Five Keys to Happiness

If you ask a dozen people how they define happiness, you'll more than likely get twelve completely different responses.  Happiness is as unique as each person is individual.  For some, happiness is a way of life - a part of their very essence.  For many, happiness seems either elusive or fleeting - a temporary destination somewhere off in the future, achieved only after completing a certain number of items on a checklist.

In reality, happiness is very easily achievable once you learn to put your focus on internal rather than external circumstances. Happiness is a state of being, brought about by our thoughts and feelings in any given moment.  Quite simply, we and we alone are in control of creating our own happiness.

Below are five practices that you can start to incorporate into your daily routine that will have you feeling more peaceful and joyful in no time.

1. Begin and end your day with gratitude.  Gratitude is truly one of the most simple yet transformational practices that you can adopt.  People lose sight of all the blessings in their life from time to time.  They focus on the lack in their lives rather than the abundance already present.  If you take five minutes out of your day to give thanks for even the smallest of good things in your life, your level of happiness will increase significantly. 

2. Stop Negative Self-Talk.  Self-criticism is not only unproductive, it's downright destructive.  We all have things about ourselves that we would like to change or improve, but berating ourselves does nothing to change our situation except to make us feel worse.  If you find your inner critic becoming increasingly loud or obnoxious, acknowledge the thoughts and feelings but then make an immediate effort to change your focus.  Awareness is key in shifting your state from negative to positive.  Take a walk, stretch, do some breathing exercises, think about something that brings a smile to your face.

3. Stop complaining and blaming.  Most of us don't realize how much time is wasted complaining about things that we either can't change or refuse to change.  Things like the weather or traffic, that annoying co-worker, or habits that don't serve us.  Rather than complain about the things you can't change, reframe a negative into a positive.  What things could you do while waiting in unavoidable traffic?  Perhaps leave your house a few minutes earlier in the morning and treat yourself to a delicious specialty coffee or tea for the road, find a new podcast to listen to, learn a new language, or pop in an audiobook or favorite CD.   Can you focus on the tasks you need to accomplish rather than letting your co-worker get under your skin? 

4. Create a list of things that bring you true happiness in life.  It can be something simple like that first cup of coffee in the morning, a walk along the beach at sunrise, reading your child a bedtime story, waking up next to your soulmate each day, spending quality time with your best friend, or cuddling with your cat or dog.  True happiness touches us on both an emotional and spiritual level. 

5. Let Go of Past Hurt.  This is probably the hardest of all things to do, but perhaps the most important step in achieving happiness.  When we hold onto grudges, we take precious energy away from here and now.  It took me a very long time to move past the tremendous pain I experienced from my divorce, but once I finally let go of the hurt and sadness, my life instantly and dramatically changed.  We simply can't move forward in life if we are chained to the ghosts of our past.  The beauty in letting go is that we allow ourselves room to create brand new beginnings full of hope and promise.  And don't we ALL deserve a story book happy ending?

The truth is that happiness is ever-present and exists within each of us.  We sometimes just get so bogged down by our responsibilities, daily stresses, or obstacles that we push happiness aside.  It becomes something that we save for a time in the future once we've achieved a particular milestone or overcome a hurdle in our life.  There's actually no better time than now to implement these five practices into your life.  Joy not only nourishes your heart, your mind, and your spirit, but it magnetizes incredible people and circumstances into your life that may never have existed otherwise.  Open the door to happiness, and all things are possible.