By Lisa Templeton – MA, PhD, Julie Kurtz – LMFT

How To Be Happy in Life

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”

~ Helen Keller

If you want to be happy do not dwell in the past Roy Bennett Quote
Lisa Templeton

One of the most important ingredients to inner happiness is to let go of your expectations in life. 

We all have a tendency to think about the future and anticipate what’s to come.  To curb this can be difficult.  We need to work on staying in the moment and surrendering what we want, for what is.  

When we have an expectation of what will happen and it doesn’t turn out that way, we can be deeply disappointed.  

Stay mindful of what your expectations of the future are.  Remember that anything can change at any time in life so stay flexible.  If you can name your expectations, you can tame them and live more adaptably in the moment of what is, thus, creating more happiness in your life.

The day I agreed to write this article and chose this topic, I was flying from Miami to Atlanta and then on to Denver where I live.  

As I reflected on what I might write, I felt an intuitive sense that I would need this wisdom for myself during my day of travel.   

My expectations were that all would flow and I would get home with time to spare and prepare myself for the next day at work.  In that moment, I recognized my expectations and asked myself, “If this doesn’t happen, will I still be happy?”  

The answer came that it was my own choice.   

I had no idea how the day of travel would go, but I vowed I would do my best to identify my expectations, let them go, and move with the flow.  

When I missed my connection in Atlanta and was then re-routed to LaGuardia airport in New York, I admit that I lost it for a time.  I was in resistance, frustration, and confusion.  I could not wrap my brain around flying the opposite direction to get home.  I worked to stay in the moment and breathe.  

At one point, I remembered how futile it was to resist reality.  

Instead of resisting, I made a choice to shift out of that energy, stay present, and do my best to enjoy the flight home.  I arrived much later than I anticipated, but I made it home safe, and even had moments of enjoying myself.

A primary element to happiness is giving yourself permission to be wherever you are, even if it’s on your way to New York in order to get to Denver.  

Whatever is happening is okay, be it joy, calm, pain, stress, frustration, overwhelm, and so on.  All things will ultimately come to an end whether it be positive or negative.  

The more we resist and deny the acceptance of what is, the harder the experience will be for us.  

At a certain point, I chose to let go of my expectations and live in the acceptance of the moment as it was.  Stay in that awareness and know that you can make this choice at any time for yourself and remain happy, even without everything going your way.  

Accept what is and let go of your expectations of the future.  

In life, there are too many variables that can affect our expectations.  Be prepared for circumstances going in a different direction than you planned.  Without our expectations, we are much freer and more flexible to cope with life’s twists and turns, which allows us to feel lighter and happier.

Lisa Templeton, MA, PhD –

Julie Kurtz

I heard a mother in my exercise class today say if you give your child an essential oil while they tantrum it will calm them down and help them be happy again. 

I wonder why we are a nation seeking a potion for happiness like that mother trying to make her child feel ‘happy’ again.  

22% of our nation has anxiety or depression.  People are amazed that aggregate happiness has not risen in the USA when incomes and educational levels have risen so much.  

A million moments for a child of “you should have done that, why did you do that, don’t feel that way” chisels away at their ability to tune in to their internal world and communicate how they feel in the moment.  

When we are disconnected from our internal world of emotions we grow up to stuff our feelings down and seek out external potions of happiness to turn us on temporarily. 

It becomes a vicious cycle of never really ‘achieving’ happiness.

Instead, what would it be like if we said to that child throwing the tantrum, ‘Wow you are really sad right now’, ‘it looks like you are angry you did not get that toy’, ‘those are big emotions you are having’.  

Tuning a child inward to their emotions and teaching them how to label and communicate them in the moment is the key.  Fast forward to adults…

A million moments of our caregivers in our childhood trying to make us happy when we feel sad or angry, not seeing us or ignoring our needs, overly criticizing everything we do or worse being abused or severely neglected will turn that adult later in life “OFF” to their ability to identify their emotions in the moment.  

Now we have a bunch of adults falsely seeking happiness from external sources such as sex, food, drugs or alcohol.  

Somewhere right now in the moment is the key.  

“Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.” ~Hermann Hesse.  

Life can be swirly chaos and emotional roller coaster riding all around us. It can feel overwhelming and our initial default reaction is to numb out, run away or fight.  

The goal is to learn how to ride the waves by finding a place of safety and stillness within.  

This is a life of constant change and motion…we can only experience one piece at a time.  

Happiness does not exist in the perfect tomorrow we imagine but rather a moment-to-moment choice of how we respond to what is directly in front of us or inside of us right now.

Julie Kurtz, LMFT –

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