The World Happiness Report declares that happiness represents the ultimate goal in life and is the truest measure of well-being. This is obvious to most of us, but hey, now it’s official.
We all strive for happiness but rarely stop to think about what happiness truly is—myself included.
I thought I knew what it would take to be happy, but I learned the hard way that I could not have been more wrong.
Five years ago, I was living my best life. I had a fun job with a good salary, a fancy car, friends, parties, and travels worldwide. It was everything I had ever dreamed of. After years of studies and hard work, I had finally achieved my life goals.
Life was pretty sweet.
Except it wasn’t.
I wasn’t happy; I was miserable.
No matter what I did and what I got in life, there was always this nagging feeling in the back of my head that I still needed something else to be happy. And no matter how hard I tried, I could never reach that something that would finally bring me the feeling of true happiness.
While trying to find the thing that would, at last, make me happy, I was making myself more and more stressed and anxious by the day. I was a nervous wreck. I was sweating and trembling constantly; I had high blood pressure and heart arrhythmia.
Doctors could not find a physical cause for my symptoms and declared that they were psychosomatic. My mental health had reached such a low point that I started to lose my physical health as well.
Then things got even worse. My brother, after struggling for years with depression, decided that the only way out of this mess was to end his own life.
It was a rough wake-up call for me and a moment when I was forced to stop and think deeply about life and happiness. I knew I had to change my life and find out how to be happy or risk slipping into severe depression the way my brother did.
Remembering these truths changed my life.
Truth #1: We are constantly making ourselves unhappy
When we grow up, we are taught that there are things that we must do in life that will allow us to be happy. Happiness lies at the end of a long and rocky road of doing something to get something. Consequently, happiness is always just one or two steps away.
“If I can just get more money, love, friends, free time, vacations—you name it—then I will finally be happy.”
That is what we have come to believe. But let’s assume you get that thing you are after. What then? Will you be happy, or will you just want something more? Just one more thing, after that it’s happiness all the way.
And then one more thing… and one more… and one more…
Of course, happiness is never found by getting something. Chasing happiness by doing things will only make us unhappy since it disconnects us from the happiness that we would feel if we just stopped and enjoyed the moment.
Truth #2: True happiness comes from the inside
If happiness does not come from getting something, where does it come from? Well, happiness is our natural state of being. We are naturally happy; the thought of needing something to be happy is what makes us unhappy.
Happiness lies at the core of our being, but it is buried under layers of stress, fear, anxiety, worry, or even depression. The secret of happiness is learning to peel back these layers of negative feelings and reveal the happiness that we feel naturally.
This truth is found in the moments when we feel deeply happy. For example, at the birth of a child, getting married, or doing something we love.
These moments make you forget about everything else. You are not anxious about the future or depressed about the past. You are truly in the moment, in touch with your inner self—the version of you that needs nothing to be happy.
It’s not the moment itself that makes you happy but it allows you to feel the happiness you already have inside by lifting the veil of stress, anxiety, and depression.
Truth #3: Happiness is a choice
With the two previous truths in mind, happiness comes down to whether we choose it or not.
What truly differentiates happiness from sadness is our ability to choose our thoughts, feelings, and behavior in any given situation.
Do you choose to be put down by what others say and do, or do you choose to be at peace, knowing that you are perfect just the way you are?
Do you choose to see the events in your life as struggles or as opportunities to grow into the greatest vision you have about yourself?
What do you choose?
There is no good or bad, only the way we choose to label the situation. Just as we have learned to do things that make us unhappy, like trying to get happiness by chasing material wealth, we can learn to do things that uncover our natural happiness as well. So the only difference between happiness and unhappiness is which one we choose.