Monday, July 30, 2007

A Bum's Guide to Being Happy

Everyone says they want to be happy, and chase it like some elusive goal. I can vividly remember those times when I was genuinely happy, only to let it slip away for some time period before I could recapture it again.

I wanted to figure out what my state of mind was during the happiest times. So I came up with a list of items that I felt were the precursors to happiness. The closest I got to this state, the more natural joy existed.

I found out that my list of items that contributed to the happy state go against what they tell you you ought to be in order to be 'successful'. Listen closely to what your internal voice tells you. And try not to be influenced by all the outside voices telling you what you should do and how you should act.

Here's the list:

1. Lower expectations

Many people maintain very high expectations of what they want to be and what they want to have. They want to be good-looking even if not all can look like Brad Pitt. They want to be rich and have nice luxuries even though they can't afford them. Many want to be popular and respected, and are willing to put on an act in order to get it.

When you lower your expectations for yourself and accept the way things are, you become more relaxed, easy-going and cheerful. I went through the phase when I just accepted that I would never be hunk-type handsome or own a multi-story house with several cars. I had the thought that what I had now was probably as as good as it gets. That I may never achieve anything else. And I was fine with that. The freedom and natural high I felt at that moment was indescribable. When in doubt, lower your expectations and let go of your wants.

2. Simplify your life

I was most unhappy during those times when my life was most complicated. I remember when I was trying to do several different things at the same time. I would have multiple projects and problems at work; then get home and watch and record a couple of TV shows I didn't want to miss. I juggled several different goals and kept watch over my daily progress.

From the outside, it looked like I was a big success, but in reality I was in terrible shape. I had made my life complicated to the point that I no longer called the shots for myself and had become a puppet to my activities.

On the other hand, those times when I had simplified my life to one or two of the most important things, was when I was most happy. Try this - limit yourself to one thing at a time, preferably the thing you enjoy the most or what is most important to you.

Rather than watching a lot of TV, just follow one TV program and turn off the rest. Instead of trying to accommodate everyone, just concentrate on your close friends for the time being. Instead of trying to follow the latest fashion trends, just buy one pair of pants and call it a day. See the effect.

3. Enjoy your family and friends

Early this year, I saw my mother and father again after almost three years away from home. They were having a rough time with health and money problems, but seeing them being happy again gave me an overwhelming sense of joy which I had forgotten how it felt. It is similar to the pleasure I feel when I see my friends do well for themselves and get what they want.

I love that sense of camaraderie and brotherhood when you're with your closest friends, and you can just relax and be yourself, go along with the flow, and not hold anything back. Having people who intimately understand you and who will celebrate your highs and commiserate your lows is priceless.

4. Don't worry

When all else fails, I am reminded me of the best advice I've ever heard: 'Don't worry'. Experience has taught me that nothing is really as bad as it looks. And that no one can predict the future. What may look bad now may look silly ten years later.

For instance, you may be worried about a lot of things. You might be worried about getting sick, or losing your job, or being alone, or not having enough money. You can take practical action to avoid those situations, but worrying will not do anything to improve it, so why worry at all.

The past few months, I've been in contact with a lot of people who always seem to give me something that I should worry about. The constant barrage of worry reminders did get to me, and I found myself getting scared and thinking that perhaps I should be more worried than I am. And then I came back to my senses. Do what you think is best and do not worry.

Your personal list of things that make you happy may be different. My list of items are based on my own personal experience. These things won't make you rich. It won't make you successful or popular. But it might make you happier.


CC said...

Great Article. Very insightful. I might go to this page every now and then whenever I'm feeling blue.

marilen said...

Hey, Rob! I finally had the time to check out your blog on happiness. You hit it right at the core! Galing!:)