3 Tools You Need to Cultivate Happiness in Your Life

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It’s a common misconception that happiness is a state of being or an emotion. If that were the case, then pursuing it would be little better than an addict chasing their next hit. Or a murderer pursing their next victim. 

The truth is that happiness goes beyond emotions or states of being. It’s not just a mindset either. Happiness is something you create that allows you to live, work, and exist in ways that are consistent with your beliefs and values. 

And if happiness is something you create, then happiness requires tools and it doesn’t mean you feel happy. 

Being happy doesn’t mean you feel happy. 

Too often, we think what we feel determines our reality. We feel sad or depressed, so we assume our reality must therefore be devoid of anything other than what is sad or depressing. Of course, actual people who suffer from depression and have for many years will no doubt be the first to tell you this isn’t the case. 

One of the hallmarks of depression is that you know there is happiness and beauty in the world. You may even have periods when you experience it for yourself. You may still be depressed. Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, and Robin Williams are all evidence of depression and happiness living side-by-side in life. Nothing changes the fact of depression.

Not being in love, not money, not job satisfaction. You can have all of those things and still be so depressed that you want to end everything.

But, depression is certainly more bearable with those things. So, the key to happiness isn’t to continue chasing the feeling of happiness, but to cultivate an existence that is conducive to happiness. Even if you’re still depressed, you have a better fighting chance of a good life than you would if you just allowed

Self-Knowledge in all its ugly glory. 

The first tool in cultivating happiness is self knowledge. And I’m not just talking about getting in touch with your inner child. This is the gritty, nasty kind of self-knowledge that makes you recoil in disgust. 

Getting to know yourself and your faults is one of the most important things you will ever do. Bar none. If you don’t know who you are with all of your traumas, all of your trauma responses, and all of your toxic traits, you cannot possibly ever be lastingly happy. 

Oh, you’ll be happy all right. But it’s fleeting and you’ll be just as empty after the feeling has gone. Trust me, I know this to be a fact because I fell into that trap for a goodly portion of my life. In my defense, I didn’t have the same access to mental health as a young adult.

I wasted a lot of time chasing happiness just to feel something other than I was feeling. 

Here’s how self-knowledge could have helped that. One of my basic wants for as long as I could remember is liberty. The ability to be self-determining, self-governing in all aspects of my life without being beholden to anyone. This grew from a couple of different places in my life, which I won’t go into here. 

Had I understood that more properly, and fully understood what I needed to do to get rid of some of that trauma, I may have lived the first years of adulthood a little differently. I might have tried validating myself first, before I sought validation from anyone else, for instance. 

But, the past is the past. Which brings me to my next tool for happiness; 

Letting the past go without restraint. 

This is devilishly hard to do, and it’s not always possible, either. You can still have flashbacks throughout your life, especially if you have PTSD or C-PTSD. But, there is a trick to dealing with them. The trick is to understand that it is the past and the past cannot change. 

If the past cannot change, then it is we who must change. And we have to learn to remember both the good and the bad. Too often, especially in recent years, we’re inclined to remember the bad and let it influence how we see everything. 

Take the re-writing of history and literature to erase potentially offensive terms. The world was a different place even just a year ago. It doesn’t mean that you have to go changing anything that could be offensive. 

We’ve already had that attitude several times over throughout history. The result was wanton destruction of thousands of ancient texts and massive swaths of culture which we’ll never be able to replace. We don’t even have correct information about some particulars of history because all the historians at the time were in on the censorship. 

You cannot censor history just to please your own sensibilities no more than you can censor your own experiences because they bring you pain. If you ignore either, you will be doomed to repeat it. The only answer is to let it go and move on. 

Self Mastery is the foundation for everything else once you know yourself. 

Self-Mastery, isn’t just about controlling your emotions, but it’s about developing routines and habits that are conducive to you being your best self. This means you don’t give in to every whim, you plan, make goals, and build a life that lets you live the way you actually want to live. You may not get to go on that vacation, or follow the latest TikTok trend, or even have a Insta-worthy life. 

But you will have you life the way you want it to be and not the way someone else wants it to be. 

It doesn’t just happen, and it isn’t set in stone. Self-mastery is something you have to struggle for every day of your life. 

A little like time mastery

It’s uncomfortable, unpleasant, and when you are attempting it, you aren’t happy. Trust me, self-mastery doesn’t initially make you happy. You are very unhappy while you’re putting those structures into place. Unhappy, uncomfortable, sometimes just downright miserable. 

What’s worse, is that you’re never quite done. You change as you get older and your routines and lifestyle have to change with it. If you’re a woman, you have to consider the monthly changes you go through too because what works for you one week will not necessarily work the next. 

It’s exhausting.

But, if you don’t practice self-mastery, even when you’re trying to figure out how to control yourself yet again, then you are basically enslaving yourself to your whims and not building up anything solid for yourself. Again, you will be chasing after your next hit like an addict. 

Happiness is a choice to be the best you can be under any circumstance. 

The final, and ultimate tool for happiness is using your free will as a reasoning, educated human being. If you don’t have reason or education you have another goal before you: to seek reason and education. It’s not like you don’t have thousands of years of wisdom in life to consult. 

Happiness is not dependent on physical possessions. It’s not dependent on you having a yacht, or being able to vacation in the Maldives every summer. You can be in a tiny home just as easily as you can be in a penthouse. The key is in the doing, not the feeling. 

When you aren’t doing, when you’re stuck in feeling, then it’s all too easy to get overwhelmed with the impossibilities of your circumstances, or to fret about what might happen. This is especially easy if you’re already had a rough time and it’s just gotten worse. 

That’s ok. You don’t have to feel happy to be happy. Brew a cup of tea or coffee and read a book. Allow yourself something to give yourself the freedom to feel for a little while. 

And allow yourself the time to mope. Then, decide that you will do one thing to work towards your happiness. Whether that’s typing out another blog post you’re sure no one will read, looking for side work, or just doing a social post to get your brand out there. 

There’s always at least one thing you can do. And in the doing, comes the feeling. 

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