It's that time of year again when the floodgates open and we start seeing the holiday commercials that try to convince us that they know what will make us happy. The big ribbon on top of luxury car on Christmas morning. Coca-Cola is going to make us all hold hands and sing, kind of like the Whos of Whoville on Christmas morning. Apple has a few heart tugging ones...anyone remember when "Franky" the Frankenstein shared a holiday message of happiness and acceptance that simply could not be done without his trusty iPhone 7? And so on....
They all have something in common. The message that their product is what will finally give us that happiness that has eluded us for so long. Do I sound bitter? I don't mean to. I actually like the "Franky" commercial. It's just that once your eyes are opened to the marketing science behind it, it's impossible to unsee it. I first started seeing it with alcohol marketing, now I see it everywhere. And the message is clear: Your source of happiness is external, either through a material item or from someone else.
This is when we get into trouble.
Now thats not to say that we don't or can't feel happy around certain people, places or material items. I'm very happy when I'm with my husband, my family and my dogs. I'm happy with where I live. I find happiness in coaching other women. But its one thing to feel happy in a situation or with someone and another thing to EXPECT someone to make you happy. That, my friend, is a recipe for disappointment.
Why? Because happiness starts with us. Every single one of us. In other words, the only person who has control over your happiness is YOU. You are the secret to your own happiness.
Depending on others to fulfill your needs, and expecting them to be mind readers and just automatically know what those needs are is setting yourself up for failure and frustrating those around you. Another common side-effect of believing others are responsible for happiness is feeling uncomfortable when you are alone. But in our aloneness is exactly where our internal happiness begins. Someone else's love for you will never fill that void inside you if you don't learn to love yourself first.
So, how do we find this internal happiness?
1. Start with Making a Choice
Seriously. Set an intention to find and unleash your personal happiness. Every journey begins with a first step. If you don't set your intention and make the commitment to your success, it wont happen.
2. Practice Mindfulness
First, I'd like to clear up a common misunderstanding. Mindfulness is not a yogi sitting on a mountain top. I bring this up because that's what I used to think. Mindfulness is the act of being fully aware of what is around us and what is happening inside of us. It's about observing without reacting.
Being happy is not all about unicorns and rainbows. Life has its ups and downs. Mindfulness is our awareness of this in the present moment. As an example:
Susan has a difficult day at work, drives home in heavy traffic and yells at her kids for being noisy. It's an automatic reaction based on her stress and her emotional reaction to her stress. She hardly notices it.
However, this is what it could look like with mindfulness:
Susan has a difficult day at work and drives home in heavy traffic. As she approaches the front door of her house, she notices that her breathing is shallow and she has a headache. She notices the cool metal of the doorknob touching her hand and the tightness in her chest from the stress. She thinks to herself "I'm feeling stress." She takes a few deep breaths and walks into the house. Her kids are being noisy and she asks them to quiet down. She understands that her kids are not the source of her stress at the moment.
That's mindfulness. What's great about it is that it's a skill that anyone can learn and use.
3. Practice Gratitude
Research shows that being grateful is directly associated with positive emotions, which can increase internal happiness. Practicing gratitude can be as simple as saying "thank you" to someone. Or thanking someone mentally. I keep a gratitude journal and each night I write about one thing I'm grateful for from the day.
Ask yourself....are you worthy of love and happiness? The first time I asked myself this question, the answer was no. It's a lonely and painful place to be. I had to honestly ask myself.....how could I expect anyone or anything to fill my happiness void when I didn't consider myself worthy of it? It kept me from showing my authentic self to the world, which is a very lonely place to be.
So here's the thing. It is impossible to be truly happy if you don't love yourself. I don't mean in a narcissistic way. Rather it's accepting and being ok with who you are....warts and all. A great way to start with this is self-compassion. Pay attention to how you talk to yourself. What do you say? Is your inner critic on overdrive? Would you say the same things to a child that you cared for? If not, then it's not helpful to you. Try talking to yourself like you would a good friend or family member you care about and want to support. You'll be amazed at the difference!
So remember, no matter what you are doing for the holidays, it's possible to find happiness as long as you look in the right place: Inside you.
Until next time,
PS. Are you ready to find your true source of happiness? Click here to schedule an introductory call with me where I will give you 3 strategies to jumpstart your happiness journey. **Click Here**