One of the top five regrets that is spoken during a person’s final days of life is that they wish they had allowed themselves more happiness while they had the chance. This research is found on the book The Top Five Regrets Of The Dying – A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing, written by Bronnie Ware, a palliative nurse who recorded her experiences as she cared for those who were quickly approaching the end of their life.
How did the lack of happiness become one of the biggest regrets in people’s lives? Ware’s research indicates that they simply did not put enough focus and effort in their lives on how to be happy. She says, “They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”
A happy definition given by ten different people will produce at least ten different answers. It varies from person to person because their answer to ‘what is happiness’ will be dependent on not only circumstances and finances, but also physical, professional, relational, environmental, social, and personal expectations that may or may not be realistic.
Happiness has become a Worldwide Concern
How to be happy is a concern that has spread world-wide. Even the United Nations has taken special interest in how to rate the happiness level of a person in different cultures all across the globe. They are looking at results from The World Happiness Report for answers in how to improve individual happiness because there is evidence that personal happiness is a much better indicator of a nation’s success.
Compiled independently by collaboration between The Earth Institute of Columbia University, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and the Centre for Economic Performance, the World Happiness Report was originally released in 2012 and has recently been updated this year (2016) to reflect the latest findings.
This report surveyed countries all around the world and ranked answers from 1 (being the worst) to 10 (the best possible score) based on Average Life Evaluations (also called the Cantril Ladder). This scale takes the following into consideration:
- Per capita income
- Healthy life expectancy
- The ability to count on friends when needed
- The freedom to make life choices
- Living in a corruption-free environment
These indicators help determine how to best measure happiness, as it is considered a much better measure of social progress for each nation as it relates to their goals of public policy.
Why Does My Happiness Matter on a Global Scale?
For government leaders and policy makers, the resources have been limited for determining a nation’s level of success. To determine the success of a nation and the happiness quotient of the citizens regarding the nation’s policies, the main factor looked at up until now was the nation’s economic impact on the world. It was generally determined that the nation as a whole would produce world-worthy products and in turn would receive revenue from those products. This was defined as a nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
If a nation had a high GDP, the consensus of national leaders, the country’s elite business moguls and decision makers was that the nation as a whole was economically sound, and the nation’s people should be happy with the policies in place since the country was, in the economic sense, thriving.
Here in our “land of opportunity,” America is listed as the number one nation in the world according to the 2016 GDP ratings. So we should also be the happiest nation in the world too, right? No, we don’t even rank in the Top 10 according to the latest World Happiness Report.
Our pursuit of happiness as a whole has gotten off track. Instead of being at the top of the list in happiness rankings, we’re finding ourselves at the bottom of despair. We’re dealing with more obesity, fighting diabetes, heart disease, cancer, eating disorders, psychological disorders, paralyzing stress, unbearable debt, political battles, racial divides, and more.
With all of this going on in the world today, many are wondering how they can ever find happiness? Whether you believe it or not, there is a way, and we’ll show you how.
What is happiness?
Happiness is the feeling of overall peace, contentment, and experiential delight regarding your subjective well-being. It’s the general sense of satisfaction when feelings are uplifted and all is well with life.
So how does one find this well-being in life, and how does one determine all the ways in which they can find happiness? That is easy to ask, but harder to answer. Does this question pertain to this very moment in time, or is it referring to more of a long-term objective regarding the life-long pursuit of happiness? Are we considering menu options at a local bistro or life’s inborn purpose and value?
Some would argue that the context of the question is what determines where you go for the answers. However, those are also the same people who are trying to find their own subjective happiness by searching for it in all the wrong places.
First, it is important to understand the source of happiness and realize that it isn’t something you can purchase from a store or earn through a degree or professional promotion. Happiness is a renewable resource that must be replenished moment by moment, day by day. If it came in cans or bottles, there would always be a shortage because the demand is just too high to meet by any other source. What is that source? It’s you. You are the only one who can manifest (manufacture) your own happiness. It starts with gratitude.
Happiness is a Choice – YOUR Choice
In Bronnie Ware’s recorded research mentioned earlier about the top regrets of the dying, she notes that when people say that they wish they had let themselves be happier, what they are really saying is that they are just now realizing that happiness is a choice. She continues, “When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying. Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.”
It is important to note that for one of people’s biggest regrets in life, they do not say they wished they found happiness, or that they wished other people made them happier – the wish is that they would have let themselves be happier. This is because happiness isn’t purchased, earned, or found from some random outside source. Instead, happiness is a choice that only you can manifest from within.
Although you hopefully enjoy other people – friends, a spouse, a significant other – they can only provide moments of happiness for you as it overflows from their own reservoir of happiness. To have someone else bear the weight and responsibility of your own personal happiness is a burden no other person is meant to carry other than you. Anyone would buckle under the pressure of having to manufacture and maintain someone else’s happiness in addition to their own.
