When I was trying to get better I used to swing between good days and (most of the time) bad days. But I realized over time that there were certain things I could change that helped me be happy consistently and eliminated the highs and lows altogether. Here’s how to be happy consistently.
[See Also: 10 Things Happy People Do Differently]
How to Be Happy Consistently
The basis of this has to do with Gay Hendrick’s idea of “upper limits,” from his book The Big Leap.
Here’s what it basically is. We all have internal “thermostats” for how much happiness, success, love, etc that we feel comfortable having in our lives.
If we get too far above that level – like a bunch of good things happen suddenly – we kind of start to freak out a little until we get back to our normal, comfortable levels.
Whether we’re consciously aware of it or not, usually we start sabotaging things until things get back to what we’re used to.
For example, maybe you start doing some things to be happier and more positive, writing gratitude lists, looking on the bright side of life, reading positive sources of inspiration, etc – and it actually starts to work!
But then you kind of start to freak out, like, “Why am I so happy all of a sudden? When is something terrible going to happen and take all this happiness away from me? This can’t possibly last, right? Something bad always happens.”
And guess what? It’s very possible that you could self-sabotage and actually make something bad happen because you keep expecting it to. And boom, you’re right back to the upper limit of happiness (or lack of happiness) that you’re used to.
So in this way, every time you try to get better, you keep slipping up and falling back into old patterns.
But what if you could just turn the dial up a teensy bit on your internal thermostat for happiness?
What if you raised it just one degree at a time until you were actually comfortable being a little bit happier all the time? Well, you’d actually be – and stay – happier more consistently.
So how do you do that? You get uncomfortable. If you’re trying out different ways to be more positive, more grateful, happier, etc, then at some point you might come across something that makes you feel a little bit better.
Or maybe you’re just doing something you love one day – listening to your favorite song, reading your favorite book, watching a funny video, meditating, watching your favorite movie, etc – and you have a moment when you feel genuinely happy. Even for just a tiny moment.
How to Be Consistently Happy
I want you to really lean into the feeling of being happy. What does it feel like? How long can you keep holding onto this feeling? What can you do to keep this feeling going just a little bit longer than you normally would? If any negative thoughts come up, passively observe them and let them float away without attaching any meaning to them.
[Check out: 5 Videos to Cheer You Up Today]
It will probably be very uncomfortable to be happy at first if you’ve been unhappy for a long time, but this is the new “normal” level that we’re trying to reach. And it’s very possible to be happy not just on occasion, but consistently and deliberately. Happiness is something you create.
But at first, if I tell you to “choose” to be happy, it’s probably a totally foreign concept. Like, “How the heck am I supposed to “choose” to be happy when I’m depressed??
That’s why you need to look out for even just a moment in your week when you feel happy, so you can hold onto the feeling and remember what it’s like to be happy.
Go out of your way to spend time doing things you like just so you can actively create this feeling. When you find it, just sit there and hold onto the happy feeling for as long as you can. Breathe into it.
And then, if later on you start feeling depressed again or having negative thoughts – let’s call them dementors, like in Harry Potter 😃 – you can remember what it feels like to be happy and pull out your little happy memory – your patronus – and fight back against the depression.
Just remember what it felt like to be happy. Let it wash over you. You could even go and do whatever activity made you happy in the first place. Don’t let the dementors win.
Every week, and eventually every day, spend time intentionally creating this feeling of being happy. Even if it feels temporary or fake, just go for a little feeling of joy or excitement.
If something happens in your regular day to day life that actually makes you happy, then sit with that feeling of happiness for as long as possible too.
The goal is to train yourself to get comfortable with feeling happy for as long as possible (fake it ’til you make it ;)). You’re also building up a memory bank of happy moments that you can draw from.
Over time, you’ll gradually become more used to feeling happy and it won’t seem like such a foreign concept. You might even be able to “choose” to be happy in a moment by remembering little happy memories. 😉
If your internal happiness thermostat goes up a few degrees to a reasonable, content level, then you’re not going to feel comfortable being really depressed one day anymore, so you’ll take the actions necessary to get out of that funk and get back to your happier level.
Over time, you can keep raising your happiness “thermostat” until your new normal is actually being happy! And any time you happen to feel awful, you’ll just feel like something is off and do all your new, positive habits until you get to your new baseline of happiness.
Believe it or not, when it comes to being happy and loving your life, little things matter and even the words you use from day to day make a difference in how you see the world. Is this the one mistake holding you back from being happy?
