When people are asked what they want from life, happiness is usually on the list. I am a firm believer that happiness is not a “place” that one arrives at after achieving one thing or the other. I believe that happiness is a choice, a state of mind, and a way of life. And with that said, I think that there are some requisites that lead to this thing we call happiness. And although the title reads,”rules,” that’s more for semantic purposes. The following are more like ten guidelines for happiness:
1. Good health
We all have different bodies and with that comes different challenges to our bodies. But the body we have been given is ours to take care of, and we ought to take care of it as much as we can. There is a reason for the phrase, “health is better than wealth.” Friends, if you have good health, you have a good life.
In the midst of trying to obtain things and titles, and in the everyday routine of life, it can be easy to forget to count all those blessings that you have. Gratitude is the reason why people with less can be just as happy as people with a lot – each is thankful for what he or she has. I have honestly never met someone who was happy, authentically happy anyway, and ungrateful. If there were a formula for happiness, gratitude would be a constant in the equation.
3. Don’t sweat the small stuff
Apart from not sweating the small stuff, realize that many things are the small stuff. You have people who love you? You have a warm bed at night? You eat 1500 – 2000 calories a day? You are generally in good health? Yes, yes, yes, and yes? Well, most of the rest of the things that occupy your mind are small stuff. Let it go.
Hope is vital to one’s happiness when happiness is threatened, and in a life full of problems and the potential to worry, hope comes in handy. The thing about hope is that it can be the hardest thing to hold onto when you need it the most, yet at the same time, hope is one of the most difficult things to kill. I think when hope is truly dead, so is the spirit, and at that point, the body has no willingness to live. Less worry, more hope, more happiness.
Forgiveness, especially when we feel injustice or hurt or both is difficult. But life is ultimately too short, and burdening one’s self with grudges or bitterness will NEVER lead to anything positive. Happiness, by nature, is positive. We can’t be happy and bitter at the same time.
There is a tendency especially in this part of the world, to see life as a zero-sum game – “you can’t have, what I have.” I know this is a bias, but as an African I was raised to believe what is yours is never solely yours – whatever gift or material thing you have only really has value when you share it with others. People who are happy, from anywhere in the world, know this.
Introspection is the ability to cut out the noise, and I think happiness comes from doing so as often as necessary. Sometimes it feels like we’re not enough for the world and that we have to prove something to people around us. When we cut out the noise, and in the silence of our hearts, we find who we are, and how beautiful that person really is.
We need things to keep us busy, we need to take a break from the rigors of life; we need science and the physical and facts. But we also need fiction and sentimentality and spirituality. I think we’re not only happier when we’re attentive to all our needs as human beings, we’re able to positively affect the happiness of others.
Whether it’s time, talent, or treasure, serving others just feels good. Serving comes in many forms from helping a stranger on the street to going half-way around the world to help a community. But all service reminds us that we are all on this earth together and knowing that you are the reason for someone else’s survival or contentment or happiness, can be the greatest happiness of all.
Life is short, but it is also the longest thing you will ever do and there will be disappointments and failure and rejection and tears, no matter how happy a person you are. But if you have this funny little thing called a sense of humor, you’ll learn to take pains with a stride, and at times, even a heartfelt laugh. And that heartfelt laugh will remind you that your happiness is just a thought and/or action away.