Everyone wants to be happy, but rarely do simple formulas for happiness really help. To be genuinely happy—not just the superficial happiness that comes when things are going well—we must learn how to be fundamentally okay with our life just as it is. This is not so easy, but there are some specific guidelines that definitely can help. Here are ten that many have found helpful.
· Examine your entitlements. Take some time to reflect on what you feel entitled to, especially feeling entitled to comfort or appreciation. Having entitlements guarantees ongoing disappointment; yet, when we see them clearly, they lose their power.
· Get out of your head. We probably spend ninety percent of our time lost in the head—in planning, worries, conversations and fantasies. Getting out of the head and coming back to physical reality—like the simple awareness of the breath and the environment—cuts through the power of our thoughts to dictate how we feel and act.
· Refrain from judging yourself. This is crucial, since much of our unhappiness comes from believing that we’re not enough. To the extent that we can recognize our self-judgments, and then refrain from indulging them—we increase our ability to experience true contentment. Doing a loving kindness meditation regularly, perhaps more than anything, helps undercut our tendency to judge ourselves.
· Curb your addictive behaviors. Everyone has some behavior that they’re addicted to: the internet, overeating, people pleasing, trying harder, and on and on. The goal is not to destroy our addictions, but to understand that these behaviors only provide temporary satisfaction. When we see this clearly, we’re already somewhat free of them, and we can begin the healing work of staying with the inner discomfort out of which our addictive behaviors grow.· Learn to pause. This is especially important when we’re caught in an emotional reaction, such as anger. Pause, return to awareness of the texture of the breath, and simply try to feel the breath for the duration of three breaths. This allows us to step out of the mental melodrama, and perhaps have a refreshing taste of reality. It also allows us to then return to our experience with less reactivity.
· Meditate daily. Meditating every day, even if only for 20–30 minutes, helps us learn to be at home with ourselves as we are. Although it may take a long time to establish the discipline of a daily practice, without it it’s very unlikely that we will be able to experience genuine equanimity.
· Practice gratitude. Every night before going to sleep remember what happened during the day that you are grateful for. Often we forget to be appreciative, yet being grateful is one of the essential attributes of being truly happy. Doing this nightly reflection will gradually become part of your mindset during the day, and you may begin to be appreciative of many things that you would have otherwise not been aware of.
· Learn to give in relationships. Think of one thing you can give that the other wants, such as truly listening to them, or not criticizing them. This may at times be difficult, which in turn will force us to work with our own self-centered views and desires. But as we give, we learn that genuine happiness is more about giving than about getting what we think we want.
· Learn to give at work. Instead of thinking about work in terms of what you’ll get, think about what you have to offer—your own unique gifts, including doing an undesirable task as well as possible. Giving from the natural generosity of the heart is a key to true contentment.
· Practice forgiveness. Think of one person you can’t forgive and invite that person into your heart. Instead of seeing the person as your enemy, try to understand that whatever they did came from their own pain. To experience forgiveness is like letting go of a heavy burden. Forgiveness is freedom. Forgiveness is genuine happiness.