The first step to enjoying lasting happiness is to actually understand what it means. When we talk about happiness, we usually mean a state of mind rather than a specific emotion.
You may feel sad or angry sometimes, but you still know that other times you feel excited and joyful. It’s similar with happiness—you can experience very happy periods in your life, and other times you may experience sadness or anger. What we want is to feel happy as often as possible .
Lasts means it will be a lasting state of mind [not just a feeling] you have [or at least something very similar], not a temporary state of mind [feeling], so you need to focus on something that can trigger [or create] it [this state of mind]. [You are the source, not the thing that triggers it.]
The following are some steps which can help you create this habit of enjoying lasting happiness:
1. Connect with what you feel
The first thing you need to do is to identify the actual feeling of happiness. For example, when you are happy about something, what does it actually feel like? Usually people have a hard time answering this question. This is why they search for the “right” word that describes how they feel (e.g., “I feel joy”), but since happiness is not a single emotion, the word they find may be vague and unhelpful (e.g., “joy” can also mean excitement or pride).
Instead of trying to describe how you feel, it’s much better to identify the feeling at its core. Instead of saying “I feel happy,” try to say “I feel excited.” Then you can go deeper and find out what exactly it is that makes you feel excited.
For example, when people get a promotion at work, what they usually feel is nervousness. They are unsure about how well they will handle their new responsibilities, which causes them anxiety. The feeling of excitement comes from the realization that they are actually capable of doing this job well, which makes them feel confident about their abilities.
2. Connect with what you need
When you focus only on the feeling of happiness, it’s easy to forget what led to it in the first place. Even if you could replicate the same situations that triggered your happiness in the past, it’s highly unlikely that they will have the same effect on you in the future. This is because when you already know what triggers your happiness , you don’t really need to feel happy anymore (e.g., getting a promotion doesn’t make you nervous anymore).
Instead of focusing on how they make us feel, we need to think about what they actually provide for us in order to be happy (e.g., a sense of accomplishment). Therefore, when you experience the feeling of happiness in the future, make sure that it is still relevant and appropriate . If not, then you will only feel frustrated instead of being truly satisfied with your life.
3. Disconnect from what you don’t need
Keeping the connections from the previous two steps in mind, identify what your idea of happiness is and what it isn’t . Most people have an unrealistic view of happiness because they only think about the moments that made them happy in the past without thinking about all the difficulties they had to go through in order to get it.
This is why you need to disconnect from all the things that don’t contribute directly to your idea of happiness . If you have a hard time doing this, try asking yourself what extra benefits or harmful consequences these things bring into your life and whether they are actually worth the effort for having them.
4. Create a specific action plan
Identify what you need to do in order to stay happy and write it down . For example, if connecting with your idea of happiness requires you meet up with certain people on a regular basis, then make plans to actually do this (e.g., schedule the meeting). If disconnecting from what doesn’t contribute means that you should put in less effort with some people, then think about how you can do that (e.g., tell them that you’re busy).
It’s important to realize that lasting happiness is not something that will happen immediately because of one thing that triggers it inside you (e.g., getting a big sum of money or someone confessing his love for you). If this were the case, then all you would need to do is replicate that same one single action in order to feel happy again and again.