Lifestyle

Happiness is not so elusive. Here's how to find your happy place – USA TODAY

Most of us want to be happy, but how? I wish there was a magic spell or an easy solution that would ensure happiness, but there isn’t. Part of the problem lies in the way we define happiness. Instead of defining happiness as a feeling of contentment, many of us confuse happiness with a permanently elevated mood (excitement, joy) or even an endless supply of positivity. This is an unrealistic expectation; with such a definition, everyone will struggle to be “happy.”
But being happy is not about having an attitude adjustment or forcing positive emotions while suppressing, ignoring or avoiding negative ones. Rather, it’s about directing our energy and choosing an approach to our existence that can offer us a sense of fulfilment. Happiness is not stumbled upon, but rather built. It comes from being self-aware, taking responsibility, making decisions, doing something meaningful, and connecting with ourselves and others.  
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Responsibility. Many of us try to find people or things that will make us happy – we try to outsource the task. As a result, we often feel disappointed or upset when a relationship or a new job doesn’t move the needle from dissatisfied to satisfied with our overall existence. But no “thing” or person can make us happy. Happiness is an inside job. 
Decisions. We can’t decide to feel happy, but we can make decisions that make us happy. Happiness is a reflection of how we choose to live our life. It is not a single event but rather an outcome of all our decisions – big or small. 
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Meaning. It would be really difficult to find happiness without any meaning. Meaning, shortly, is a recognition that we and our life hold value and purpose. Doing something meaningful every day can often lead to a sense of happiness. However, it’s important not to confuse meaning and productivity. It’s not about being productive every day – it’s about doing something that holds value for you. This can be as simple as having a cup of tea or a conversation, resting, helping someone or learning something new – the list is endless. It’s not about “doing more,” it’s about doing what truly resonates with who you are. 
Awareness. The trick to happiness is self-awareness. It’s hard to give yourself what you need or want without being aware of what that is. And, if we are not attuned to ourselves, we may even experience joy, excitement, and contentment without fully taking a moment to embrace it (or enjoy it). 
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Sara Kuburic is a therapist who specializes in identity, relationships and moral trauma. Every week she shares her advice with our readers. Find her on Instagram @millennial.therapist. She can be reached at SKuburic@gannett.com.

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