Many of you may have lost someone with whom you experienced a great deal of happiness. You may feel like you will never find anyone else again and you may not want to – that is ok. You can learn how to be happy alone and you will learn how to be happy again. It’s a choice you have to make. You can’t just hope for it, you have to decide to choose happiness.
What is Happiness to You?
As we all deal with the frustrations of life day in and day out, there is a common cry that “someday I’ll find happiness when…” When I get that promotion… When I find that special someone… When I drive the best car… When I become famous… When I beat cancer… When I get a degree… When I get out of debt… This ‘when’ list can literally go on forever as happiness passes you by.
You cannot allow yourself to have a happy definition that is based on something (an external factor like money, status, and fame) instead of someone (your own internal makeup of values and internal worth). If you attempt to pursue happiness like an evasive muse, you will find yourself running after it your entire life, feeling empty, unfulfilled, unvalued, and ready to give up. Many times that kind of pursuit can also keep you feeling isolated and all alone with no real connections to the outside world.
However, when you choose to take each moment and mine it for gold, which is the happiness that already exists within, then you will begin to see how life is interconnected with everything. When you choose a better happy definition and begin to find and express happiness in the little things – like a cup of coffee with a friend, a cool breeze, a kind word from a stranger, or a break in traffic – you begin to attune your life to the very energy that lifts spirits and moods everywhere you go, generating even more happiness as it overflows from you into someone else’s life!
Whether you realize it or not, you effect the general environment of every person that crosses your path. You either add to the chaos and debris, or you add your life-giving energy through choosing happiness in that moment. What is your standard choice? Maybe it’s time to make a new choice and choose happiness.
Practical Steps to Begin Experiencing More Happiness Right Now
Many contemporary authors, counselors and theologians of this generation have touched on the power of journaling as a way to alter your perspective. When pursuing happiness, journaling your daily experiences will most definitely change your life, most importantly by improving your outlook.
Journaling is a tactile function that involves all your senses. It allows you to focus on one thing – writing down something you can choose to be happy about. As you journal at least one happy thought a day (hopefully more), without any repeats, your journal will become a tremendous help to you on the days when you feel decidedly unhappy. The practice of journaling your happy thoughts, things you are thankful for, random acts of kindness you witnessed, took part in, or were the recipient of may seem foreign to you at first, but stick with it.
When beginning, it may seem difficult at times to find something you’re happy about, but you have the power to choose happiness. Exercise the right to choose happiness despite everything else you think is going wrong. Even if it’s just the fact that you woke up to live another day – choose to be happy about that. If you have a heartbeat, then you have a purpose for being here. Choose to participate in life, and choose happiness.
What else can you do to begin manifesting happiness?
- Assess your valuables. This isn’t referring to your safe or bank account. Financial value can’t compare to the long-term, priceless value of a thriving relationship with your spouse, children, extended family, and friends. If you place more value on things than on people, it’s time to realign your life to a more worthy pursuit.
- Pursue your passion. First, you need to know what you are passionate about. Hint: it will be an intangible value, not a person, place, thing, or dollar amount. Take part in something bigger than yourself.
- Improve your health. Healthy people are generally at least 20% happier than unhealthy people. When your body is healthy, you naturally produce more energy that can be channeled into your pursuit of happiness.
- Increase your activity. Just being outdoors can elevate your mood and give you a sense of well-being. Exercise is also a quick way to snuff out some bad energy and get new blood flowing as you readjust your mood and outlook on life.
- Get some sleep. If you are deprived of sleep, you will have a much tougher time manifesting happiness in your life. Without proper sleep, you are less likely to generate positive thoughts and can quickly slip into more negative behaviors like poor eating and isolating yourself from the very people that can help get you back on track.
- Connect with others. The more isolated you are, the farther away from happiness you become. Humans – even introverts – were made for interaction and relationships. Without that connection you will get burnt out on life and feel like you lack purpose and value. The more we connect with others and help them feel valued, the more we are able to tap into our own personal value.
- Give to Charity. When you give your time to someone else, you immediately elevate your own value and self-worth. When you give, you soon realize that it’s you who receives the best reward, and that goes a long way towards manifesting and sharing your own happiness.
- Write some notes. Telling others in hand-written form how much you appreciate them will help to increase your own appreciation level in life, and help you identify even more people and acts of kindness for which you can be happy and grateful. As your notes go out, you help fill their need for happiness as well, and it’s a beautiful cycle that will always come back around with a smile.
You can learn how to be happy again. The actions you choose to do that will most enhance your life and levels of happiness are ones that involve helping someone else. The economy of self-worth only works when we first add value to others, and in that our own value is found. When we feel valued, and help others feel valued, our happiness levels will soar.
As we all work together to find our own answer on how to be happy alone, individually and around the world, don’t choose to focus on negativity and the things that are out of your control. Instead, choose to focus on happiness, your happiness, and let yourself smile again. You won’t regret it!