The Ultimate Guide to Getting Happy

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At the end of the day, aren’t we all just looking to be happy? To feel peace of mind. And to not feel anxious, angry, frustrated and depressed. Is it even possible? It doesn’t seem like it, with all our responsibilities always pulling us in different directions. School, work, spouses, kids. That’s why this ultimate guide to getting happy was written.

This complete guide to getting happy talks through what happiness is. It also sheds light on how to observe your thoughts, feelings and emotions and how to deal with things that can get in the way of your happiness, such as defense mechanisms and neurosis. Last but not least, it gives you real-world step-by-step instructions on how you can get happy starting right now.

To your happiness and well-being. Let’s start!

By sure to check out all the links in this guide – they point you to many great resources. It’s the ultimate mental health and happiness link roundup.

This is an entry in my ‘Ultimate’ series that teaches you how to improve yourself in a balanced way in all your spheres – physical, mental, spiritual and financial. Be sure to also read:
* The Ultimate Guide to Getting Healthy
* The Ultimate Guide to Spirituality
* The Ultimate Guide to Getting Wealthy

Disclaimer: the information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute medical, legal or financial advice. Instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only and are to be used at your own risk. View full disclaimer.

This ultimate guide to getting happy covers:

1. Our Approach

Talking about mental health can be harder than physical health. That’s because mental health isn’t “physical”. You can’t point to your thoughts, feelings and emotions. And you can’t measure them like you can measure your weight or blood pressure.

The Direct Path

So, our approach will be a little different in this ultimate guide compared to my other guides.

For example, in “The Ultimate Guide to Getting Healthy“, it’s pretty straight forward to discuss health because you can measure your stats (blood pressure, etc.) and we know what healthy ranges are.

And in “The Ultimate Guide to Getting Wealthy“, I walk you through a linear path from where you are financially now to how to become wealthy through a well-tested system.

Sure, there’s some mental talk in both of those guides about what type of attitude you need to have, but most of it is instead logical, factual and numbers – straight forward.

The Twisty Path

But we’re discussing mental health and getting happy in this ultimate guide. Can you measure happiness? Put a number on depression? Can you calculate anxiety? Nope, nope and nope. It makes helping walk you through a straight forward process to getting happy pretty darn difficult. The path can be twisty indeed.

On top of that, the nature of mental health itself makes it hard. By their very nature, thoughts, feelings and emotions aren’t factual, black and white and necessarily logical. They’re opinions and shades of gray.

So, we’ll take a different tact in this guide. Instead of guiding you on a straight and narrow path, I’m going to “throw a lot at the wall and see what sticks“. I’m going to give you a lot of ideas, things to look into and things to try.

Some will (hopefully) resonate and help you. For example, maybe a link or two on CBT therapy will spur you on to see a therapist which is just what you need. Or perhaps learning about mindfulness is all you needed to learn to kick start your happiness. That’s how improving mental health works. It’s a little bit of a framework and a lot of trial and error.

2. Many People Suffer

It’s easy to ignore your mental health and most people don’t understand it. People understand when you call off work because you have the flu but not when you take a “mental health day”. But mental health is as real as physical health. And just as important.

Unfortunately, so many people suffer. 18% of American adults (over 44 million) have a mental health condition.

For many, it’s because they don’t tend to their mental health as much as their physical health. Most people don’t understand that it’s important or possible.

So they suffer with long-standing mental trauma from their childhood. Or with stress from what’s going on with their health, relationships or finances. Many suffer in silence.

Some startling statistics. In 2017:

  • An estimated 17.3 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode. This number represented 7.1% of all U.S. adults.
  • Major depressive episodes was higher among adult females (8.7%) compared to males (5.3%).
  • The prevalence of adults with a major depressive episode was highest among individuals aged 18-25 (13.1%).
  • The prevalence of major depressive episode was highest among adults reporting two or races (11.3%).

3. Happiness isn’t the Goal

Those are sad statistics. Many people are suffering. You may think that the answer is to become happy.

But the goal isn’t to get “happy”.

Happiness is an emotion that’s fed by things outside of you.

Sometimes you feel happy from buying something. The new car. A new shirt.

You feel happy when entering into a new relationship with someone. The “puppy love” phase of a relationship.

Sometimes you feel happy with accomplishments. That new promotion at work. Or your amazing workout session.

Those can make you happy. Temporarily. Then it wears off.

So then you may start chasing happiness. You got to keep buying stuff (and maybe start “keeping up with the Joneses“). And jumping from relationship to relationship. Also striving for that next accomplishment and ego stroke.

It’s a vicious cycle and a fool’s game if you get sucked into it.

Thus, happiness isn’t the goal. I’m personally rarely happy.

4. Contentment is the Goal

Instead, what I strive for is contentment. Life satisfaction. Centeredness. Calmness. Balance.