- 5 Beliefs I Changed to Be Happy
- 4 Beliefs Holding You Back from Being Happy
- Want to Be Happy? Don’t Do These 3 Things
Is This the One Mistake Holding You Back from Being Happy?
The one mistake I used to make all the time when I was depressed that was holding me back from being happy was THE WAY I IDENTIFIED MYSELF.
Even though I wanted to be happy, I still identified as a depressed person and a victim. I would complain about how depressed I was and how much my life sucked.
“Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they’re yours.” – Richard Bach
Maybe you really ARE a victim in some objective sense. Maybe terrible things have happened in your life. But do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?
The more you identify as something you DON’T want, the more it becomes part of you. In order to change, you have to start identifying as what you DO want.
For example, I’ve seen people who want to lose weight who call themselves “fat” or “overweight” or a similar word in part of their screen names online or on social media. It sounds innocent enough, but if they’re actively trying to change that identity and lose weight (as opposed to being an intentionally “curvy” body positive blogger, for example), then they have to give up whatever identities they don’t want anymore. Or if you had any usernames or bios with words like “lonely,” “ugly,” “forever alone,” “depressed,” “hopeless,” etc. Using words like that will subtly reinforce those identities in your life.
If you’re talking to other people, you don’t have to lie and say you’re happy if you’re really depressed, but changing the way you identify yourself – both in your own mind and to other people – can make a difference.
Frame it in terms of what you DO want, in the present tense (as opposed to pushing it off into the future, with your words or otherwise), like “I’m working on losing weight,” or “I’m learning how to be happy,” “I’m recovering,” or “I’m pursuing my passions.”
You have to start acting AS IF. If you’re depressed, how would you act IF you were already a happy person? Completely embody that identity.
What would your life look like if you were a happy person?
What thoughts would you think?
What beliefs would you have?
Who would you hang out with?
How would you spend your time?
If you take this approach, you can figure out exactly how you’d act and how you’d think if you were already a happy person, and then you can take those actions in the present. If you have any bad habits or negative thought patterns, let them go if they’re not something that your happier self would hold onto.
You just have to start acting as if you are already the person you want to be, and one day you’ll wake up and realize that you’re not just pretending anymore. 🙂
How to Be Happy (Even if You Hate Everything)
For a while in college I had an attitude that I pretty much hated everything. Not in an active hatred kind of way, but in a really apathetic, “I hate everything and my life sucks” kind of way. Here’s how to be happy even if you hate everything.
It was not a good way of looking at the world, because everything was tainted with that judgment and I could never see how much good there actually was in the world when I had already made my mind up that I was going to see everything negatively.
- How to Be Happy Consistently
- 5 Beliefs I Changed to Be Happy
- 10 Things Happy People Do Differently
- 7 Common Ways to Be Happy in Life
- How to Be Happy Anytime
If I could go back and give myself advice, it would be this:
Even if you hate everything, look for the positive anyway. Even if you hate people, choose to see the good in them anyway. Even if you hate your life, look for the good anyway.
When you hate everything, that’s probably the last thing you want to do, to actually be positive about things. But that’s the very thing that you need to do to get out of this negative mindset and into a happy one.
That is, if you want to be happy. The most important thing here is just that you want to be happy and you’re willing to make changes.
It might not be easy, but it’s worth it.
And even if you’re the most negative, apathetic person in the world, it’s entirely possible to become a happy and joyful and positive person. Seriously, it is.
I was the one who used to say “eff my life” all the time, and now I’m obnoxiously happy. 🙂 It’s just a matter of making the decision to change your life, and then taking daily, consistent action to work toward your new goals.
So if you hate everything, take heart: you don’t have to keep living with these beliefs. You can change.
You Don’t Have to Be Happy All the Time
Early in my journey I used to have a lot of bad days, and even though I was starting to have good days, I’d still slip back into the depression once in a while. It wasn’t the same kind of depression that it used to be though. It was more of just a regular sadness or tiredness instead of an overwhelming and crushing feeling.
These days I’m honestly happy or content almost every single day of my life. The only times I’m sad now are when something specifically happens, but then it’s only temporary. But if you’re somewhere in the middle of your journey in trying to recover from depression or maybe early on, it’s possible you have a mix of good days and bad days. Maybe you’re worried that having a bad day means you’re starting to relapse, but it’s totally normal to feel sad or down sometimes even when you’re starting to do better. Sadness is just one of our many human emotions.
