How long has it been since you felt true happiness? Was it when you landed your job? The day you got married? How about the moment you looked into your child's eyes for the very first time?
We tend to structure our happiness around major life events, and when the novelty wears down, so too does our happiness. In order to fully understand what makes us utterly and blissfully happy, we must first dig in to what chips away at the euphoric bliss that ties itself to those major life events, and how we can hang on to those feelings to lead an overall happier existence.
Let's discuss the three main stressors of life, and how we can prevent them from having such a negative impact on our states of being.
One of the most common reasons we lose sight of our happiness is directly tied to our financial situations. We feel happier when the bills are paid, money is coming in, and we are able to splurge on life. But when we allow the bills to get behind, we spend carelessly, and we feel like there is never enough income, our stress levels can go through the roof. That's not a good feeling, and it is almost guaranteed to rob us of any sense of happiness.
To avoid this, consider creating a budget that is easy to follow and allows for your financial weaknesses to be satisfied. If we can still spend, splurge even, while keeping our finances in order, the stress doesn't hit nearly as hard. One such program is the envelope system.
This system has you dedicating cash to envelopes specifically labeled for their purpose. You decide how much of your net income should go into each envelope at the start of your budget cycle. Some people follow the 50/30/20 allocation: 50% of your income goes toward needs like mortgage and utilities, 30% goes toward wants like travel and entertainment, and the remaining 20 percent goes toward savings and chipping away at debt.
This system is beneficial because it allows you to physically see your money being spent. You begin to realize that maybe that daily Starbucks splurge might be transformed into fancy mixes at home, as that money could be used more effectively in another envelope.
Some example envelope categories:
entertainment (date night/movies, etc)
debt (loans and credit cards)
You have the freedom to choose where your disposable income is being spent. When you start to follow a system that holds you accountable for your frivolous spending, you start to see a shift in your financial health, and thus your overall well-being!
As a people-pleaser, I am extremely guilty of allowing the stresses of work to permeate every aspect of my life, dwindling my happiness in its path to self-destruction.
Okay, that might be a tad bit exaggerated, but just a tad. But when we allow our contentment to be tied to others' thoughts, feelings, and actions, we tend to carry more stress than the average Joe. This is usually because we need to know that our actions make other people (think bosses) happy. If we don't get that gratification, we instantly feel like we're not doing a good job. We start to worry about what we're doing wrong, and how we can do better. This builds and builds until it feels like a weight we can't get out from under. Before you know it, we have no idea what happiness even feels like because we remain in a constant state of anxiety and turmoil. This is extremely unhealthy.
Consider this: at work, you are 100% replaceable; at home, you are not. As stress can lead to extreme health issues, we need to get a handle on its causes and be able to eliminate the majority of it from our lives. To start to shift your mindset and carry less job-related stress, you might start by telling yourself that you are going to have an amazing, productive, and fulfilling day, and then seek to make that happen. This means that you go to work, do your absolute best (because that's what you signed up for anyway), and then tell yourself what a great job you did! Like, literally. Look in the mirror if you have to, just make sure you are vocalizing positivity toward yourself. Just as we feed ourselves when we are hungry, we must feed our souls when they feel depleted.
The power of the mind is amazing, and when we start to shift our focus to self, we begin to realize the value of our own intentions. We begin to realize that nobody else needs to notice what a great job we did, because we noticed it ourselves. You do not need anyone else to fill your bucket; you can do that all on your own. You need only know that you committed fully to your work day to walk out that door at the end of the day able to leave it all there, until you meet it again the next day.
This technique may take a while to truly effect change from within, but I promise you, YOU WILL START TO CHANGE. You will feel lighter, more confident, and most importantly, less stressed.
This one is HUGE. Why so, you might ask? It's simple: this particular stressor involves our most sensitive emotions. And when those emotions teeter along a positive-negative fine line, they tend to become even more sensitive. Because this occurs most often in our partner relationships, we'll focus on that one here.
The first two stressors that we talked about can have an immensely negative effect on our relationships with our partners. This ties back to the entire reason you are with this person: it's love, it makes you feel euphorically alive; it makes you feel wanted, loved, cherished; it makes every mountain in the world seem like a mere mole hill. And when you or your partner are carrying stress from your job or finances, it impacts your entire character. Someone once lively, happy, full of energy can suddenly seem like a lifeless automaton, moving through life soaking up all the negativity one can acquire.
To avoid this common relationship pitfall, we must learn to separate our identity from the things that weigh us down. It may seem too difficult to even conceive of the possibility, but it can be done. First, learn to talk with your spouse, as opposed to to your spouse. Most often, they are there to shoulder at least part of your burdens. Let them. They may offer solutions you haven't thought through. Let them. They may offer a distraction, if only temporary. Let them. Learn to keep your stress focused on the stressor, and not on your partner.
Additionally, set aside time that is strictly for you and your person. No phones, no computers, no additional people; just the two of you. Go on dates, take a walk, have a picnic. Avoid talking about stressful topics during these times. Instead, focus on the magic the two of you share. Allow yourself to just enjoy being together.
Over time, you will begin to count on this time as one where you will be able to completely feel the happiness that you have carefully crafted around your life. You will seek it out when it's missing, and you will rearrange things simply to make it happen consistently. And you should.
This is by no means a complete fix-all for eliminating stress from your life. But hey, we have to start somewhere, right? Try one or two of these ideas. Who knows? You might surprise yourself!
In the meantime, stay positive, be kind, and never forget the power of a smile.