Why Happy is Our Instinctive State of Being: 5 Ways to Release the Bad and Uncover the Good
our fleeting happiness epidemic
In our modern society, it feels like it is a daily battle just to find some joy. We find plenty to worry about...at times, it feels like we are drowning in a world of stress, worry, anxiety, frustration, and "never enough." But what if this doesn't have to be true?
By now, you've all heard about or witnessed the enormous social fad of finding more happiness. "Happiness" is such a hot term right now that it seems you can't browse any health or wellness site without encountering some article about how to get MORE happiness in your life.
Trust me, I am no different. My site is FULL of articles about finding happiness, chasing joy, and living a more positive and authentic life. I've consumed countless articles, listened to hours of podcasts, and tried loads of habit building techniques to find more happiness in my own life. The more I read, research, and change, the more I think about what this all means. Have we ever considered that we may have been going about this all wrong?
The citizens of Denmark are known as some of the happiest people on earth. At face value, this doesn't seem to add up. Denmark faces countless days of little sun each winter and is extremely rainy most of the year. It is a much colder climate than many world citizens would ever deem appropriate and the life expectancy is nothing to boast about. But why then, are Danes so damn happy?
The Danish Secret to Happiness
Experts say that the reason Danes are so happy isn't necessarily because of what they have, it is because of what they don't have. The Danish government doesn't cause an actual increase in their citizen's happiness...they simply decrease situations that cause worry, anxiety, or a hinderance of happiness. It isn't what they provide, it is what they remove that is the key.
Danes don't have to worry about paying for health care or getting hurt, they are automatically provided with everything they could need medically, as they need it. Danes enjoy free higher education and are actually paid a stipend while attending to live comfortably as a student and leave school debt-free. Danes also have an undying trust in their government to provide them with great transportation infrastructure, over a year of maternity/paternity leave for each child, free options for childcare, and (at least) four weeks of paid vacation each year.
The LoGical Truth
Talk about less to worry about! Think about it...if you didn't ever have to worry about paying for insurance or health bills, removed all thought of student debt or barriers to getting more education, knew you were guaranteed at least a month off each year and that you were encouraged to be there for your child whenever you need to, wouldn't you feel a little less anxiety and worry in your life?
Furthermore, if the Danes are the happiest people in the world, and this simply because their government helps remove things that cause unhappiness from their lives, doesn't this mean that happiness is our natural or instinctive state of being? That our brains are wired to be happy? That it is our modern society that is causing our perpetual unhappiness and need for improvement?
Adopting These Principles
So, if you are feeling unhappy or longing to add some additional happiness in your life, why not try thinking about what stressors you can REMOVE rather than habits you can ADD. What in your life is causing you repetitive worry, continued anxiety, or disconnect from your natural happy state of being?
In all my research, reading, and thinking, I've identified the 5 most common areas where people can evaluate and remove stressors, anxiety, and frustration in order to reveal their natural happy selves:
1) Work & Money
The stress of money is no stranger to most. Paying bills, providing for others, and finding jobs that excite you, yet pay for your lifestyle can be incredibly stressful and anxiety-inducing. Here are some questions to consider:
Do I enjoy what I do each day?
Am I excited to wake up each morning (or at least most) and go to work?
Am I challenged and are my natural talents utilized in what I do?
Is my work a combination of what I love, am good at, can get paid for, and what the world needs (Ikigai)?
What changes can I make to be sure the above statement is true (starting with small, actionable steps)?
What beliefs or habits can I remove in order to be more satisfied with my work?
Does my job provide me with financial stability in my lifestyle?
Can I make adjustments to my lifestyle to reduce or eliminate financial worry?
Do I hold limiting beliefs about money and finances which I've learned from others?
What changes do I need to make to feel safe, secure, and stable financially?
What beliefs or habits can I remove in order to be more satisfied with my financial situation?
Asking yourself these questions can help you identify areas of stress, worry, anxiety, and frustration and more clearly lay out what changes need to happen and what can be removed in order to make room for your true, natural, happy state to shine through on a regular basis, rather than rarely.
2) Relationships & Community
One of the biggest contributing factors to happiness is connection. Those who feel connected to their family, friends, and community consistently show the highest and most consistent levels of happiness. Americans on average feel as though they have 0.8 friends...that's less than one good solid connection per person! Consider these questions:
Do I feel like I have at least a handful of close relationships with others?
What close relationships in my life feel toxic or leave me feeling drained?
What close relationships leave me feeling energized and happy?
What personal characteristics provide me with the most rewarding friendships/relationships?
What beliefs, habits, or relationships can I remove in order to feel more connected and supported?