Here is something I wrote at the beginning of this year when I had more bad days (mixed with the good) to let you know that you don’t have to be happy all the time to be ok (and given enough time and effort put into your recovery, happiness will eventually become your new normal):
“I’ve been feeling a little down lately. I wouldn’t say depressed necessarily, but just tired, lethargic, unmotivated. I have little pockets of joy when I think I am getting happy again but then things sort of settle down and my mood falls down a few notches and I’m back to this familiar place.
Maybe that’s why I keep coming back here. Because it’s familiar. It’s safe. I know what it’s like, and I know what I’m getting myself into every day. I can expect the same results every time. It is comfortable, in a way. To sit with the sadness and not fight it. To just let it swim around you in circles while you float through the water. It’s not the same gut-wrenching depression that I’ve felt in the past, when the world felt like it was closing in and I was drowning at the bottom of a deep well.
Depression, in some ways, is like greeting an old friend. Maybe they’re not your best friend, which is why you don’t see them all the time, and they don’t bring you the joy of a loved one, but they’re still a friend and you have a history of inside jokes together that happiness just can’t understand.
There’s a certain comfort in being depressed. Sometimes being happy seems like such a commitment. It’s a lot of energy to expend, and sometimes I just want to wrap myself in a blanket and go into a cocoon state for a while to reflect and meditate and think and come out rebirthed on the other side.
I’m realizing that you don’t have to be happy all the time to be ok. Because right now I would say that I’m a little sad, but I’m ok. I’m not really concerned about my mood at all. This is not the same all-encompassing sadness that it used to be.
I am cocooning right now, and sometimes sadness sits beside me quietly. But it’s not bothering me, so I’ll let it stay. I know that I’ll be happy again one day.”
And today is now one day, and I am happy. 🙂 And if I have a brief time when I feel sad, I’m not worried that it means I’ll never be happy again. Even if you’re not happy all the time, or only a little bit of the time, there’s hope for you. You’ll be happy again one day.
Sometimes I Don’t Feel Like Being Spiritual and Happy All the Time
Sometimes I don’t feel like being spiritual and happy all the time.
Some days I feel like I don’t have anything insightful to say or any wisdom to dispense.
Last night I gladly watched people get beheaded in Game of Thrones, and this morning I spent an embarrassing amount of time watching “day in the life” videos of my favorite Youtube teen moms (#guiltypleasure).
The other night I ate an entire pint of cookie dough Ben and Jerry’s while watching Bachelor in Paradise from a very sketchy website. If I know I’m not going to see anyone, I refuse to put on pants.
And I got to thinking about how I write about happiness and life advice and spiritual things. I’m in the middle of brainstorming new post ideas, and right now my brain is split pretty firmly between ideas like “8 Quotes About How to Love by Thich Nhat Hanh” and “5 Sleepy Kitten Videos to Make Your Day Better.” I did see a video recently about cats acting like humans that may or may not make for a good post. 🙂
I’m definitely inspired by people like Pema Chodron and Jesus and Martin Luther King Jr. and all those peeps, but sometimes I feel more like Leslie Knope or Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City. Or maybe I’m more like the picture of a pug wrapped up like a burrito with the caption, “One day puggerpillar will turn into a beautiful puggerfly.” I’m not entirely sure yet.
But maybe that’s the point. You’re not supposed to be like anyone else. You’re supposed to be yourself.
And if the real you is messy and emotional and not always perfect and sometimes wants to eat dinosaur egg oatmeal for dinner, then rock on with your bad self. Because there is no “perfect” in the end. All the ideas we have for ourselves are of our own creation, which means we can create new ideals.
Maybe you’re on a personal journey to become a better person. Maybe you’d like to be wiser, more grounded, more spiritual, and happier with your life.
But you know what? You don’t have to be like that all the time. That’s just the goal you’re working toward, and you’re not expected to ever reach it or have a moment when everything in your life is absolutely perfect and you’re totally enlightened and have it all figured out.
So while you’re on this journey, don’t be afraid to be yourself and mess up. If you make mistakes, that’s ok. If you’re the type who is usually happy but sometimes PMS’es and turns into a werewolf every month, don’t beat yourself up. Everyone gets mad and sad and glad and secretly feels like maybe they’re actually a terrible person deep down, but you’re not.
We’re humans, not gods, so we’re not supposed to be perfect. We’re just supposed to try.
And who you are is good enough already. 🙂
If you’d like more tips for dealing with depression, check out our 30 Day Negativity Detox.
P.S. If you’re ready to improve your life and keep track of all your progress and goals, check out Your Best Life Planner. It’s a kit of 36 digital printables that help you plan your days with monthly, weekly, and daily planners, set goals, vision your future, create self care and gratitude lists, and so much more! Check it out here now and create your best life.