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7 Steps to Achieve True Happiness

“Money can’t buy happiness” is an age-old cliché. The funny thing about clichés is that they are often true. This cliché is certainly true, but its potency isn’t about money specifically. The truth is, nothing external can buy, bring, give, or deliver happiness. You are responsible for your own happiness, and you are the only one who can create it. So if you want to discover true happiness, start by instilling these 7 practices into your life:

  1. Make Happiness Your Top Priority

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that almost everything in life is a choice, including your happiness. So if you want to be happy, make it your number 1 priority. Throughout the day, if/when something happens to disturb your sense of happiness, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Are my own thoughts contributing to this feeling of unhappiness?
  • How would I feel if I changed my thoughts to something more positive?
  • Is this situation worth my health and happiness?
  1. Don’t Avoid Unhappiness

Life is not about being happy ALL of the time. We are equipped with other emotions for a reason. For example, when going in for a job interview, we feel nervous – that’s normal. I’ve had people in counseling sessions tell me they are depressed, only to find out that their best friend recently passed away. I find myself clarifying, “You’re grieving. This is a healthy reaction to what is going on in your life, not a psychiatric condition.” But because we so desperately want to avoid pain, we reach for alcohol, food, or whatever other numbing activity or vice we can think of. Instead of avoiding pain, find the courage to talk to someone who can help you work through it.

  1. Set Yourself up for Happiness

Many rush out of bed in the morning (after hitting the snooze button three times) and get straight to worrying about what the day might bring. While worrying, they pound back a few cups of coffee, check emails and stress over all of the potential demands of the day. Instead of pressing the snooze button, take that ten minutes before getting out of bed in the morning to do something that will help start your day off right:

  • Thank your higher power for giving you one more day on this planet.
  • Ask yourself how you can be of service to yourself and others? (But do not try to answer the question, just sit with it for five minutes, trying to keep your mind free of any other thoughts).
  • Breathe in for eight counts, hold your breath for four counts, and breathe out for seven counts – this has a real calming effect on your nervous system.
  • Look in the mirror and say, “I love you!”,”I accept you”, “I’ve got your back”.
  1. Be Grateful

Being grateful is incompatible with unhappiness so get into a gratitude routine. At least 10 times today, ask yourself, “What can I be grateful for?” But make sure you are not rephrasing the question to something like, “Why can’t I just be grateful for what I have?” Your mind is sneaky and will try to answer any question that you ask it — so with the latter, you will find many reasons why you can’t be grateful. Asking better questions will give you better answers.

  1. Set up Time to Worry

Our bodies were not made to endure a chronic state of stress and unhappiness. In fact, when we allow ourselves to constantly think about unhappy past events, how stressful things are right now, or how worrisome the future might be, our bodies start to shut down. Pace yourself by setting up “stress times” which are times during the day (no longer than 15 minutes) where you will allow yourself to contemplate your problems.

  1. Put Your Problems away

Take a sheet of paper and bullet point all of the problems in your life. Then fold the paper and place it in a small box. Close the box and put it in a safe place. If your mind wanders back to your problems after you’ve put them away, simply remind yourself that your problems are safely stowed away, and do not give yourself permission to re-visit them until the next designated “stress time.” You may wonder what is the point of putting your problems on hold, but instead ask yourself, “what is the point of constantly focusing on problems?” It is guaranteed that you will be in a much better mental and emotional state if you’re not constantly worrying, and as such you will have a much better ability to actually solve those problems.

  1. Take Action

Once you have a clearer perspective on what is causing your unhappiness (what’s in the stress box), then it is time to develop a plan and take effective, immediate and massive ACTION to make some changes.

Finally, I’d like to remind you that if you truly want to be happy, you’ll need to work at it. There are no shortcuts, but once you gain the courage to examine and change your self-destructive mental, emotional and behavioral patterns, you will reap the rewards of true and lasting happiness.

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