Those come from within you. You don’t need to keep chasing things to become content. The more content and centered you are internally, the less room there is for frustration, anger, anxiety and other negative emotions.

Of course that doesn’t mean you’re always centered once you get there.

But bad days at work don’t bug you as much. Screaming kids don’t drive you as crazy. Especially when a catastrophe hits, you may still be knocked off center. But you still feel the calmness underneath the panic, fear, anger or frustration of the moment. And it takes you less work to get back to center. And you go deeper into the calmness over time so things bother you less and less. Yet, counter-intuitively, you actually feel and live more vibrantly more and more.

So, I’ll keep saying ‘happy’ in this ultimate guide but remember that is just shorthand for what I actually mean: contentment, life satisfaction, centeredness, calmness and balance. And I’ll use those words interchangeably. They all mean the same thing to me.

5. How to get Centered

Depending on how you usually are mentally, you may think you’ll never get centered. But trust me: It’s possible. Actually, don’t trust me. Don’t believe me. Look into it yourself to see if there’s something to what I’m saying.

All I know is that I’ve been centered for more than 15 years. I’m calmer now in my day-to-day moments than I used to during my deepest meditations. That’s along way from where I come from. Frustrated. Restless. Depressed. Angry. Shy. Anxious.

After 15 years of fumbling, bumbling and tumbling my way through life, I’ve come to a place where I’m centered. So, how did I do it? What’s the secret?

Well on one hand, I can’t look back and just say that doing “this” specific mental exercise or “that” individual process got me here. I can’t give you a three-step exercise to get happy. It doesn’t work that way.

There’s a whole subreddit called “wow thanks i’m cured” for those types of memes. The ones that seem to oversimplify mental health. Ones that say, “Depression is a choice so just choose to be happy.”

I get that most people think that type of oversimplification is complete bullshit. And I love the humor. But on the other hand, there is also a hint of truth to it. Let me explain.

6. Simple vs. Easy

I think the confusion comes from recognizing the difference between something being simple vs. easy.

Getting happy is simple but not necessarily easy.

The reason why I say it’s simple is because the list of things that would give you a much better chance of being happy is actually pretty short:

That’s pretty straight forward right? It’s simple. But, for you to actually do them – that’s the part that might not be easy. Especially if the very things that you’re trying to get rid of – depression, anxiety – are the things holding you back from improving yourself.

We’re going to work these items in this guide as well as related topics.

7. The Right Attitude

I say with the most things, it’s 80% attitude and 20% head knowledge (good ol’ 80/20 rule). I say it in my “Ultimate Guide to Getting Healthy” and “Ultimate Guide to Getting Wealthy“. But with mental health and getting happy, I’d say it’s 95% attitude and only 5% head knowledge.

That’s because a lot of what we’re dealing with regarding mental health is your attitude itself. You need to work on your attitude itself.

Here’s what I mean. You can read this ultimate guide or watch all the self-help videos and read all the self-help books in the world…

… But if you don’t think you can get happy, you won’t.
… If you’re not motivated and determined, you won’t.
… If you use your physical/mental/financial reasons as excuses, you won’t.

It all starts with your attitude. That drives your behaviors which drives your actions.

To be clear, I’m not saying, for example, that depression is just a bad attitude and changing your attitude will clear up the depression. That’d be like saying if you don’t like the hole you’ve fallen into and can’t get out of, just ‘wish’ to be out of the hole and you’ll magically find yourself out of it.

But what I am saying is that if you want to get out of the hole, you can learn the skills and knowledge to build ladders to get out, and maybe also call to others to have them come and help you get out.

8. It’s Possible to be Happy

So, the first step is to recognize that it is possible for you to be happy.

It’s possible. You can be happy.

You may not believe it. It may not feel possible. You may be in a dark place. You might have forgotten how to feel happy. Or you may know it’s possible but don’t know how. Or you just might not have the motivation, determination and willpower and just feel stuck. It’s OK. It’s all OK. You’re OK. There is a path forward.

You Need to Do Your Part

The old adage is that you need to “meet me halfway.” I know if you’re hurting, that it might be hard for you to start and not be possible to meet me halfway. That’s fine. I can carry you for a bit.

I’ll come your way 80% of the way and you just got to give me 20% (there’s that 80/20 rule again). And I’m saying give me 20%, but you’re actually just giving into the process of helping yourself. I’m just pointing you in the right direction.

But the point is – you need to give something. You need to do your part. Even give just 1% if that’s all you can muster. Just enough to see a little improvement.

Just enough to have a better day, hour, or minute that usual. Enough to see enough improvement that you see a light at the end of the tunnel, a silver lining. Then you’re on your way as your motivation, determination and willpower get revved up and take off.

