Don’t worry, be happy

I was speaking to client a while back and they said, I’ve been feeling so good but why doesn’t it last? Their question got me thinking about the Holy Grail of the self-development world; the feeling of happiness.

So what does being happy mean for you? If you’re like me, you have a huge list of things you love doing and people you like being with. But for many people, feeling happy can be elusive and I’m always curious as to why at some point people become unhappy. Over the New Year we all wish each other Happy New Year, but do we ever think about how our happiness really lies in our own hands?



If you took responsibility for being happy, would you be happier than you are right now? Are you good at making yourself happy and lifting yourself up when you are down? Or, do you believe you need someone to do something, or wait for events to go a certain way in order to make you feel happy? If your happiness is external it almost guarantees unhappiness. By putting your happiness in the hands of others, your life is like a seesaw, where the highs won’t last because another person or situation will do something that is out of your control.

If happiness is all too fleeting or you struggle with unhappiness – the following steps will help you to get off the merry-go-round.

Step 1: Stop placing your source of happiness out there somewhere over the Rainbow.

You will be searching for a long time because the end of the rainbow moves whenever you get close to it e.g. when I leave home and go to university I will be happy; when I get my degree I will be happy; when I buy my first home I will be happy; when I get married I will be happy.  If you allow it, happiness comes from the journey as well as the destination.

Step 2: Perspective can turn negative into positive.

Many eons ago, in my second year at university, I sat a chemistry paper.  I really needed to pass that paper to continue with my passion – biochemistry. But, organic chemistry lectures at 8am were way too much for me and I would often drift off to sleep. By the end of the year, I knew the final result wasn’t going to be good. In those days you had to visit the university boards to see your results. So when the day came, I checked my results and remember heading home feeling really embarrassed. I had passed but only just. When I got home, my (now ex) husband had a French bottle of champagne at the ready. I told him the result. He still opened the bottle. ‘What are we celebrating?’ I asked.  His answer, ’You passed; you’ll never have to sit that paper again!’ I hadn’t thought of it like that. His attitude completely changed my perspective on what was important.

Step 3: Stop making your happiness dependent on someone else always being their best self. 

It has been said that ‘expectation is the root of all heartache.’ To ask someone else to look after your happiness is the equivalent of gambling. Your expectation is not their responsibility and they won’t be able to live up to it. No-one is capable of being their best self all of the time. Treasure the happy moments, and accept the person is human and fallible, just like you are.

For those of you who support addicts, recovering addicts, or those with health or mental health challenges this step is particularly true. To place your emotional care and well-being in the hands of someone who is in emotional/physical turmoil, will mean your happiness flows from their path not yours. Focus on your own game in life to bring stability to your own life.

Step 4: Check whether your unhappiness is the express signal for change or action you need to make. 

When the same things trigger you, it’s the sign that you need to take control of your happiness.  Acknowledge your unhappiness and make some changes.  However small the first steps are, you will feel a lot better when you have taken some action.

Step 5: Set the rules you live by, and then reset your boundaries

If someone were to say to you ‘you’re not important to me’, it’s reasonable to assume that you would react. It’s unlikely that anyone would actually say that to your face, but every day people behave in ways that imply that statement. For instance, the neighbours park over your drive way; or you are spoken to with a questionable tone of voice by a partner or a colleague; or someone in the office has taken credit for your work; or going shopping only to be ignored by the shop assistant.

The mistake people make is that they derive a meaning about themselves when others do things differently or misbehave. When you worry about what other people said, did or didn’t do, and see it as a reflection on you, you’ve missed the point. Their behaviour shows that their standards are different to yours.  They live by another set of values and rules. Think about these challenges to your values in a constructive way. Use your trials as way of identifying what is important to you. When someone disrespects your boundaries then revisit how you set them. Maybe you set them too gently; do you need to be more direct? Or if you don’t know how to set your boundaries then reach out and ask for help.

In this way you can establish a code of conduct and let people know how you wish to be treated. The foundation of happiness is established by setting healthy boundaries for your life.

Step 6: Belonging and connection – the source of happiness.

Feeling that you belong is one of the well-springs of happiness. If you feel abandoned, alone, unsupported, lonely or burdened, then it’s time to open up and invite people into your life. If you need to find a new set of friends or build confidence, seek healing, coaching or counselling before you launch into the task of forming new relationships. Receiving guidance from others is not only a great way to break the pattern of loneliness but also helps you form a healthy connection with yourself; the basis of successful relationships.

Step 7: Reflect on your life

Are you taking the steps to create the life you want? If you don’t take the steps towards the life you aspire to you will never be happy.

Step 8: Don’t worry, be happy

Isn’t it great having a song to remind us to be happy? Download the song onto your phone and listen to it whenever you feel your energy is getting low.

If all else fails, use the words of the song as an affirmation.  Remind yourself to be happy because happiness lies in your hands.

Lucille Henry PhD.