Figuring out how to feel happy again has been one of the most confusing, frustrating, enlightening and challenging journeys I’ve ever been on in my life.
Ever since I went through a breakup a few years ago, suffered a big loss in my family and got diagnosed with a painful autoimmune disease, it has been a struggle.
I felt hopeless and defeated.
My mind was constantly plagued by depressing thoughts and nostalgia infected my desire for a better future.
I was a mess.
When you experience a domino effect in your life, it can change you. Some people are lucky in that the dominos which fall are good ones.
Then there are people like us.
Something bad happens. And then another. And another. And another. Until we’re staring at a pile of baggage that now weighs us down at every turn.
It’s a tough journey to climb out of a bad place because motivation doesn’t cut it anymore. If anything, you’d be lucky to experience any sort of long-lasting motivation.
These bad incidents pile up on each other until you lose the joy for things you once loved passionately.
Can you relate to that?
I hate to start this article on such a sour note but I felt it necessary to paint a vivid and accurate picture of what I went through and how I felt.
It’s important because I want you to see how bleak life felt to me so that you can actually feel hopeful again because I’m no longer battling those demons.
My life has changed.
I have overcome much of what almost destroyed me. Trust me, it gets better. More importantly, you will feel happy again.
And here’s the beautiful thing about feeling happy again – you don’t fret the bad stuff anymore.
Even if you went through years of hardship and pain, when you experience joy and happiness again, it will overtake your entire being.
With that being said, let’s talk about everything I know on how to feel happy again. Learn and apply what I have detailed below. That’s when things start to change. I promise you that.
1. You must endure suffering
It was a Wednesday afternoon, I’d wasted another day of my life as I had for the last 2 years and I was on Youtube. Strangely enough, I came across a video of David Goggins talking about suffering and it caught my attention.
Now at this point in my life, suffering became my excuse for not trying to achieve anything.
Even though I used to love working out, my joints ached so I didn’t bother.
Instead of trying to walk outside or lift some weights, my mind gave me the ‘brilliant’ idea of laying in bed, watching TV and eating junk because I was suffering.
And then I watched this video about a man who woke up every single day to suffer and it made me feel like crap.
I tried to run away from my suffering and use it as an excuse for doing nothing.
David Goggins woke up wanting to suffer and used that reality to push himself to achieve crazy feats.
What truly rattled me was the fact that the only difference separating me from Goggins was my mind. I no longer had any excuse for being lazy and weak.
I remember watching a few more of his videos before I got off the bed, put my running shoes on and starting doing laps around my yard.
About 2 hours later, I completed my 150th lap. My clothes were soaked and my body was battered.
But my mind was in heaven.
I had just worked out for the first time in ages and I pushed harder than I did before my autoimmune disease.
When my body failed, my mind didn’t. And that’s how I accomplished something I thought would be impossible that day.
Ever since then, my life has never been the same.
The switch was flipped and that helped but the evolution of my mindset took many months to achieve. Right now, the only thing you really have to focus on is strengthening your mind.
The only way I know how is through daily challenges. Push yourself to suffer every single day at something that matters to you, even if it sucks.
If you can build some momentum, I promise you the results will change your life.
There is no avoiding suffering. One form of it ruins your life whereas the other builds it.
You get to choose.
2. Revisit your inner demons
Have you noticed that a popular trope in movies and books is to visit your inner demons and conquer them? It used to fly over my head.
I overlooked this concept until I read Goggins’s book called Can’t Hurt Me. What I failed to realize in life is that you can’t outrun your own shadow.
That darkness overlooking your mind and heart will catch up to you at some point. And it can do some serious damage to your life.
The only way you can break out of the cycle is to stop pretending like your inner demons don’t exist.
I’m a firm believer in daily affirmations but it won’t make a difference to your level of happiness if you’re lying to yourself.
Saying you’re confident when your mind is plagued with insecurity is counterproductive.
What makes more sense is to acknowledge your innermost insecurities or demons from the past.
Get rid of those cracks in the foundation before trying to build the rest of your fortress.
Ask yourself, why do I have these insecurities or demons? And then ask yourself this, what can I do about it?
That’s where you have to start.
And if you’re unafraid of suffering, then chances are such that you will be one of the few who reach a level of growth most people are too afraid to dream about.
Check out this article on how to deal with negative emotions.
3. Let go of what you have lost
For as long as I can remember, one of the toxic habits that have contributed the most to my unhappiness is nostalgia.
I spend so much of time fantasizing over what has passed and the regrets I have that my future is not even an afterthought.
The problem with being stuck in the past is that it prevents you from aspiring to grow as a person. With growth, comes happiness. There’s no way around it.
Rather than live in the moment, I prohibit myself from enjoying what I have by simply focusing on what has been lost.
The tragic phase of this cycle is that the things I don’t appreciate and enjoy right now become the things I lose and fantasize about in the future.
How ironic is that.
Ever since this realization, I have tried my best to make peace with the past.
It still creeps up on me from time to time. But I try my best to stay grounded in the present by counting my blessings.
I pray multiple times per day and with each prayer, I spend a minute or two thanking God for everything I have been blessed with.
This simple habit has saved me from falling into a depressing cycle on many occasions.
I can’t map out the exact blueprint for how you can go about letting go of the past but perhaps sharing what works for me might help you figure it out.
To sum it up: I focus on the present by counting my blessings every single day.
