“The amount of happiness that you have depends on the amount of freedom you have in your heart.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Who doesn’t want to be happy? Just take a look at any moment of your life, any choice you make. Isn’t your intention to be happy?

By happiness, I don’t necessarily mean the pollyanna, silly-smile-on-your-face kind. What I mean is a deep sense of contentment, the capability of being peaceful and at ease no matter what, an inner knowing that things are just fine.

Somehow true happiness eludes us, and here’s why. Even though we long for it more than anything, we make choices that derail us. We choose stressful behaviors, distorted beliefs through which we view the world, and emotional chaos. And in doing so, we interfere with our potential to be happy.

Happiness is absolutely within your reach. In fact, it closer than close – the essence of you. How to discover happiness? Make a study of your thoughts and emotions. See what makes you unhappy, then plant your feet firmly in the land of happiness. Make these ten wise choices, and the deepest happiness imaginable will be revealed.

1. Take responsibility.

Don’t blame others, turn yourself into a victim, or wait for someone to come and save you. If you want to be happy, take the bull by the horns. Be willing to figure out how you stand in the way of your happiness.

2. Embody enthusiasm.

Be willing, open, courageous, and humble. Admit what isn’t working and be available to the possibility of real inner change. Keep your quest alive.

3. Drop your old baggage.

Nothing kills happiness more quickly than old hurts, resentments, and grudges. If you are spending your precious time stuck in a sad story from the past, realize that you are being affected way more than anyone else. Wrap all of that pain in a vast cocoon of love, then move on with clarity and grace.

4. Become intensely interested in your inner life.

The cause of unhappiness is the playing out of conditioned habits that don’t serve you. Find out what they are and use a laser focus to see how they work. With your new-found awareness, make healthy, life-affirming choices.

5. Question your beliefs.

We unknowingly build our lives around distorted beliefs and expectations. Put every thought under the microscope for examination to see if it is actually true. You will undoubtedly find that you are living through a veil of confusion and limitation. Be willing to step away from these familiar and cherished beliefs and see everything with fresh eyes.

6. Appreciate presence.

Happiness is found here, in the eternal now – not in the past or future. Relax. Let all efforting fall away, and receive everything just as it is. Luxuriate in the wonder of your senses as you go about your daily life.

7. Study your emotions.

Life becomes heavy and burdensome when we are ruled by difficult emotions. The medicine for this emotional pain is interest and attention. Stop telling yourself stories that fuel your emotions. Rather, welcome the direct experience of the feelings and the sensations in your body. Let them be without needing to get rid of them. Over time, they will lose their power over you, and you will be at peace. The clouds will lift, revealing the happiness you have been searching for all along.

8. Live from your heart.

Shed every thought, emotion, and habit that no longer serves you. What is left? Love. Let love permeate your conversations, activities, and the way you treat yourself. In any moment, ask, “What would love do?” then do it. Savor the deliciousness of a full and open heart.

9. Choose freedom over fear.

Fear is another happiness-killer. Know when fear is driving your choices, and choose otherwise. Meet fear with love, then have the courage to act on what you really want.

10. Let happiness pervade your life.

Every moment presents the opportunity to be happy. If you doubt me, just take a look at your own experience. When you break it down to its bare essence in the moment, you will realize that a choice is always possible. Nag or be silent, self-criticize or self-love, sustain stress or take a deep breath, perpetuate a habit or unravel it until you just can’t keep it going anymore.

When we are at peace with our own experience, we can’t help but be happy. Nothing is in the way. We see through the fog of faulty beliefs and dramatic stories, leaving us available to consciously choose happiness – now, and now, and now. It’s right here, can you feel it?

Happiness is no longer a mystery. Make these 10 wise choices, and the endless well of happiness will be revealed to you.

Are you happy? What interferes with your happiness? I’d love to hear…

Photo by Casey David

Gail Brenner

Gail Brenner, Ph.D. is a psychologist and author who joyfully shares insights about discovering that suffering is optional. Find more from Gail at her blog, GailBrenner.com and on Twitter. Her work offers a bridge between psychology and spiritual understanding and brings clear seeing and compassion to everyday human challenges. She is the author of the forthcoming book, "The Way of Yes: Finding Peace and Happiness Right at the Heart of Your Messy, Scary, Brilliant Life."

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