fish oils), up to 4 grams a day.
- Make sure you get enough vitamin D (I suggest using this supplement)
- Be sure to eat enough protein, carbs, and fats (learn more in the Man Diet)
To live a happy life, a good life, a life where you’re able to achieve, to learn, to experience, to work hard, you can’t be eating crap that messes up your brain chemistry, lowers your testosterone levels, and makes you fat.
A simple rule, if you can kill it, eat it – that includes plants. If it’s not something you can kill, avoid it.
You need 7-8 hours of sleep. Nothing more, nothing less.
A lack of sleep will mess up your brain, your endorphins, and your hormones. It’ll send your stress hormones skyrocketing, and it’s when we’re tired that we thinking illogically, often in ‘worst case scenario’ terms.
You can ensure a good sleep by following a sleep schedule. Simply practice going to be at the same time every night and – most importantly – waking up at the same time every morning.
This will get your body on the rhythm it needs to be on for optimal, quality, happiness-inducing sleep.
Physical Pain and Struggle.
In his book, The Depression Cure, Stephen Ilardi, pH.d, was involved in a decade-long study of modern hunter-gatherer societies.
What they found was ZERO cases of depression.
No central heating, no TV, they have to hunt for their food, each member of society plays a clear role – the men hunt, the women cook and take care of the children and garden.
And they struggle. Life is physically hard. It’s almost like we need hardship to be happy. When life is too easy we’re left to ponder things we ought not to be pondering.
We become far too introspective and retrospective.
We dissect our past and worry about our future rather than living in the present.
Physical hardship through things like exercise also releases dopamine and other powerful hormones and endorphins that create feelings of wellness.
We have an internal reward system that’s designed to reward us for doing hard things, why?
Because hard things produce good things.
You need real, physical struggle in your life if you’re going to be happy.
Overcoming Worthy Obstacles.
You also need challenges, and the bigger the obstacles you overcome, the more pride in who you are and what you’ve done you’re going to feel.
This is simple: set goals and challenges for yourself, and do whatever you have to do to overcome them and achieve said goals.
If you don’t have anything you’re aiming for you don’t have anywhere you’re going or any real reason for being here.
Appreciate What You Have.
At the same time, you have to find things to be grateful for, and you have to do this daily.
Our monkey-brains, lizard brains, whatever you want to call them, are evolved to look for danger, things to avoid, in order for our survival.
They’re not evolved to look for good things, though those good things are all around us.
Be grateful for your family or your freedom, the work you have, the challenges you face, the things you’re trying to achieve.
Write these things down at least once a day just to ensure that you’re focusing on the right things and not always looking for the lion lurking around the corner waiting to chomp your head off.
Stay in Your Lane.
Finally, stay in your lane, run your own race, fight your own fight.
Have your own goals and pursuits. Don’t try to live someone else’s life or compare yourself to someone else.
It will rob you of happiness and joy. You also have to spend time figuring out what you really want and get after it.
Set your own goals. Run your own race. Put your blinders on and do your absolute best with what you have and where you are.
Get after it.