We all want to be happy.
But more often than not, we look for it in all the wrong places—in things like being well-liked, or having a big house and a successful career.
And when we have it all, we can’t help but wonder “why am I not happy?”
The reason is that happiness is something that needs work on both the inside and the outside.
So if you want to be happy, then you must do the inner work by embracing these 12 attitudes.
1) Putting your happiness on self-start
You’re bound to get disappointed if you rely on others for your happiness.
Now there’s nothing wrong with expecting things from loved ones like basic respect, but you can’t expect to make it their DUTY to try to make you happy.
Your happiness is ultimately your responsibility alone, and making it anyone else’s will only make things end badly for everyone involved.
They have their own lives to live, after all, and their own happiness to pursue.
So try to find your own sunshine rather than waiting for someone to bring it to you.
2) Accepting that life isn’t easy
Life isn’t easy, and that isn’t going to change whether or not you accept that or not.
And in fact, pretending that life is “easy” or that everything is going well will actually make things harder for you.
You’ll be setting yourself up with lots and lots of positive expectations that are eventually bound to be proven wrong.
It might seem contradictory, but to be truly happy one needs to be a tiny bit jaded and accept the dark side of life.
It’s only when you know the worst life has to offer and understand why things are the way they are that you can keep them from dragging you down.
Failures, heartaches, and disappointments become much easier to bear when you accept that they’re just part of life and can come at you at any time.
3) Accepting that people are flawed and complicated
You should learn to accept that people suck sometimes—and most of the time, they don’t really mean to.
If your partner cheats on you, it’s not because you’re ugly, undeserving of love, or not good enough. Instead, it’s possible that your partner is full of insecurities that’s why they can’t say “no” to anyone giving them attention.
And you’re not a despicable person just because your teenage sister gets mad at you all the time. She’s likely just at wit’s end between teen hormones, stress from school, and her monthly pains.
So cry as much as you want over your cheating partner, or to get frustrated over your moody teen sister… but don’t dwell on it.
Nobody’s perfect. And the things they do are not automatically reflections of who you are, but who they are.
We’re all a bunch of imperfect and moody beings, and it’s a fact of life that we’re going to annoy and hurt one another quite often day by day.
4) Looking out for the silver lining
There’s a lot of good to be seen in this world, as well as a lot of bad. They aren’t always present in equal amounts, but it’s rare for there to be so much of one that it overwhelms the other.
So barring truly extraordinary circumstances, whether you’re happy or sad is a choice.
If you seek joy, you’ll find it. If you seek negativity, well… you’ll find that, too.
For example, one can be happy with having a one-bedroom apartment precisely because they have an apartment. On the other hand, another might be miserable knowing that they only have a one-bedroom apartment, and not a mansion.
While it would not do to look away from injustice when you see it happen, it’s always worth it to try and count your blessings.
Life can be very overwhelming.
We have way too many things to handle every day, and it only gets worse the older we get or the higher we climb on the corporate ladder!
It’s almost like it’s impossible to have a stress-free life past 20 and, well, stress is quite infamous for its ability to keep us from feeling happy.
But we can’t be miserable forever.
And one solution to this is to simply take things as they come.
Of course, we make plans and set targets. But when working or taking life’s challenges, we should just focus on the task at hand, and reserve tomorrow’s worries for tomorrow.
6) Letting others’ success inspire you, not destroy you
Riches, smarts, and fame actually do little to make us happy in the grand scheme of things. In fact, I would bet that a lot of otherwise “ordinary” people are much happier than the billionaires people look up to.
Envy and jealousy for what other people have, however, does a lot to ruin your ability to feel joy.
You don’t want to go around thinking “hmph, what about me?” or “obviously they’d win, they’re naturally lucky!”
Instead of being bitter, you should learn to let their success inspire you.
You want to think things like “My friend is an amazing artist, and it took her six years of practice. I can do that, too—to the things I really love to do!” instead.
Besides, we all have our strengths and weaknesses. The only person you can fairly compete with is your past self.
7) Letting the past stay in the past
It’s easy to be haunted by the past, by things you’ve done or have failed to do. It’s equally easy to lose sleep over “what ifs.”
And the longer you live, the more mistakes you’ll make. If you don’t learn to let things go, you’ll be burdened by so much pain you’ll struggle to move forward.
There’s nothing you can do about your mistakes at this point anyways. The best thing you can do is learn from them, resolve to do better, and move on.
It’s tough, I know. But the only way to go is forward if you truly want to be happy.
And if your regrets are really just so deep and traumatic that you can’t fix them on your own, then don’t be afraid to call upon a therapist for help.
8) Not trying to please others
The thing with letting others’ approval determine your happiness is that the happiness you get from it is fragile and superficial. But the unhappiness you get from not getting it is real and haunting.
So stop trying to impress your friends, parents, partners, and kids.
Don’t take this to mean you should disregard their feelings, of course. Simply learn to be happy (or at least okay) regardless of what their opinion on you might be.
By removing this burden, you’ll be able to live a life that’s truly your own…which is essential for real happiness.
9) Enjoying the small things in life
When was the last time you decided to take a step back and enjoy the sound of rain?
Or perhaps took the time to slow down and truly appreciate the flavor of your morning cup of coffee, rather than just gulping it down for your early morning boost?
What about that warm feeling of comfort you feel just sitting in silence right next to a loved one?
It’s unfortunate, but many of us have long since lost the time and freedom to enjoy these simple pleasures.
But in failing to appreciate these small things, we make our lives that much shallower and easier to commodify.
So relax, take a deep breath, and slow down for a while. And challenge yourself to pay extra close attention to the wonderful things that are in front of you.
10) Looking beyond yourself
What’s interesting about happiness is that it comes most often when our hands are occupied, and especially so when we’re offering others our help.
Instead of thinking about yourself and your troubles, wondering if you’re happy or not, look up. Try to reach out to a friend, neighbor, or colleague who’s in a bit of a bind and try to see what you can do for them.
Give a free ride to someone who needs it. Volunteer. Donate. Give someone a hot meal.
Instead of thinking too much on how you can be happy, think of how you can be a source of joy to others… and then start doing those things.
You’ll be amazed how people’s happiness can bounce back to you, especially when you stop caring about your own.
We’ve come to associate happiness with material possessions and personal conquests—things like a brand new car, the latest iPhone, and a big fancy house.
Some people even consider their partners and kids ‘conquests’ they’re meant to be proud of somehow.
But if you think about it, if these belongings truly represent happiness, then how did people find happiness hundreds of years ago?
Finding true happiness is something we all have to learn in the modern age, and it starts deep inside of us.