9. Be Open

The biggest thing, if you can’t give anything else, is to be open. Open to possibilities. To new ideas. Open to looking at yourself. Maybe in sometimes different or painful ways. But ultimately beneficial and beautiful ways.

That will help fight against your mind from denying every idea you read in this ultimate guide. Without being open, it’d be way too easy for your mind to shut everything down by saying, “yeah but“:

  • “Yeah, but… you don’t know my struggles.”
  • “Yeah, but… it’s easy for you to say because (fill in the blank).”
  • “Yeah, but… I don’t think this stuff is going to work.”
  • “Yeah, but… this stuff might work for some, but probably not for me.”

Be Open To Feeling Your Emotions

Be open to feeling your emotions.
It’s OK to express yourself.
Showing emotion isn’t weakness – it’s healthy.
It’s OK to cry.
It’s OK for men to cry.
Feel.
Feel deeply.
It’s easy to bottle your emotions up but it’s unhealthy.
It’s hard to let your emotions sometimes but it’s so healthy.

Don’t believe me that crying and expressing yourself is healthy?

The most cathartic cry, i.e. “Best Cry Ever” as it’s called, ever caught on film is below. It’s by Rocky Lockridge on the A&E Show “Intervention“. Crying is releasing pain. To be clear, I am absolutely not making fun of him crying. I get the humor that surrounds it but I 100% respect it.

10. Just Start

OK, so what’s the best way to start improving your mental health. It’s to simply… start.

You don’t need to get centered overnight. You don’t need to fix all of your problems in a day. And you don’t need to think you need to be happy all the time (no one is). Or know everything there is about psychology and mental health. Just start.

You just need a small win to get some momentum going.

Like, just sit, breath slow and close your eyes. Try it now. What was that like for ten seconds? Your thoughts might have been swirling. The winds of your mind blowing. But ask yourself, “What was wrong in those ten seconds.”

You may have had issues in the past and things that you’re worrying about in the future, but what was wrong in those ten seconds? The answer is: nothing. And just like that, you had a moment for yourself where there actually wasn’t anything wrong. And it didn’t cost you anything and you didn’t have to go anywhere. It was right there with you. Right inside of you.

So, just start.

James Clear has written a best-selling book on improving your habits called “Atomic Habits”. Check it out if you struggle with making and keeping positive habits.

And of course, in the sage words of Shia LaBeouf, “JUST DO IT“:

OK, now that the pep talk is out of the way, let’s start moving into different topics and your first tasks.

11. Tasks

I’m going to give you tasks through this guide in addition to pointing you to a bunch of great resources. I’ll organize them all in way that is – hopefully – straight forward and easy to follow so you have a good “mental map” of how to get and stay centered.

Here are your first tasks.

TASK: Get yourself a journal. I don’t care if it’s a notebook, on your computer or a fancy leather-bound journal (don’t forget your fancy quill pen!)

TASK: Think about how you feel most of the time. How would you describe it to someone? It may be tough if you’re not used to thinking about your… thoughts. You can feel different from moment to moment but how do you feel overall? Focused or distracted? Calm or anxious? Content, happy, sad or mad? Frustrated? Scared? Angry? Peaceful? Depressed? Is there anything you want to change or improve with your emotional state? Record it in your journal.

12. Relationships and Communication

Communication is key in all relationships. From marriage, raising kids, interacting with co-workers to working with sports team mates and band mates. Communication is always key.

Everyone has an inner world in themselves full of ideas, thoughts, feelings and emotions, fears and dreams. Since we’re unable to read each other’s minds (wouldn’t that be something), we need to communicate our inner world’s with one another through our words and actions.

Check out this helpful article, “The Key to Communication in Relationships” by Tony Robbins.

We All Just Want to be Validated

Oprah once said, “I’ve talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show and all 30,000 had one thing in common.”

What was it?

They all wanted validation.”

What does she mean? She touched on this in a different speech, saying that all communication and arguments come down to three things:

  1. Did you hear me?
  2. Did you see me?
  3. Did what I say mean anything to you?

Isn’t that all we want? Isn’t that what you want? To be seen. To be heard.

Understanding vs. Agreeing

Validating someone means to understand them but not necessarily agree with them. So many arguments happen over this simple misunderstanding (pun intended).

Understand then be Understood

So, the fist big thing is to try to understand and then to be understood. Having goof listening skills is critical. As the old saying goes, “we have one mouth and two ears and so we should listen twice as much as we speak.”

When listening to someone, don’t just hear them but actually listen by focusing intently on their words and body language. All too often, we’re thinking of what we want to say next and not actually listening to the other person in the present moment.

QUICK INFO: What’s the difference between sympathy and empathy? Sympathy is acknowledging someone’s suffering while empathy is feeling their suffering.

