Life can be tough. And although circumstances should not affect our happiness (which is a whole separate discussion), it’s hard to ignore issues like financial pressures, relationship problems, work-related stress, and parenthood demands. Sometimes, they can be “overwhelming”.
Then there are the really bad things that happen in life, like the death of a loved one, a significant health issue, or a complete loss of income. We all deal with emotional pain – at least to some degree – on a regular basis. It’s just the way life is.
This is one of the reasons it’s so tough for many people to really be happy. We can do everything possible to help ourselves feel better temporarily, but if our response to the burdens, worries, anxieties, regrets, and stresses of life are not also reduced (or preferably eliminated), it is very difficult to be truly and totally happy.
As Haruki Murakami is quotes as saying, "Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional."
Part of our ability to be totally happy in life, therefore, involves eliminating the unhappiness we might feel, which comes as a result of our response to the negative or bad things going on in our life, as well as out regrets about things we did or didn’t do in the past.
Although this is a bit over simplistic, the first step in eliminating (or at least reducing) that feeling of unhappiness in life is to be grateful for all the good things in our life at any moment in time. What is important to understand is that there are always good things about our lives (and in our lives) for which to be grateful, even if we don’t realize it.
Gratitude and unhappiness are inversely proportional. What that means is that, in general, the more grateful we feel for the good or great things about our lives, the less unhappiness we will experience. Essentially, gratitude “trumps” unhappiness. Stated another way, unhappiness is smothered by gratitude. So basically, gratitude allows us to respond better (more positively) to negative circumstances and stress, thereby reducing the emotional pain associated with these circumstances.
At the extreme end of this concept, if we use the common “1-to-10” scale (where 10 is best and 1 is worst) – if we are at a “10” level of gratitude (so we are totally gratefully for the good and positive things in our life) then we can be at a “1” (or even “0”) level of unhappiness.
This doesn’t mean we will be totally and truly happy, though, since there is more required for total happiness than to just “not be unhappy”, but is the start to a process which can lead to total happiness (see "The Happiness Formula" for more on this).
So, if you want to reduce (or eliminate) unhappiness in your life, it is essential that you increase your overall attitude of gratitude. It must become a habit, too. One way to do this is called the “Three Great Things” exercise.
Here’s how it works:
Every night before you go to bed, for at least the next 30 days, write down three great things about your day - just three things about your day that were good, great, or positive. Do this every night for the next month. Write them down. And ideally, do this with someone – like your spouse, significant other, sibling, or roommate.
It just takes a few minutes. And again, there are always good things happening to you or around you daily. It just takes an awareness of these positives in your day (and in your life).
Make a commitment to do this every night for the next month and you’ll start to feel better quickly. More importantly, if you keep doing this for at least the next month (two months is better) you will develop a “gratitude habit” … and become a much more “grateful person”.
You’ll be amazed at how “unhappiness” starts to disappear by doing this.
BeHappy! my friends