How to Be Happy or at Least Less SadMay 31, 2022
Everybody wants to be happy. But given all the things that are discouraging and disheartening and heartbreaking in the world, the choices other people make, the bad things that happen, many of us are wondering if it’s even possible. We all want to know how to be happy, or if we can’t be happy, can we at least be less sad?
The good news is that not only can you be more happy and less sad, nothing in the world has to change in order to do it. (This is really good news because you might have noticed that you have zero control over the rest of the world!) Your power to be more happy and less sad is already inside of you.
Here are six keys to help you feel more happy and less sad:
1. Stop thinking you are supposed to be happy all the time.
Ironically, one of the things that is adding to our pain is the thought that we should be happier (or at least less sad). We look at other people and it seems like everybody is a whole lot happier than we are. We see them living their best lives on social media and it looks like other people don’t struggle with feeling as bad as we do, and then we assume that there must be something wrong with us.
It turns out that thinking you should be happy ends up making you more sad. Thinking that you are supposed to be happy is actually adding to our negative emotion because we are not only experiencing the negative emotion of our lives, our thought that we are feeling the wrong way adds a lot of other negative emotions on top of all that.
Maybe we feel shame because we think we’re more sad than other people and therefore something must be wrong with us. Maybe we feel frustrated that we can’t figure out how to be happy. Maybe we feel self-pity because we think it’s different for us and it shouldn’t be. Or maybe we feel confused because we can’t figure out how to be happy or at least less sad. So then we’re sad and ashamed, or sad and frustrated, or sad and sorry for ourselves, or sad and confused, or all of them at once.
The best thing to remember is that you are supposed to be sad. You are not supposed to be happy all of the time.
This earth life experience was designed to have opposition in all things. It is a world of opposites: light/dark, hot/cold, happy/sad, joy/grief. It’s always 50/50. Half the time, you are supposed to feel bad. Half the time you are supposed to be feeling negative emotion.
And so if you are feeling bad, just know that nothing has gone wrong. You are supposed to feel bad. That is part of being human. In fact, it’s part of being human at least half of the time and it’s never because anything is wrong with you.
As I pointed out earlier, when we are in resistance to the negative emotion we are having we add even more negative emotion. We have doubled the amount of feeling bad and then it can feel like we are experiencing way more than 50% negative emotion in our lives.
But when you don’t have to be sad and ashamed and frustrated and confused and sorry for yourself, and you can just be sad when you are sad, then you are going to feel a lot less negative emotion on the whole.
You are supposed to be feeling negative emotions at least half of the time, and knowing that is the first key to being more happy and less sad.
2. Know that every feeling is created by a thought.
Sometimes our negative feelings can feel scary. Often it feels like we have no control over them and we feel like we are at their mercy and that at any moment we could feel terrible.
But the truth is that every feeling is created by a thought. This is the way the brain communicates information with the rest of your body.
Your body can’t process information and the brain, whose job is to keep you safe by taking in all the information and determining the threats, needs a way to tell the rest of the body what’s going on. That way is by creating chemical signals that we feel as feelings.
Your brain sends chemical signals to the rest of the body to tell it what is happening, what action needs to be taken. Every feeling then is just information from the brain to the body.
Your feelings aren’t ever just randomly happening to you. Your brain has processed some information and that created your feeling. This is really good to know because it allows you to feel more of a sense of control.
There is always a good reason for feeling what you’re feeling: your brain had a thought. That thought sent a message to the rest of your body. Nothing has gone wrong no matter what you are feeling. Knowing the cause of your feelings will help you understand how to be happier and less sad when you want to.
3. Stop trying to “avoid your sadness” and get good at feeling it.
We are biologically programmed to avoid our negative emotions. This is how our brain has kept us alive as a species for so long and most of us do it instinctively. This means that when we feel bad, we almost immediately try to fix or solve or avoid our negative feelings.
We try to distract ourselves in all kinds of ways, maybe by eating or drinking or scrolling social media or overworking or binge watching Netflix for hours. Sometimes we try to “solve” our feelings or argue with our emotion, by thinking about how it should be different or wishing it was different and spinning for hours worrying about how to change things that have already happened or control things that we have no control over. Sometimes we even avoid our negative emotion by lashing out and blowing off steam.
And usually we think that doing these things is what it means to feel bad. But there is actually no feeling going on. What we are really doing with these actions is avoiding feeling our feelings, which actually only makes them last longer. Instead of processing our feelings, we end up resisting them, making them bigger and making them last longer.
To feel happy or at least less sad, you need to get good at processing your feelings.
How do you do this? Remember that feeling happens in your body.
Feeling is a physical experience where you take notice of your body and observe what is happening to you on a physical level. When you feel your feelings, you are noticing only the physical sensations of the emotion—you notice the vibration of the emotion, the temperature of the emotion, the movement, the energy, the speed of the vibration inside your body, the size and texture and characteristics of the vibration.
As you drop into your body and observe what is happening physically, the brain recognizes that you have received the information it's been trying to tell you, and it stops sending the messages. As you process your feeling, it naturally releases and becomes less insistent, until you feel better.
4. Remember that every feeling is temporary.
In the middle of feeling bad sometimes it feels like you’ve felt bad forever and that you will feel bad forevermore. We get scared that we are always going to feel like this.
