The Quest to Be Happy
Aging Matters

People put a lot of energy into being happy and joyful. I for one seem to obsess about the emotion. In my Facebook group, members express concerns about finding happiness and many seem to discover it. In general, people want financial stability, good health, money in the bank, food on the table, good friends, an interesting hobby or two, and satisfying activities. That's not a lot to ask for, right?

So, why do so many struggle to find it? Over the years, I've learned that the word, happy, can deceive us. If I judge my happiness based on a perception of others' success will sabotage I ever achieve it.

What I've found is that some truly believe that happiness is like a gene and whether you're born with it or not, depends on your birth status, and heritage. That's very far from the truth.

While others embrace a mindset of positive thinking, I favor this strategy over any other. However, those who suffer from mental illnesses like depression will argue, rightfully so. For them, the brain cannot work correctly and create happy feelings due to a chemical imbalance. It is a disability. And please don't think that an unhappy depressed person is just not doing enough. Unless you've ever experienced depression, it's hard to grasp.

If you want to find consistent joy and happiness, or contentment, here are a few skills that I've learned to apply.

  • Be grateful for what I have and not focus on what I don't have. The biggest lesson for me is to be thankful. Each day I take a few minutes to list a few things I'm grateful for in life.
  • Don't compare yourself to others. A very deceiving influence. A savvy therapist once told me, "A situation is never as it seems. If you'd walk in their shoes, you'd see an entirely different side."
  • Give to others. People are self-absorbed and crave for attention and connection. So, my favorite is to greet a person with a smile no matter where I am; out on a walk, shopping, or
  • Do the things you enjoy or learn how to do the things you want to do. Go back to school or take a class if it requires a skill. For me, it was writing. It's taken a couple of years and a few classes but I'm doing it.
  • Change your life if you can. For years, I've yearned to live in a walkable community. After much deliberation and forethought, I live in a place that fits me and how I want to live.
  • Forgive those who have hurt you or tries to control you. And more importantly, forgive yourself for the mistakes you've made. Ask those you have hurt to forgive you. Then, let it go.

Carol Marak, aging advocate, and editor at Seniorcare.com. She's earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.



Part of the Aging Matters Weekly Syndicated Column

Aging Matters is a weekly column tackling everyday challenges that our growing elderly population and their loved ones face. It is also published in a variety of syndication partners including newspapers all over the country.

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