How To Become Happier

photography by dan james
photography by dan james

Everyone wants to be happy.

But it can be difficult to even define what happy is.

So we end up wondering how we can possibly find our way to a place we have no idea of the location of.

Much easier to define is happier, relative to what you already know.

You can compare two situations, two activities, two relationships, two experiences, two meals, and so on, and say which you were happier with.

Then learn and build from there, becoming ever happier along the way.

Sometimes of course with this kind of comparing, there might be a dead heat of happiness.

For example you might love chocolate and coffee in equal measure.

There’s no problem to solve here, no black or white, in or out, one way or the other ultimatum to issue. You just make room in your life for them both. Maybe even together.

Become happier then is an ongoing trip, with its inevitable stumbles and unexpected pitfalls along the way, but hopefully one that gradually becomes easier, and makes more sense. And results in us becoming better (and yes happier) people.

What about the stuff you’re not happy with though?

I believe that becoming happier is as much about doing and having less of what doesn’t inspire and delight you, as it is about doing and having more of what does. More, and less.

If there’s something in you’re life you’re not happy with, you can improve the situation (in other words become happier) in one of two ways. 

1. Remove what’s causing the unhappiness.

For example, maybe you have a pair of trousers you’ve had for a decade or two that don’t come anywhere close to fitting you anymore. For some reason though, you’ve kept them.

But, every time you open your wardrobe and see those trousers, it makes you unhappy, because in your perception, you’re no longer as young/ slim/ carefree/delete as applicable as you were when you used to wear them.

So just get rid of the trousers!

Yes you might still occasionally reminisce about the golden years of your youth, and wish you were a little younger/ slimmer/ more carefree, but you won’t have the reminder of what you’re unhappy with right there smack in your face every day when you open your wardrobe.

It might be trousers, it might be a stack of old half finished art projects, it might be a relationship or three.

You already know the things that are holding back your happiness and that can never be improved or regained.

Be brave, let them go, and give happiness more space in your life to flood into.

2. Change your attitude about what’s causing the unhappiness.

Sometimes this is harder than number 1 above, sometimes surprisingly easier.

I remember coaching a client years ago who was feeling held back by something that had happened to him over two decades previously.

He said it was like he’d put a blanket over it years ago to hide it, but it was still always there on the side of the street, reminding him, taunting him almost about what happened, affecting him (and his happiness) almost daily.

I asked him to consider the following two choices.

He could either walk over to the blanket (metaphorically speaking), lift up a corner and peer underneath, and we could begin to face what was underneath.

Or, he could simply walk away from the blanket and leave it there on the side of the street, and not look back.

He chose the second option, and was amazed at how simple it actually was.

He wondered why this “blanket” had caused him so much angst over the years, and why he hadn’t simple chosen to walk away and not look back a long time ago.

In other words he simply decided to change his attitude to that occasion in his distant history that he’d been holding on to, and which had been a source of ongoing unhappiness.

He decided he wanted to change, then walked away.

If things in your life are causing you unhappiness, you have these same choices.

You can either remove them from your life, or decide to change your attitude and stop letting them hold you back. Or, even better, do both.

These are techniques you can apply to your creative life too, though I have always argued that there is no separation between our life as an artist and our life in general.

We’re not artists only when we have a paintbrush or pen or camera in hand. It influences how we think, how we dream, how we relate to the world. We don’t switch it off.

So any improvements you make in your creative practices will naturally have a positive effect in the rest of your life too, and vice versa.

Would you like to be happier?

Pick one of the things you’re not happy with and experiment with the suggestions above.

And finally, before you do, I need to remind you of something. In your mind you’re probably already offering up excuses not to strive to be happier because it’s selfish, even self indulgent.

Remember this – The happier we are, the more that naturally radiates to those we’re closest to and spend most time with.

So by investing in your own happiness, you’re also helping boost the happiness quota of those most important to you too.

Which is a very generous and selfless act, and so something I know you’re going to be great at.

Join the conversation and let us know how you’ve become happier…


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