Your Filters can Get in the Way

The filters of your mind – including your defense mechanisms and neurosis – can often get in the way of listening and understanding others. You may misinterpret their meaning, prescribe hostile intent or shy away from interaction or perceived conflict. This happens to many of us but especially with those with social anxiety.

For example, research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that we can only correctly ascertain the tone of any email 50% of the time. So the tone of emails are misinterpreted half of the time. This leads to so many misunderstandings and conflicts.

The antidote to all social interaction and communication is to assume positive intent and to lean into social interactions.

Listening vs. Fixing

Sometimes, people will talk with you because they just need to be heard. They don’t want you to give advice or “fix” anything for them.

Us guys especially need to learn this. I know I did. We’re so quick to want to find a solution and fix problems. It’s just in our nature. But a lot of times the people in our lives (mostly women) just want to talk. Just like Oprah said, they just want validated – heard, seen, understood. Sometimes us guys are thick so let me be clear:

Sometimes. People. Just. Want. You. To. Listen. And. Not. Fix.Their. Problems.

A lot of times people just want to vent, complain and share their trials and triumphs. Humans are story tellers. Let them tell their stories. If you do, they’ll be there for you to tell yours. It’s a healthy mutually beneficial relationship.

My Experiences with ‘Fixing’ vs. ‘Listening’

When my wife starts telling me about her day, I directly ask her, “Am I listening or fixing?”

It’s usually just listening. And that’s OK. So I let her tell her stories and I listen, nod and validate, “Oh, wow, that does sound like a rough day,” and “Yep, I know exactly what you mean – I’d be frustrated too.”

I show that I hear her, see her and understand her. I validate her. And it goes great. I don’t wait for the chance to fix anything and she rarely asks for that. She just finishes story time and then moves on. That’s a part of the human experience. And it feels wonderful.

What happens if you start trying to give a fix to someone when they just want you to listen? They start to seem unsatisfied with your responses no matter what you chime in with. They start repeating themselves because they feel like you’re not hearing them. Sometimes, like in the case of my wife (sorry honey!), she’ll outright say, “you’re not listening.” If I look past her frustration… she’s exactly right – I’m trying to fix instead of listen.

TASK: Notice when you’re talking to people if you go into ‘listen’ mode or ‘fix’ mode. If you’re constant go-to is ‘fix’ mode, try just listening and only fix it if they ask for suggestions or solutions. Try this for a week and see how it goes. Document your results and observations in your journal.

Communication in Marriage

Speaking of communicating with a spouse, marriage can be especially challenging since partners must talk about the most important, challenging and stressful topics in their life with each other. And they can think about the topics in wildly different ways, which can cause their defense mechanisms and neurosis to kick into overdrive.

Unresolved disagreements can cause resentment to build. Communication can easily break down into arguments and trying to win. The antidote is to encourage your spouse and yourself to focus on solving the problem instead of winning.

Winning implies if one spouse wins then the other must lose. But you both win if you solve the problem together. Remember, you’re on the same team. You should also try to stick to the topic at hand instead of bringing up past grievances as much as possible. It also helps for both partners to remember that everyone have different personalities and communication styles.

The 5 Love Languages

Gary Chapman wrote a great book on this called “The 5 Love Languages”. It proposes that people can show love in one of five ways:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Acts of Service
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Quality Time
  5. Physical Touch

It personally really helped me and wife learn how to communicate better. From us reading the book together, we learned that my wife’s primary love language is “receiving gifts” and mine is performing “acts of service”.

We realized that we’d been speaking different love languages all along. No wonder it was tough for us to communicate sometimes.

I show love by performing acts of service. So I’d clean and organize the house, wash both cars. But my wife didn’t really seem appreciative (that wasn’t her love language). But she loved getting flowers (that was her love language) which I hardly never gave her because I don’t value those types of gifts (again, not my love language).

We’ve both since have learned how to speak each other’s language. She knows to give me words of appreciation when I do something for her or the family and I buy her the card and flowers.

I definitely recommend you read “The 5 Love Languages” if you have a partner. It’s one of those ideas that are so obvious afterwards and makes complete sense.

TASK: Identify your love language for free by taking this evaluation here on the official 5 Love Languages website. It’s not just for couples. You can also run through a different evaluation for children, teens and singles.

Improving your Communication Skills and Charisma

A section on improving your communication and relationship skills wouldn’t be complete without including Dale Carnegie’s seminal book, “How to Win Friends & Influence People“.

You should also check out the “Charisma on Command” YouTube channel. In it’s own words, ” Want to be more charismatic and confident? We make videos to help you learn how to be more confident, how to make people laugh, how to be more likable – basically everything about exuding charisma. Relationships in life are everything, so we want to teach you to turn on your most confident, charismatic self in the moments that matter most.” Great stuff, be sure to check it out.

Here is Charisma on Command’s latest videos:

13. You Don’t Always Need to Fix Your Emotions

You don’t always need to fix your emotions.

