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Could this be the Ultimate Secret to Happiness?

happy mule

First published on elephantjournal.com 

 

Never dismiss clichés.

Clichés are truisms. When times are tough, hold them close and draw strength from them.

Because no matter what, there are going to be periods in our lives that simply suck. There will be times when we’re going to need to draw on resources outside of us to shore up our inner resilience.

Be it financial hardship, health crises, romantic heartbreak, or a bereavement of any kind—sometimes life will be hard. There is no insurance against this. It is simply a given.

And no amount of comfort eating, mindless consumerism or other distraction will soothe our souls during those times.

But what can provide solace is the knowledge that, “This too shall pass.”

Everything is temporary.

In order to live happy lives, we need to make our peace with this fact.

Instead of allowing the fear of someday losing what we have and love, let’s accept that as part of life and make a conscious effort to appreciate what we have, while we have it.

Instead of wasting much needed energy feeling sorry for ourselves during our trials, let’s take comfort from the impermanence and preserve our energy for dealing with the matter with as much grace and strength as we can muster.

Instead of painting pictures in our heads of happy-ever-afters and postponing being happy now until we manifest that outcome, let’s make the most of what we do have right now—focus more attention on the good than on the not-so-great.

We need to rid ourselves of the Disney and Hallmark notions of what a good and happy life looks like. We can be happy no matter what the external trappings of our lives are—but only if we accept occasional (and, sometimes, deeply traumatic) sorrow and pain as part of the journey.

I’ve read a great many books on the topic of happiness (and I’m writing my own book of tips) and I have learned many techniques and practices that certainly do help to improve our happiness levels.

But I have come to believe that the ultimate secret is to simply manage our expectations.

We need to expect to take the rough with the smooth, rather than hoping to bypass the bumpier parts of the journey.

Because there really is no way of avoiding periods of hardship and misery. And constantly living in fear of those times, or doing our best to avoid them, only diminishes our ability to make the most of the good times.

We need to simply be with what is right now and do the best we can with it. Sometimes we will enjoy what is, sometimes we will not.

But no matter what we do, there’s simply no getting away from it: sometimes life is going to be sh*tty. And when it is, remember the clichés—there’s a reason why they’ve survived the test of time:

This too shall pass.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Laughter is the best medicine.

What’s for you won’t go by you.

The darkest hour is just before the dawn.

Photo: Greg Westfall/Flickr

Posted in elephant journal, Happiness

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