I’ve often found myself thinking that I’ll be happier when my situation changes: I’ll be happy when COVID is over, when I’m married, when I graduate, when I have more money . . . the list continues. I’m aware that this isn’t the best philosophy, but I typically justify it by saying that it gives me hope. There’s no problem with having hope for the future, right?
You Can Be Happy Now
It’s not bad to be hopeful for the future, but relying on it for happiness is unsustainable. “I’ll be happy when” statements, then, aren’t particularly hopeful because they neglect the here-and-now. They act as an escape from reality, where instead of dealing with the issues in front of you, you daydream about an idealistic future. Happiness should help you appreciate life, not run from it.
What happens when your “I’ll be happy when” comes to fruition? It doesn’t have the tremendous effect you imagined it would, does it? And so you just dust off another “I’ll be happy when” to lean on for the time being. Yes, that’s better. The sweet feeling of constantly falling short–ah, now you’re comfy. Right back to where you were before.
Why do we feel like we need to bottle up our happiness? Happiness doesn’t have a cap. It’s not in limited supply. Of course, I’ll rejoice when I no longer have to distance from my family members and friends, but that doesn’t mean I need to reserve all my happiness for that moment. You can be happy now, and even happier when you get to hug your loved ones again.
Spirituality Makes You Happier
A secret to finding happiness is not glamorizing or perfecting your future–it’s spirituality. Studies show that those who practice spirituality are happier than those who don’t. When you rely on your spirituality instead of the future, you unlock a consistent attitude of hope that makes you truly happy.
Happiness is a state of being. It’s more than an occasional dopamine release. It comes with adopting a belief that even though you may not have everything you want, you can find joy in what you have. Being happy opens the door to living a calm and contented life. People who are happy still experience loss, setbacks, disappointment, sadness, and frustration; they just have a unique perspective that allows them to persist through challenges. Spirituality underscores your life with this enduring perspective.
Spiritual Practices For More Happiness
Just like you can’t magically become happy overnight, unhappiness isn’t an instantaneous change, either. People are unhappy because of unhealthy patterns in thought and behavior, and cultivating your spiritual practice will refine these negative thoughts and behaviors.
- Do more of what brings you joy. So many of us are blocking our own happiness by remaining in circumstances that we hate. While it’s not always easy to get out of these situations, try to see how you can improve them. Maybe wake up a little earlier to go running before work. See what happens if you take lunch outside instead of staying in your cubicle. If you’re able, leave an unhealthy situation to do more of what you love.
- Practice gratitude. We tend to think the glass is half-empty, but practicing gratitude can change that. You don’t have to write in a gratitude journal every night if you don’t want to. Often I practice gratitude when I go on a daily walk: I’m thankful for the beautiful oak trees, my warm coat, the podcast I’m listening to, the snow-capped mountains. You could even text a friend something you’re grateful for.
- Meditate. Taking time to be still reduces stress and anxiety, not just in that moment but in general, too. As you meditate regularly, you will find that you can stay calm when stressful situations arise. In addition, you’ll recognize where you’re expending all your extra energy and drop that stress.
- Focus on what you can control. We often take responsibility for things that go wrong in our lives because we think we should be in control. A lot of the time, we can be happier simply by letting go of what is out of our control. I like to make lists of what I can and can’t control. Then I look at what I can’t control and I literally imagine writing it on a balloon and letting it go. I watch it float away into an imaginary sky.
- Form a spiritual community. Having meaningful relationships will make you happier. Consider setting up a time each week to meet with your friends to have spiritual conversations. When you have spiritual questions, reach out to people you trust for insight and help.
- Trust God. A benefit to believing in a higher power is the faith in someone else to ensure that it will work out in the end. This brings a sense of security that despite what goes wrong in your life, everything will be okay. Developing trust in your sense of the divine is a process unique to you, and it will come as you continue your personal spiritual practice.
You Are the One Constant in Your Life
The problem with “I’ll be happy when” is that life is constantly changing. You’ll always be able to find another “when.” The only thing in your life that will, guaranteed, always be there is you. You have what you need to be happy–it’s yourself! Ditch your “I’ll be happy when”s for “I am happy because”s. As you focus on your spirituality, you will connect to yourself in a deeper way and discover lasting happiness.