I used to think you did. If I was grumpy or frustrated, I’d always try to psychoanalyze myself to figure out what’s wrong and fix it.

“Is something at my job bothering me? Maybe my kids who always fight are on my mind? Something I ate is affecting my mood? Hormone levels? The phase of the moon?!”

Stop it! Then I discovered… wait 20 minutes and my mood changed for the better and I was fine. Crankiness goes away. Frustration dries up.

I’m not saying to just accept your mind if it’s a roller-coaster hot mess of crazy, hormonal emotions and just shrug and think “welp, that’s me!”.

All I’m saying is if you’re usually pretty calm but have a grumpy moment, some peaks and valleys, just sit in your emotion and usually you’ll get back into your normal state quickly.

This has made me feel a lot more free. Sometimes if I’m a grump, my wife will ask me what’s wrong. I’ll say, “I’m grumpy”. If she asks why, I’ll tell her the truth, “I don’t know” and we leave it at that. There doesn’t always need to be a reason for your grumpiness or something to fix. Just sit in it and it’ll pass.

man-sitting-on-sofa-against-wall

14. Filtering of the Mind

It is amazing how we navigate and experience the world. As input of the world around us comes into us through our five senses (sight, sound, smell, taste and touch), our mind is constantly filtering and judging it.

For example, you see a woman who reminds us of your mother. So you like her, feel good around her and are nice to her. That’s because your mind made that happen because you have fond memories and thoughts about your mother. And a warmness towards the idea (or archetype) of “mother” in general.

All of that was created in your mind. The reality is that a female human stands in front of you. All of those additional layers of meaning, emotion, thoughts and feelings were created by the filtering of your mind.

So, we never truly experience the world as it really is but instead as we think it is (literally). Our mind does this as one of its jobs to help protect us by deciding what is safe, what is dangerous, who is friend and who is foe.

TASK: Write down your thoughts, emotions, feelings in a journal at least daily for 30 days. Do you see any patterns? Do some emotions increase or decrease through the 30 days?

15. Fight or Flight

When our mind perceives something as a danger, our “fight or flight” mechanism may kick in.

A hormonal cascade begins, resulting in the secretion of chemicals that prepares us to physically and mentally tackle the perceived danger. Our heartbeat and breathing quickens, our skin pales or flushes and we may even tremble.

The fight or flight mechanism is present in many animals and has helped a multitude of species including ours survive through the millennia.

It can still serve its purpose to help you deal with truly dangerous situations but that’s rarely needed in today’s modern, safer world. But if you’re not careful, it can also kick in when even the most mundane conflict occurs to you. For example, when having a disagreement with a family member or coworker.

Going into fight or flight mode often or staying it in for long periods of time can cause many health problems.

The way to help avoid this is to learn to relax when you become aware of when you feel like you may go into fight or flight mode and to learn healthier communication and coping methods.

Read more about how to rise above your fight or flight mode here, here, here and here.

TASK: Write down in your journal the last time you can remember your fight or flight mechanism kicking in. What triggered it? How did you physically and emotionally feel during and after it kicked in?

16. Defense Mechanisms

Another way our minds filter is based on our past experiences. Everything this is “wrong” with you began as a survival mechanism in childhood.

Your mind may create defense mechanisms if it experiences significant one-time trauma (violence or sexual assault) or through repeated experiences or conditioning (family dynamics in childhood).

Examples of defense mechanisms include:

  • Repression
  • Denial
  • Projection
  • Displacement
  • Regression
  • Sublimation

Your mind creates defense mechanisms based on what it perceives as a threat but isn’t perfect.

For example, as a young child, you may have walked up to a group of kids playing and they started laughing. They laughed because of something funny that happened.

But your mind interpreted it as they were laughing at you and it associated groups with being dangerous. And so you’re not comfortable around groups of people to this day.

TASK: Think about and identify your defense mechanisms. Write in your journal any examples of them kicking in recently. How did it make you feel during and after they kicked in?

17. Neurosis

Neurosis is a class of mental disorders involving chronic distress but neither delusions nor hallucinations.

Some examples are obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), perfectionism, hypochondria, social anxiety and generalized anxiety.

Neurosis can exhibit itself with many symptoms including anger, irritability, low self-esteem, impulsive and compulsive acts and many more.

Some neurosis is hereditary (passed on from the parents to child via DNA) or instilled in a person through their environment and most take root at a young age.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

When most people think of “OCD”, they think of the stereotypical symptoms – being a germaphobe, needing to check that the door is locked over and over or washing your hands a lot. These are some of the classical physical symptoms but the mental and emotional symptoms can be much nastier.

Repeating thoughts. If you have OCD, the thought might pop into your head while driving that you hit someone. You might turnaround and double-check. The thought that you’re going to get caught, lose your job, go to jail and ruin your life might pop into your head. If you don’t have OCD, you may brush the thought aside and never think of it again.

