The Conditions of Happiness

There is a tradition in my house. One I take very seriously. It is called “The Dance Party.” When sadness or stress becomes too much, this tradition is brought out and celebrated.

Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” is blasted through the house, and dancing commences for a full four minutes. (I use the term “dance” loosely. Mostly there is flapping of arms and legs and jumping.)  The beat is catchy, but the real magic is in the lyrics. “Because I’m happy” is repeated over and over. These words have power to jump out of the speakers, and wrap me in a blanket of happy.

The magic lies not only the repetition, but in the immediacy of the phrase “I’m happy.” There are no conditions put on the emotion. There is no cause that can be removed. It just is. Happiness is now. Therein lies the magic.

In this article, I will focus on ways we distance ourselves from joy and happiness. My next article, I will focus on how to bring more joy and happiness into the present.

I’m convinced happiness is a choice too many of us keep putting off. Whether it is consciously or unconsciously done, happiness gets pushed away and put in a box.

Instead of choosing to be happy in the present moment, we choose to create conditions and barriers to our happiness.  Here’s how:

1. We choose our thoughts.
Optimists focus on the possibilities that lie ahead. Pessimists focus on the challenges. There is a quote I love by “Anonymous” (Great guy by the way, I love so many of his quotes!) it reads: “What you focus on is what you see.”

The same cup of water can be laid out in front of two people. One will see the glass half full, the other half empty. What they focus on determines their thoughts. It’s a well known analogy, but it illustrates my point.

Mr. Glass-Half-Full-Guy will be glad to have some water to drink and a cup to fill up later. Mr. Glass-Half-Empty-Guy will judge the lazy host for cheating him out of a half glass of water.

You have a choice to focus on the have instead of the have-not. This is the first step to choosing happiness.

2. We choose our words
Thoughts are one thing. They exist in our heads. Some last less than a second and others we carry with us and repeat often.

If we repeat the negative view point in our thoughts long enough, a negative emotion is triggered. Much like “Happy” triggers happy emotions, Weird Al’s satire version “Cranky” could have a similar effect. Eventually, you’ll find yourself cranky.

“What you say flows from what is in your heart.” Luke 6:45 (NLT)

Complaining, cranky thoughts yield complaining, cranky words. Words have power. They solidify the feelings within you and generate more thoughts along the same path. If you claim crankiness, more crankiness will follow. 

Cranky words spread the cranky to your surrounding mates, thus solidifying the cranky cycle. The cranky went from your thoughts to the rest of the room.

What if you claimed happiness? Well, the cycle is the same for anything you claim. Claim happiness and more happiness will follow.

3. We choose our conditions.
Think of the conditional statement “If…, then…” 

How many times have you said “If _____, then I’ll be happy?”

“If I had a spouse/child, then I’d be happy.”
“If my boss wasn’t such a jerk, then I’d be happy.”
“If I were rich, then I’d be happy.”

The premise of these statements is the same: you cannot have happiness until a condition is fulfilled. You claim happiness exists outside of your current conditions. In short, conditions on happiness stand as barriers to happiness.

How are you placing a condition, a limit, a barrier between you and happiness?

Fill in the blank with your conditional phrase: “If _____, then I will be happy.”

Conditions put happiness in a box and keep it separate from you.

Why can’t you be happy now and happier still when that condition is filled? What is holding you back?

4. We choose our timing
“When…, then…” statements are similar to “if/then” statements, but even more deadly. “When/then” statements put conditions on our happiness AND they put them in a completely different time zone.

“When I get a husband, then I will be happy.”
“When I get a promotion, then I’ll be happy.”

This is training the brain to think of happiness as a future state. The problem with this kind of thinking is that we never actually get to the future. We live in a series of present moments. If the present is all we have, then future happiness will always be out of reach.

Even worse, the anticipation builds making it difficult to see what is right in front of us. Until finally, we are unable to savor joy in the present moment if we idolize the moments ahead.Tweet this!

Life offers you a choice: either grab the opportunity to enjoy each moment, or turn our back and wait. I urge you to stop waiting and grab each opportunity with as many hands as the good Lord gave you! (I’m sure I’ve got some spare hands lying around if you need one!)

Do you know someone who needs more happiness? Don’t keep this good stuff to yourself – share this and spread the happy.

The list above is by no means exhaustive. There are countless ways we limit our happiness. I’d love to hear from you. In what ways do you put limits on happiness?

I’m looking forward to exploring opportunities for happiness next week. 

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