How to be Happy

How to be Happy
By Katie Gerten, Youth Dynamics

What does it mean to be happy? It’s a loaded question, right? A recent poll taken by the University of Chicago shows only 14% of us are. Really, that’s a staggeringly low number, even given the events transpiring over the past couple of years. So, what’s going on? Surveys fluctuate, but most dating back as far as 1972 report figures no higher than 30%.

Below are some of the common reasons for unhappiness:

  • Replacing connection with material items
  • Comparing ourselves to others
  • Blame, negativity, and fixed mindset
  • Perfectionism
  • Dwelling on the past or future

For centuries psychologists and philosophers alike have argued the topic of happiness. Really, happiness is something we all strive for but rarely feel content in our ability to achieve. But, what if I told you I’ve stumbled upon a solution? It’s mindfulness! By becoming more self-aware, you can transform into the best version of yourself and improve every aspect of your life.

Often, when we’re unhappy, we don’t put our best foot forward. We become self-destructive, lashing out and making impulsive, poorly thought out decisions that reflect badly on us. Really, we end up adding fuel to the collective fire, spreading around negative energy that harms our relationships and ability to be successful in getting our goals met.

Personally, I haven’t always been the happiest person. Really, I’m uncomfortably discontent. For most of my life, I’ve carried around the weight of anxiety and heavy sadness, something that’s led to ongoing self-destructive behaviors, setbacks, and isolation. More so, it’s fostered a lack of self-awareness, making me, at times, appear selfish, unintelligent, and lack a basic sense of compassion.

Truthfully, I went through the first 30 years of my life, blissfully unaware of my shortcomings. It wasn’t until I moved into a management role that I realized how self-handicapping my actions were. I didn’t slow down to think things through, and while I exceeded every goal set, it happened at the expense of the people involved.

Oh, you could say I engaged my team! Everything I did, every communication I carried out was a crisis. Without hesitation, I burned my people out. In the end, I received ongoing criticism from supervisors and couldn’t retain employees. My anxiety led to constant conflict with others, a lack of personal or professional relationships, and stress levels that significantly impacted my health. There’s no other way to put it: I was miserable.

But then something spectacular happened. After falling flat on my face, in came the art of mindfulness. And with that? A shocking yet painfully slow transition to a happier, more effective, healthier me. Everything from my professional performance to personal relationships improved.

So, what’s the secret sauce to this mystic magic? No need to ponder! I’ve got the recipe on how you can become more self-aware and grow into a mindful, happier version of yourself!

Did you know that by doing less, you can accomplish more? It’s true! When we move fast, we often do it at others’ expense, negatively impacting our relationships. When we feel overwhelmed or pressured to perform, we skip critical steps in our communications. We cut the fluffy parts of our interactions that are essential to building rapport with others. Moreover, we sloppy-up our messaging and misread critical cues from our environment.

But when we slow down? That’s when we start to build healthy relationships that take us places in life! So, how does one lower the pace when we live in such a busy world? First, resist the urge to multitask so you can give others your full attention. Once you’ve done this, engage the person you’re with by asking meaningful questions, listening, and taking the time to show them your appreciation.

Do you fall into the trap of feeling like everything is urgent? If so, you’re not alone. It’s a common pitfall! But, few things in life need to be done immediately. In fact, pressured decisions often aren’t good ones. More so, when we’re in a rush, we create tension in ourselves and stress in others.

So, how do you avoid a false sense of urgency? Make the time to prioritize your daily, weekly, and monthly activities regularly. For those who have a tough time with this, suggests slowing down to gain some objectivity by asking yourself the following three questions before engaging in a task:

  • Does this absolutely need to be done today?
  • Does this need to be done by me?
  • Does this need to be done at all?

Before reacting, slow down and walk in another’s shoes. By taking the time to take on other people’s perspectives, we foster connection, appreciation, and lay the foundation for meaningful relationships. But more so, we grow as individuals. Each of us has something to learn from someone else, even if we disagree with their viewpoints.

Is empathy a difficult one for you? If so, you can build it by taking the time to understand other people’s experiences. Look for the pieces of commonality you share, and create relationships from there. Doing so will not only help you build stronger connections but also foster a more profound sense of appreciation for those around you.

A healthy mindset starts with doing what’s needed to take care of yourself. Carve out time daily to engage in what centers you, whether that’s taking a walk at lunch or snuggling up with a book before bed. Whatever is needed to be a calmer, more peaceful person, make sure you do it regularly.

That said, there’s always going to be an excuse for not having time for self-care. But, it’s critical to set boundaries with yourself and others to ensure you’re able to stay at your best. When we burn out, we become less efficient and stomp on ourselves and others. Growth starts when we start taking care of ourselves.


They say that money can’t buy happiness, and it’s true. Studies show that extra cash doesn’t equate to increased satisfaction in life after we have the money to meet our basic needs.

Simply put, you can’t fill the void inside of you with stuff. And when you put things in place of people, it only adds to unhappiness.

People are going to judge you no matter what. Life’s too short to be anything other than you! When you bring anything other than your authentic self to interactions, you miss out on meaningful connections and spend your life hustling to prove your worth.

Take ownership of who you are, your decisions, and your life. Mistakes are inevitable on the path to growth. When you discharge blame, it fractures your relationships and prevents you from taking in the lessons needed to develop into a better version of yourself.

No one’s perfect! When you get lost in the details, you lose sight of the big picture. Do your best each day, but don’t get trapped in trying to reach perfection; it’s a goal that you’ll never attain.

When you ruminate on the past, you can easily find yourself in depression. And when you fixate on the future? It leads to anxiety. But most importantly, living in either will result in missing out on the current moment.

By practicing these tips, you will start to feel happier and potentially be a better parent, spouse, employee, neighbor, or family member.

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