But if you’re OCD, then the thoughts begin to repeat and are relentless. They pop into your mind over and over. For hours, days. It’s torture. It can wreck your sleep and entire quality of life.

And of course it’s always about the worse-case scenario. The repeating thoughts may be about how you’ve gotten everyone sick and they’re all going to do and you’re going to blamed. Or that you forgot to do something and it’s going to cause someone to get hurt or die.

The big thing to notice is that OCD is selfish. It makes everything about you. You get so caught up in your own mind that you’re missing out on life around you that has very little to do with you.

One of the best treatments for OCD is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which we’ll discuss shortly.

Perfectionism

Perfectionism is another type of neurosis. It’s a tough one because at first it sounds like it’s a good thing. Many people respect perfectionists because they look at them as high achievers. Perfectionists and high achievers can be similar in some ways but are actually really different.

Perfectionists are motivated by fear. “My boss and teammates will think I’m a loser if I don’t sign this client at work”. High achievers instead are motivated by more positive forces.

Perfectionists think any less than perfection is failure. But high achievers know that it’s about progress and not perfection.

I’m a recovered perfectionist and I make it a point to never say to our kids “perfect!” when they do something great. I never want them thinking perfection is the goal.

What is one of the most popular methods to treat perfectionism? You guessed it – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT can help with a lot. Let’s discuss it next.

TASK: Think about and identify any neuroses you feel you may have. You’re not judging yourself. You’re just observing. How did it make you feel during and after they kicked in? Write your thoughts down in your journal.

18. Depression

Depression is not sadness. What’s the difference?

Sadness is an emotion that everyone feels from time to time. Feeling sad is a natural reaction to something that makes us emotionally upset or brings us pain.

Symptoms of Depression

But depression is a long-term mental illness. It can have many symptoms including:

  • Constant feelings of sadness.
  • Loss of interest and enthusiasm for things which you used to enjoy.
  • Physical symptoms, such as headaches or body aches that don’t have a specific cause.
  • Constant thoughts about death.
  • Suicidal thoughts.

Of course, you don’t need to have all of the symptoms to be depressed and you’re not necessarily depressed if you have some of the symptoms.

Depression is Not Sadness

But the important thing to remember is depression is not sadness. The person that is depressed is not emotionally sad, are not “choosing” to be sad and so telling them to just “cheer up” or “snap out of it” won’t help.

They can have everything going great in their life and have no reason to be depressed… but still be depressed.

What Can Depression Feel Like?

I experience depression from time to time so I can speak from direct experience. For me, depression feels like an ominous cloud that comes over my life force. It feels dark. Evil. Demonic. Alien-like. It’s like another living presence has come over me, sharing my inner space. Very foreign feeling. Like I’m no longer just feeling my personality and vibe… but also someone or something else’s.

My Worst Depressive Episode

I remember my worst episode of depression I’ve had so far.

It’s a beautiful sunny, summer day. Our kids have a soccer game. My wife and I drop them off and join the rest of the parents in lawn chairs along the field to watch the game. My in-laws are also there.

We all have our health. Everything is going great in life. My father-in-law is chatting up a storm while I nod, acting like I’m hearing what he’s saying.

I’m really not listening though because the only thought that I keep having is that I don’t want to exist. Not kill myself specifically but just… no longer ‘be’.

Kids are playing. Parents and other relatives are all talking and having a good time watching the game. The sun is shining. And there I am thinking that everyone would be better off if I didn’t exist. I wasn’t choosing this train of thoughts. They were coming into my mind on their own – fast and furious.

Fun, huh? It’s definitely not a good time. And my depressive episodes fortunately haven’t lasted long, aren’t that intense compared to others I’ve read about and I haven’t had many of them. But from what I experienced, I absolutely can see how someone can go to a darker and darker place until they kill themselves.

Treatment for the Depression

There are multiple treatments for depression that are backed up by science:

  1. Being around people
  2. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
  3. Meditation and mindfulness-based treatments
  4. Exercise
  5. Medication

Do you some familiar entries on that list? You should. We said the core steps to getting happy include being social, seeing a therapist, meditate and perform mindfulness. I picked those because they’re scientifically proven to help with depression, neurosis and many other challenges.

two-person-writing-on-paper-on-brown-wooden-table

19. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Defense mechanisms and neurosis can be reasons for behavior but don’t let them become excuses. You’re still responsible for your actions.

There’s good news though. You can overcome your defense mechanisms and neurosis. This is mostly by acknowledging them and applying well-established therapy frameworks such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

CBT focuses on strategies to manage, reduce and overcome neurosis by taking actions in the present moment. This is usually much more fruitful than trying to determine when and why the neurosis formed in your past.