Another popular but overlooked practice is meditation. Imagine trying to find some clarity when your mind is like a tornado. It’s almost impossible to navigate through the storm without getting caught up in it.
The only practice that has effectively calmed me down is mindful meditation.
Some days I can meditate for half an hour whilst on other days I can get in a 15-minute session.
With time, practice and patience, meditation have gifted me some peace of mind, control over my thoughts and the ability to calm down during a burst of anxiety.
I believe the effects of meditation have impacted my ability to feel happy again as well as my level of focus.
Start with 10 minutes of meditation per day. I challenge you.
4. Pursue something meaningful to you
If happiness or sadness is a state of mind, then we would not be incorrect to assume that perspective can shift our state of mind from one feeling to another.
The problem with a change in perspective is that it can’t be manufactured without sincerity in your day to day life.
You need freedom of expression and truthfulness of passion to discover different perspectives.
I’ve tried to be logical and analytical in my life but it didn’t work.
It was easy for me to realize that it’s beneficial to focus on the present rather than the past.
But that logical realization didn’t change how I felt. It didn’t make me wake up one morning re-calibrated to focus on my present and future.
The only time in my life when I have been able to make significant change is when I felt like my life had meaning to it.
This has only been possible through the pursuit of purpose.
Anything else and you’re living a facade.
For years happiness was evasive and a feeling of emptiness was all-consuming. It sucked the joy out of my life. At first I thought it would be fixed by finding a great girl.
When I met someone amazing, it was great for a while but that void crept back.
I wanted it to be something simple like missing someone but in reality, it was a lack of purpose that prevented me from feeling happy.
If there’s just one thing you take away from this article, let it be this – if you want to know how to feel happy again, know how to discover your purpose in life.
When you serve a purpose bigger than yourself, that’s when suffering and sadness will never chain you down.
You’ll discover an abundance of happiness when you have a purpose that serves more than just yourself.
5. Control what you can
I believe in God and my religion teaches me to submit to the will of God. What that means is that I should surrender control to a higher being and let the flow of life guide me.
This has been particularly challenging for me as a person because I like to be in control.
I’ve been wired to believe that there’s always something I can do to fix or take control of a situation.
But that’s not realistic or always possible.
Reality is such that certain things are completely out of your control. Desiring to control what you cannot will make you unhappy.
So this piece of advice is two-fold – Surrender to something you believe in and focus on what you can actually control.
6. Be true to who you really are
We live in a time that is driven by social opinion. Everyone has a platform to voice their opinions and for the most part, it’s a good thing.
But I would be amiss not to touch on how negative it can be as well.
The one constantly reported side effect of mass social opinion is unhappiness caused by the need to fit into the mold social network society has prescribed for us.
The fear of being ostracized for going against the grain scares most of us.
Another negative effect of social media is the illusion of perfection.
Not many people display an accurate account of their lives. From the outside looking in, it’s perfect.
When we see this and start comparing, it’s hard not to be affected by it.
This cycle feeds depression, dissatisfaction, unhappiness and lack of authenticity.
To remedy these issues, I’ve deleted all social networking apps from my phone.
I check on these accounts maybe a handful of times per month for any messages from friends or family.
This single subtraction from my life has freed up the space for me to be content with what I have.
I feel less frustrated or stressed to meet the unrealistic lifestyle depicted on social media.
My in person social interactions have improved and my brain feels less polluted with unnecessary or damaging information.
7. Spend time with people you like
2020 has been an interesting year for me. My circle of friends is very small and I’ve even lost people who I’ve known for over a decade.
But what I found is that the quality of friendships remaining is of an outstanding level.
Gone are the people who diminished me.
Now I find myself surrounded by a handful of loyal, fun, caring, kind, intelligent and vibrant people who add so much to my life.
In turn, I’ve become a better person and my desire to add value to their lives has fueled me on.
I’ve also been spending more time with my family and that makes me feel good.
It makes me feel happy again.
My advice to you is as follows – Select a handful of really amazing people and gravitate towards them. Forget about those people who diminish you or add sadness to your life.
8. Do what’s right
I know this goes without saying but doing the right thing matters, even if it hurts you for a while.
And yet, as we get older, we want to run away from any sort of suffering. You can’t do both.
We touched on this earlier but suffering is important to happiness. There is no one without the other.
The problem with taking the easy way out or doing the wrong thing is that you escape momentary suffering for a long, slow and painful form of suffering that eats you up from the inside.
What I have come to learn, painfully and embarrassingly, is that you should always do the right thing and uphold your values.
Anything less will either bother you or come back to haunt you.
Ease of mind and conscience creates the perfect breeding ground for happiness.
Do what’s right, not what’s easy.
With that being said, I highly suggest you pick up this little book called Rules for a knight.
It’s penned by Ethan Hawke and he beautifully captures all of the life lessons that we should uphold into adulthood.
You will be happy again
Even if that requires you to start over in life, you can do it. Every single new day bring with it an opportunity to start afresh – to do things right.
Forget about all the time that has passed. You get another chance to live life in the best way you possibly can.
Break out of toxic routines and start putting in the hard work needed to be happy again.
Find and pursue your purpose in life while being surrounded by people who add joy and happiness to your life.
Say no to everything and everyone who take away your peace of mind.
It’s not going to be easy but it’s the right thing to do.
You may suffer a bit but the reward is a whole lot of happiness and joy.
I wish for you to find your happiness.