#Askingforafriend: How do I stay happy?
By Kristan Farley
GCU Office of Student Care
I think we all want to be happy! If you ask people what their goal in life is, many will respond, “To be happy.” If someone is trying to make a decision, often we will say, “Do what makes you happy.”
We love HAPPY! I think we can be happy! However, I think having a life goal of being happy can cause us more frustration and shame than necessary.
We are complex people with loads of experiences and interactions throughout life, some that have hurt us and some that have helped us. Our relationships bring love and joy to our lives and our relationships bring pain.
Our experiences along the journey have an impact on us, and it is not realistic to feel happy all the time. We might have several emotions rise and fall throughout the day or week, and that is normal.
You may feel sad when you wake up and then have a good interaction and feel joy, and by lunch you are mad. All these feelings are normal; we don’t have to control them or ignore them. We want to learn to notice them, process them and heal instead of our emotions causing destruction.
In the book “The Happiness Trap” by Russ Harris, there is an exercise called EXPANSION:
Expansion is the idea that your feelings will come and go but when they come, you allow them to bubble up to the surface, notice them, allow them to be there. It’s the idea that you expand or make room for your feelings!
You don’t have to judge them, you don’t have to associate them with negative thoughts, you don’t have to connect them to anything scary or negative image or memory. You simply can notice the emotions and give them space so they can eventually move on.
Fighting them only makes for a longer unpleasant feeling, and ignoring them can end up with feelings sneaking up on you when you don’t want them to. We can accept them, expand for them and let them pass.
There is so much more to this topic, and learning how to process and heal at a deeper level may require the help of a therapist. But for now, we can begin to practice the skill of expansion:
- Notice your feelings (you might notice anger, pain, fear, shame, guilt, etc.)
- Breath through them (slow deep breaths)
- Give them space, accept the feelings, don’t judge them
- Allow them to be there until they move on because all emotions rise and fall
As you expand for all your feelings, you also will feel the rise and fall of happiness. When the feelings are difficult, you know in time they will pass. If your goal is to be healthy, along the way you will experience happy!