Did you know that the first day of Spring 2013 was also The first World International Happiness Day, declared by the UN to signal the importance of going beyond Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a measure of progress. The UN is taking a stand on happiness! They are saying that we need a better measures of society’s real wellbeing — including happiness. Right on, UN!
Consider this outcome of the Gallup Millennium World Survey: They polled almost 60,000 people in 60 countries, Gallup ranked ten things that people said were the most important to their ability to experience happiness. At the top were health, a happy family life and a job (a life’s purpose) while “Standard of Living” (how rich you are compared to other people) was one of the least important.
So this is what I know about happiness. If you want to be happy you need to be intentional about it. How are you creating happiness in your life? Happiness comes from our own actions. We actually have to create it, and it can’t be conditional.
Tips on Intentional Happiness:
Is there something that always bothers you? Can you put it down for a while, and take a break from it? Can you be happy for the joy in memories and not be sad that they are over, but happy that whatever it is, actually happened?
Can you spend so much time working on your own crap, that you have little time to be critical and mean about others?
Can you put resources towards your own happiness creation project? That means money, time and effort. That means putting the pleasure in your own hands, and not waiting for someone else to give you permission to do it. Can you stop being sensible about your happiness, and stop having to justify it behind disease and wellness? It’s true that happiness makes us healthier, but what if we can give ourselves happiness and good health is just a side effect?
Do you make happiness conditional?
One of my biggest learnings around happiness happened in the middle of my infertility experience.
Every month, my happiness became conditional on whether or not I was pregnant. I was like those women who live and die by the scale. If they lose weight, it’s a good day. If they don’t, they sink into a deep depression. That was me and pregnancy. All month long I lived on this conditional possibility of my own happiness. My happiness could only look one way, and that was not getting my period. That was a rough way to live.
Then in the middle of my great unhappiness came this next revelation: could I only be happy if everything always continued to look the way I expected it to look? Was there absolutely no room at all in my life for other kinds of happiness? Could I never enjoy other peoples’ children or go to a movie without thinking about pregnancy? Was there no possibility for happiness in anything other than a pregnancy?
I realized that I was living in the land of constant expectation. And that expectation set me up for pain, over and over again. It was a pretty miserable way to live.
I began to wonder if there were other ways to find this happiness and pleasure that I wanted in my life in between waiting for pregnancy to happen.
This is what I have found: conditional happiness was not a path to pleasure and well-being. I shifted my view because I started to realize that I was missing out on a lot of love, pleasure and joy with my current perspective. I was wasting a lot of really good living in my very narrow view of what would make me truly happy.
Often my thoughts would go to what I thought I truly wanted first, and then I would have to settle into what was in front of me. With some practice the process of being happy with my second pick was getting more delicious with each round.
It helped open a path filled with unexpected pleasures that I almost stomped away from in my anger over infertility. Silly me. Instead, I started to be filled with a new kind of peacefulness that I highly recommend. Sure, I still wanted my babies. And they did come. The good news is that when they finally arrived, they came home to a woman that was more able to receive love than ever before.
So, when it comes to happiness think about how you look at it. Are you intentionally creating happiness in your life? Look at the ways you make your happiness conditional on certain life events. Happiness is worth understanding and creating for yourself and the world around you.
Sometimes, happiness takes a little practice. How do you practice happiness?
By Pamela Madsen
Pamela Madsen is an Integrative Life Coach Specializing In Women’s Issues. Pamela is also author of the best selling memoir Shameless (Rodale, Jan 2011), and founder of The American Fertility Association. Her websites BeingShameless.com and her daily blog, thefertilityadvocate.com, are a breakfast essential for reporters, writers and policymakers.
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