I often hear people say something along the lines of “I know I’ll be happy when….”, or “I’ll feel happy if…”
It may be that they think happiness will improve when they are earning more, or when they’ve achieved a certain level of success in their career, or when their health improves, or when they lose weight, or when they find a partner, or a myriad of other future conditions. What these people probably don’t realise is that they are not just making statements about what they imagine would make them happier in the future, they are actually also stating the reasons for not being happy right now. By locating happiness as something that maybe waiting for them in the future they may be inadvertently delaying or deferring possible happiness in the present moment.
These people may be falling into the trap of believing that happiness is only possible when certain conditions or circumstances are met; that we can only be happy under ideal circumstances. Now I wouldn’t suggest that there is no connection between the circumstances of our life and happiness, (for instance people living in abject poverty) however I do believe it is possible to be happy/happier right now with whatever circumstances we currently face. I also believe it may be a mistake to defer ‘here and now’ happiness in the belief that it will come to us in the future, or that it is only possible when something in our life changes.
There is always the possibility of greater happiness in the future, but why accept that you can’t also be happy in the here and now?
Happiness is available to all of us now, no matter what the circumstances of our lives.
Let’s think about this and examine the evidence. No doubt you can recall meeting people who seem to be cheery despite facing difficult life circumstances or adversity. I’m not talking about people who just put on a brave face, but those people who are not easily rattled by life’s challenges and seem to stay basically happy; People whose happiness seems resilient to the slings and arrows of daily life and aren’t easily separated from their happiness.
It may be someone who is upbeat about the future despite the loss of a job, or someone who seems bubbly despite ill health (perhaps even a life threatening illness). Maybe it is someone who is single and would love to have a partner but doesn’t let their single status get them down. Or the person who has nothing in the bank account but always has a smile to share. We might describe these people as optimists. These people show us that happiness does not have to be tightly linked to our circumstances. They show us that happiness is possible even when things are not ideal.
I won’t be discussing in this post how it is that people can remain happy despite circumstances that would drag others down, (that will be for another post), what I do want to point out is that we can be happy in our life right now. The optimists show us that it is possible. We don’t have to believe that we can only be happy when our circumstances change. If we believe that idea we are robbing ourselves of potential happiness. People whose happiness is resilient to difficult life circumstances would not believe that they have to wait until things get better before they can be happy, and you don’t have to either.
So the first step to being happier right now, even if life isn’t ideal, is to believe that it is possible. Watch out for how you think about happiness. If you find yourself thinking about happiness in a future tense, (I’ll be happy when…) challenge this thought and set it aside. Don’t participate in robbing yourself of the chance for happiness right now. Start thinking about what makes you happy now in your life and build on that, rather than think that happiness is waiting for you up ahead.