You can feel happy and much less sad if you remember that every feeling is temporary by nature. Because every feeling is created by our thoughts, our feelings are always changing. We can’t think the same thought all the time, and so we won’t feel the same way all the time. If we process our emotions, our brain can move onto other information, and give us other messages that it wants to send.
Imagine that you are like the bright blue sky with the sun shining. Every thought you have is like a cloud that passes across that sky. As we process our emotion, the clouds can cross the sky and disappear. Sometimes there are storms. Sometimes we have lots of thoughts that create lots of clouds and it feels like we will never see the sun again. Sometimes it feels like it has been cloudy and stormy and overcast for months. But under the clouds, there is always the bright blue sky and shining sun. They are never gone. Sometimes they are just temporarily covered up.
You can get a lot of relief, feel happier, and feel a lot less sad when you know that all feelings are temporary. The feelings you have in any given moment are just the weather you are experiencing right now, but it won’t be that way forever.
5. Remember that feelings are neutral.
Another key to help you be happy or at least less sad is to understand that every feeling you have is neutral, which means that no feeling is inherently good or bad. It is only a feeling.
Of course we label our feelings as positive or negative. But positive or negative doesn’t mean good or bad. No feeling is good and no feeling is bad and no feeling can make you good or bad.
Every feeling is neutral, meaning that is just a vibration in your body, a physical experience that you can have in your body, but none of them are bad until we think they are.
I like remembering that just like -5 is just a number and +5 is just a number, neither of them are good or bad. They are just a quantity on a number line that indicates how much of something we have.
It is the same with your feelings. A negative emotion isn’t bad and a positive emotion isn’t good. They are just a quality of vibration in your body. Just an experience on the human emotional spectrum that is the result of whatever thought you have had.
How can knowing this help you be more happy or at least less sad? It will help you have less resistance to the emotional experience you are having at any given moment. Your experience is not good or bad and it never makes you good or bad.
It doesn’t mean anything has gone wrong. It means you have had thoughts that have added up to this emotion and it’s okay. This feeling is just here to be felt. It is just the answer we get when we think these thoughts and nothing has gone wrong.
6. You have the power to decide on purpose how you want to feel.
The final key to help you be happy or at least less sad is to own your power to feel however you want. Because every feeling is created by a thought, that means that if you change your thoughts you can change your feelings.
Sometimes when I tell my clients this, they immediately think this means that they can and should feel happy all of the time. But I remind them, that actually, they probably don't’ want to feel happy all the time.
For example, you might not want to feel happy when you get a cancer diagnosis, or when your child is hurting, or when there is a school shooting or when your business fails. There are lots of good reasons for feeling bad, and as we’ve discussed there is nothing wrong with feeling bad. It is just part of the human experience and we want to have that human experience.
Your power comes when you recognize that every single thing you are feeling was created first by a thought in your own mind, and that means that if you ever WANT to change it, you can.
I think it can be so powerful to know that you are always in control of your emotions, you are always choosing them, and they can’t ever just happen to you. And even when you want to choose a negative emotion, that is powerful because it puts you in control of choosing your experience instead of feeling powerless and at the effect of the things that happen.
Show yourself your own power over how you feel by doing the following exercise:
- I like to ask myself, how I am feeling and then ask myself why:
- I am feeling ___________ because I am thinking ____________.
- And then I ask myself, do I want to keep thinking that?
For example, last month I was feeling outraged because I was thinking how terrible it was that innocent children died because someone took a gun to school and killed them. I felt heartbroken because I was thinking that their parents wouldn’t get to see them grow up. My feelings were created by my thoughts.
I asked myself if I wanted to keep those thoughts and I did. So then I just felt outraged and heartbroken. Nothing had to change.
On the other hand, this morning, I felt anxious because I was thinking that I didn’t have enough time to do everything I needed to do. My thoughts were creating my anxiety.
I asked myself if I wanted to keep those thoughts and I didn’t. I decided to think that I always get the most important things done and that made me feel purposeful instead of anxious.
When you really understand your power to choose how you feel, you can choose to feel happy when you want, less sad when you want, exactly the same happy or sad when you want to, and it’s all in your control!
Framework for feeling
Here is a simple guide to help you decide how you want to feel and help you more happy and less sad when you want to:
1. Awareness -
- Notice that you are feeling something and remind yourself that this is just information for your body
2. Drop your resistance -
- Relax into the experience instead of immediately trying to avoid it or fix it. Your body is designed to feel anything and no feeling can hurt you.
3. Process your Emotion -
- Drop into your body and notice what the feeling feels like physically.
- Notice where the feeling is in your body, if it is moving or still, soft or hard, hot or cold.
- Describe it to yourself and watch it until it starts to fade and change.
4. Decide if you want to feel differently -
- Ask yourself what you are thinking that is creating this feeling.
- Ask yourself if you want to change your thought.
5. Create a new emotion if that’s what you want -
- If the answer is no, there is nothing more to do. Just process your emotion and allow it to be there.
- If the answer is yes and you want to change your thought, ask yourself how you want to feel and what you would need to think to feel that way.
If you want more help learning to feel and process your emotion or if you want to understand how to change your thoughts, so that you can feel more happy or at least less sad, you can sign up for a free coaching call anytime and I can show you how much power you have to feel better in your life.
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