CBT Example

For example, in our example earlier about a group of kids laughing when you walked up to them. Your mind thought they were laughing at you. This eventually turned into social anxiety and made you never be comfortable around strangers, especially in groups. This really negatively affects your life. It makes it hard to form relationships, make friends and to be yourself. Simply – it sucks!

So, what do you do? You decide to see a therapist trained in classical Freudian therapy. You begin talking with them. They discuss your anxiety and then start guiding you back into your memories. Working back to when you went up to that group that was laughing.

The therapist inquires how does it make you feel, trying to guide you towards a place of acceptance and forgiveness so that you can start talking to people more easily. There’s some value in this type of therapy.

But CBT has shown to be more effective. So, to continue our example, you go to a therapist trained in CBT for your anxiety instead. They don’t necessarily care how you got the anxiety. They simply focus on what you can do now to manage it. And walk you through real-world actions you can start doing right now to help manage your anxiety.

Managed but not Gone

Your neurosis will probably not be completely eradicated even after CBT and self-help, but it doesn’t need to be. It will shift from something subtle and overpowering to something obvious and manageable.

You’ll begin to understand what triggers the neurosis, tell when it flares up and how to either sit in it and let it pass naturally or apply management and coping methods when necessary.

TASK: Make an appointment with a psychologist that practices CBT and work with them to help you identify and manage any neurosis that you may have.

20. Meditation

What do you think of when I say ‘meditation’? An enlightened master meditating in the mountains saying things like “Patience, young grasshopper?” Or your wacky hippie New-Ager neighbors that are ‘into’ meditation and yoga?

Meditation isn’t what most people think. It’s a tool that you can use for many different things. When someone says they meditate, that really doesn’t tell you much. That’s like saying, “I use a hammer.” That’s great, but what do you use it for? Building houses? Killing zombies? Details matter!

Same thing with meditation. You can use it for a lots of different things.

Benefits of Meditation

For our purposes in this ultimate guide to getting happy, you can use meditation to help yourself in many ways:

  • Reduce stress
  • Control anxiety
  • Promote emotional health
  • Enhance self-awareness
  • Lengthen attention span
  • May reduce age-related memory loss
  • May help fight addictions
  • Improve sleep
  • Control pain
  • Decrease blood pressure

Modern science and medical research has proven that meditation is effective with these and other physical and mental health benefits just like how ancient spirituality has taught for millennia:

Meditation Exercise

If you’ve never meditated before, you may be curious what it’s like. Next I’ll walk you through a very basic example of meditation.

TASK: Let’s learn to observe your thoughts. This may be foreign to you at first. Most people think that they’re looking out into the world from their mind. But now you’re asked to look at your mind instead.

1) Sit on a chair
2) Sit with your back straight
3) Get comfortable – wear comfortable nonrestrictive clothing
4) Close your eyes
5) Observe your thoughts. Don’t control your thoughts. Try not to think about anything in particular. Don’t try to clear your mind. Just observe.
6) After at least a minute, open your eyes slowly and stretch. The exercise is over.

Congrats – you’ve just meditated!

What happens when you did this exercise? How busy was your mind? Did your mind get busier or calmer as you observed it? What thoughts came into your mind? Do you feel you created the thoughts as they arose? If not, where did they coming from? Write your results and thoughts in your journal.

Headspace

I want you to check out Headspace.

Headspace is one of the leading meditation apps out there. It teaches you how to mediate.

From it’s website: “hundreds of themed sessions on everything from stress and sleep to focus and anxiety.”

It’s an amazing and helpful app. Andy Puddicombe, the creator of Headspace, is a Tibetan Buddhist monk ordained in India for crying out loud. He knows his stuff.

They have a free 2-week trial. Download the app and check it out. See if you like it. After the trial, it’s $69.99/year ($5.83/month). They also have a student plan that’s $9.99/year which is awesome.

What Else Can Meditation Be Used For?

Meditation can be used to help with your mental health but offers so much more. We’re going to discuss two additional aspects that meditation can help with next – self-realization and enlightenment.

21. Self-Realization and Enlightenment

You’re not crazy if you have neurosis but you should also not just accept it as who you are.

Neurosis can cause you tremendous pain and dysfunction. You should make it a priority to learn how to manage it. This is especially important because neurosis is the opposite state of your true self, that of self-realization.

Self-realization has two definitions, one psychological and one spiritual, and both are of interest to us:

  1. In psychology, self-realization means to fulfill the possibilities of your personality and character.
  2. In spirituality, self-realization is liberating knowledge of the true Self, the one universal Consciousness (God) that is behind your self-created false ego identity.

Both states of self-realization are not possible if neurosis is present. That does not mean you must get rid of all neurosis. But you need learn how to manage it so that you’re viewing life through its dirty lens.

What does both definitions mean?

