Happiness is everyone’s ultimate goal in life.
You can have the world at your feet, but what’s the point if you don’t feel good?
But for a lot of us, happiness can feel frustratingly elusive.
Perhaps we are able to momentarily grasp it, but never keep hold of it. Or it might seem as though you have never able to find where it has been hiding.
Yet maybe you’re actually happier than you think, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. Here are some signs that it has always been there all along.
1) You’ve got a sense of humor about life
Sure, life doesn’t always seem hunky dory. In fact, sometimes it can feel more like a Greek tragedy.
But even during those times, you hold on to your sense of humor.
You can still laugh, including at yourself.
Far from being just some light relief, a sense of humor is an important life skill.
Studies have shown it can improve your mental health, and that being able to reframe negative events in a more humorous light can fight off depression.
Research noted that people who have certain types of humor enjoy better self-esteem, greater self-competency, more control over anxiety, and better performance in social interactions.
Being able to laugh about it when shit hits the fan gives your body and mind a protective boost.
2) You have lots to be grateful for, but you may not always see it
Unfortunately, society has a habit of making us feel like we’re not winning at life.
It does this by putting so much pressure and emphasis on things like money, achievements, status, and materialism.
We tend to forget that the most precious things in our lives are already available for free and right under our noses.
We get so used to them, that it’s easy to take them for granted.
That includes everything from food on the table to a safe bed to sleep in at night.
When we really start to pay attention, we can remember the wonders nature bestows all around us, from the setting sun to the vibrancy of a flower blooming in spring.
It might sound cheesy, but it’s true. All we need to do is get better at noticing.
That’s exactly why gratitude has been scientifically proven to improve sleep, enhance your mood, help you deal with adversity, boost your immunity, decrease the risk of anxiety and depression, and even relieve chronic pain.
If you wrote a list right now, could you find 5 things you were pretty lucky to have?
Because we so often need far less than we think we do to be happy in life.
3) You can take pride in your work
We don’t need to be doing our dream job in order to feel like we’re doing something worthwhile.
I’m all for tapping into your unique gifts and trying to get paid for them. But not everyone will make a career out of doing what they love every single day.
That’s just life. And it’s not a fact that needs to utterly depress us.
No matter what we do in life, we can choose to do it to the best of our ability.
We don’t have to find meaning in a task, we can apply it.
We make something purposeful by giving it our energy, effort, and attention.
You may not feel like it makes much of a difference, but it really does.
Doing your work with pride is what makes the work you do worthwhile.
4) At this very moment, life is perfectly fine
Here’s the part where we all too often trip ourselves up.
In fact, there are two parts to it:
- We create suffering for ourselves by living in the past and the future more than the present.
- We want to feel happy all of the time even though happiness is an extreme emotion.
Most of our problems exist in the past and the future. We worry about something that has yet to happen, or we ruminate over something sad that already did happen.
Unsurprisingly, it does us absolutely no favors, casting an ominous cloud over our heads.
But 99% of the time when we stop and focus on the exact moment we are experiencing now, nothing is wrong. There is no crisis that needs our immediate attention.
But “nothing is wrong” doesn’t quite cut it for us. We want to feel marvelous rather than just fine.
We often use happy as the benchmark, when really it’s an extreme (or at least elevated) emotion. It’s not realistic or sustainable to expect to feel joyful 24-7.
But when we swap happiness for contentment as the goal, we realize that we’re doing better than we may think.
Can you feel satisfied and at peace at this very moment? Because that’s the key to creating happiness.
5) You have people who you care deeply about
Research has shown time and time again that strong connections are the best predictor of a happy and healthy life.
Some of the benefits noted in the world’s longest study into happiness included greater emotional support, being better at coping with stress and struggle, an increased sense of belonging and purpose, lower blood pressure, and improved brain function.
We weren’t meant to go it alone. We are social creatures who need to share our experiences with one another.
But even though our relationships with others are our greatest source of well-being, they can be the things we overlook or neglect.
If you have someone (or several people) in your life who you love, admire, and respect you have a source of happiness.
The world of social media can tempt us to spread ourselves too thinly and forget that less is sometimes more.
But it’s quality not quantity that matters most when it comes to connection.
The evidence is clear, if we build our social bonds, our happiness is boosted as a consequence.
6) You have something now that you once hoped for
We’re forever chasing the next high.
We constantly have our eyes on the horizon looking toward the next goal, the next achievement, or the next thing that we want.
I don’t think it’s all bad either. Maybe it’s part of our expansive human nature. It is probably that spirit which has led to our evolution.
Striving is part of what keeps us moving forward.
But it can leave us feeling very discontented if we don’t periodically stop and look at how far we’ve already come.
Because all too often, the destination when we reach it, doesn’t give us the kick we were hoping for. It’s all too short-lived.
As actor Jim Carry once said: “I hope everybody could get rich and famous and will have everything they ever dreamed of, so they will know that it’s not the answer.”
The trick is to not overlook your wins, your achievements (both big and small), and the progress you make along the way.
7) You’ve had some hard times but lived to tell the tale
The hardest times in my life have provided me with the most richness.
Whether it’s the heartache of broken relationships or the struggles with mental health issues.
Sure, they totally sucked at the time. But coming out the other side gave me valuable life fertilizer. And from that, so many good things grew.
Behind the scenes the tough times are doing valuable work that benefit your happiness in the long run.
That’s because they:
- Help us figure out what we do and do not want
- Teach us valuable lessons that we don’t always learn when everything is rosy
- Help us to build resilience
- Encourage stamina and tenacity
- Make us more adaptable to roll with life
- Give us enough perspective to recognize the good times
Every painful experience in your life can build your confidence and character.
8) You try to help others however you can and show kindness
If you think about the well-being of others you are happier than you may realize.
Selfish people are ultimately the unhappy ones. Self-obsession makes you more prone to mental health problems and worry.
Meanwhile, kindness and empathy bring a whole host of happiness benefits.
One study supported this when it found that unkind people are actually usually just sad people, as Dr IIona Jerabek explains:
“The self-serving group in our sample, in spite of their seemingly arrogant tendencies, actually had low self-esteem – a score of 49 out of 100. So maybe that person who cut you off in traffic, that customer who was rude to you, or that nitpicky colleague has more going on in their life than meets the eye.”
That means if you have it in your heart to show compassion, you are doing better than you think.
“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it.”
I think this quote by Eckhart Tolle sums up the trick to happiness quite well.
We’re often looking for things that will make us happy. But the truth is that it’s always been an inside job.
It is the framework that we use, rather than our external circumstances that will dictate it. So it’s that which we all need to work on.