Do I feel like I have connection and responsibility within my community?
Do I make an effort to place myself in an area where I feel comfortable and appreciated?
Am I surrounded by like-minded individuals?
What community relationships/involvements feel toxic or leave me feeling drained?
What community relationships/involvements leave me feeling energized and happy?
What beliefs, habits, or involvements can I remove in order to feel more connected and involved?
Taking some time to really evaluate your relationships with your friends, family, and community can help you clearly see what situations and people are causing you stress and forcing you away from your natural happy state. Removing some of these contributing factors can lead to more consistent joy in your life.
3) Fun & Hobbies
An underestimated factor of happiness is FUN. I know this has been one of the most challenging categories for me. As adults, we are taught to prioritize responsibilities and leave fun at the wayside. Little do we realize, this is detrimental to our happiness! Responsibilities are absolutely necessary, but they absolutely don't need to take 100% of our time. In fact, by focusing on our responsibilities, we lose track of what brings us closer to our natural happy state of being...fun!
Looking closer into what brings us joy just for the hell of it can offer some direction as to what to eliminate and what to focus on. Try asking yourself these questions:
What do I enjoy just for the hell of it?
What would I do with my days if I never had to work another day in my life?
What activities or tasks do I tend to lean toward when I am bored (no adulting tasks allowed!)
Do I purposefully set aside time each week to have fun or do things I enjoy that don't make me money?
What adult responsibilities get most in the way of my fun-time?
What hobbies did I do and enjoy as a 10 year old that I have lost touch with as an adult?
What beliefs, habits, or barriers can I remove in order to make more room for fun in my life?
It's time to take fun more seriously! How can you carve out time for hobbies and aimless fun by removing things that cause anxiety, stress, worry, or frustration? What is blocking your way to your true state of happiness and fun?
4) Health, Wellness & Sleep
Health, along with money, is one of those things that we take for granted until we no longer have it. It isn't a big deal until something detrimental happens and we can no longer perform the duties of our normal lives. It's time to start taking the proactive approach to health and wellness and to unlock the potential that feeling good has on influencing daily happiness. When your body feels good, it is easier to reach that natural state of positivity and happiness. Review the following:
What tasks/habits are preventing me from eating well, moving my body, and getting at least 8 hours of sleep?
Do I prioritize my preventative health over other tasks I feel I "should" be doing?
What is my favorite way to move my body daily?
What is my favorite healthy meal and healthy eating resources?
Do I build my schedule around getting at least 8 hours of sleep each night?
How does my body feel when I take care of it as opposed to when I do not?
What beliefs, habits, and scheduling barriers can I remove in order to prioritize preventative health and wellness?
By first taking care of our bodies, we can unlock their potential for positivity, productivity, and the essential state of joy. The better we feel, the easier it is to release the bad and embrace the good...in our bodies and our minds.
5) Self Expression & Care
Too many times responsibilities and rules get in the way of us being true to our selves and offering our minds, bodies, and souls the care we deserve. Happiness is about feeling joyous both outside and inside. By taking time to think and be true to ourselves, and to offer ourselves some much deserved TLC, we can more easily access our natural happy state. Start by considering these questions:
Do I take time to check in with myself and notice my truths?
Can I remove social pressure and expectations to reveal my authentic and vulnerable self?
Do I feel I have creative outlets to express myself regularly?
Do I feel as though I am wearing a mask to fit into a societal "box" or am I free to be me?
What beliefs, habits, or expectations can I remove in order to feel like my true, authentic self?
Do I find time to spend alone regularly?
Can I embrace ways to offer myself some tender, love, and care on a regular basis?
In what moments do I feel most stressed, anxious, and dishonest with myself?
In what moments do I feel most rejuvenated, relaxed, and restored?
What beliefs, habits, and barriers can I remove in order to find creative ways to care for myself first?
By first being true to ourselves and finding ways to show we care, it paves the way for revealing our natural state of happiness. If we let responsibility and expectation get in the way and cause negativity, we push ourselves away from our happy state and into a state of "never enough." Releasing these pressures does wonders.
Embracing our instinct
Happiness is undeniably important...but it doesn't have to be something we continuously chase and never obtain. If we shift our perspective and work on releasing the negativity and embracing the joy that already naturally and instinctively lives within us, we can find a state of happiness right here and now, in the present moment. By releasing the bad, we can uncover the good that's been there all along.
Isn't that a lovely thought? We already HAVE our happiness. It is nothing to chase. Nothing to strive or work for. It is already within us and available for us to notice in any moment, if only we know where to look.
With undeniable happiness and great enthusiasm,