Psychological Definition

In psychology, becoming self-realized means reaching your fullest potential. Working through your mental neurosis, such as anxiety, perfectionism and OCD. Learning how to recognize and lower your defense mechanisms. We’re interested in that definition as we continue our journey to get happy.

But what about the spiritual definition? Well, buckle up. This can sound completely crazy and out there at first.

Spiritual Definition

Spiritual self-realization means that you recognize and experience that you are not your mind.

What do I mean? Your thoughts, emotions, feelings. Your story and sense of identity. All of that. It’s all in your head. They’re real but they’re not really you.

You are not your mind. You’re not your thoughts. Your mind is a part of you. But it’s not you. It’s just a part of you like your hand or foot. I mean all of this literally.

Experiencing this truth is spiritual self-realization. Notice I say ‘experience’. It’s not just an understanding of the concept. You can actually experience it. And it shifts your entire perspective.

It takes you from thinking you’re this anxious and depressed being with no hope. To asking, “who exactly is suffering? I’m not my thoughts, emotions, feelings. I’m not my job, name, identity, story.”

And if you keep looking at your mind, going beyond the thoughts, you’ll come to something curious. You’ll come to… nothing. Literally “no thing”. Emptiness. At your core, there is nothing. It’s like you’re a phantom.

This realization and discovery can bring great horror but ultimately great relief. And centeredness and calmness. Exactly what we’re looking for.

Enlightenment

Then who is suffering and who are you if you’re not your mind and only find “no thing” at your center? You are the consciousness that observes the mind. The consciousness that is calm, centered, balanced. Again, exactly what we’re looking for.

You experience this naturally without realizing it. Most people think that they are watching the world from their minds. But you’re not. You can actually pull back your consciousness and look at your mind. If you can look at your mind, then you are not your mind.

OK, but then what is that consciousness exactly? Well, no one knows. It’s the unknowable. But in the meantime, people have called it many things: The One Consciousness, The All,… God. Whatever it is… we are that.

Adyashanti has written many profound and helpful books including “The End of Your World“ about his experiences of self-realization and enlightenment.

Here is Adyashanti discussing the experience of no self:

OK, has this section blown your mind (literally)? If this all seems way out there and “woo woo“, I totally get it. It may not be what you signed up for when you decided to read this ultimate guide on getting happy. That’s fine. I’m going to get back to more classical mind/mental topics next.

But if you are interested in this, you should definitely read “The Ultimate Guide to Spirituality“. In it, I give much more information and context to self-realization and enlightenment.

OK, let’s go over one more topic next that maybe a little odd for you and then we’ll get back to “normal” mental health ideas.

black-and-gold-roman-numeral-analog-clock

22. Time is an Illusion

The single most important action you can take to improve your well-being is to stay in the present moment by practicing mindfulness. We’ve touched on this at the beginning of the guide but it’ll help if I explain it a little further now.

What does this mean? Hear me out here. It may seem a little ‘out there’.

Time as we think of it is an illusion. The only true moment that exists is the current one – the present moment.

The past is merely our memories of present moments that have occurred.

The future is only our thoughts of possible current moments that haven’t yet happened.

Our perceptions of the past and future are filtered through our minds and warped and bastardized by our neurosis and defense mechanisms.

What does this mean to you and your mental health? A lot! Follow me on this.

Why Stay Present

Stay in the present moment by focusing on what is going on around you in the current moment, moment-by-moment, and try to experience it directly instead of thinking about, filtering and judging what’s going on. You stay “out of your head” as much as possible.

So much of our neurosis and defense mechanisms are based on thinking of the past or worrying about the future and being too much “in your head”. Staying in the present moment can combat and counteract a lot your mental suffering.

It is also a great way to slow your perception of time back down when your “fight or flight” response triggers and everything seems to speed up as you start to lose control.

How to Stay Present?

Asking yourself “what is wrong in this moment right now?” is a great way to check if you’re staying present.

And you know you’re staying present if your answer is: “nothing”. Because that’s really the truth. You may have real problems in life – everyone does. Stuff that happened in your past. Or problems you need to deal with in the future. But for that moment when you’re staying present, nothing is wrong. For that split second. And the more you stay present, the calmer you become. There’s a cumulative effect.

You know you’re no longer present when if your mind starts to wander and goes to thoughts about the past or future.

TASK: Practice being present. Focus on what is happening around you moment-by-moment. Be engaged with your surroundings. Pay attention to the noises you hear. The smells you smell. Notice the people around you. Engage with those that interact with you. Make eye contact. Listen to their answers. Be present. Moment by moment. Try this for a week and record the results and observations in your journal. How did it go? How did it make you feel? Did it get easier through the week? Did you notice you getting “in your head” instead of being present?

Don’t Take to Philosophical Extremes

Don’t take any of this to philosophical extremes. Yes, you can still think about the past. Can still plan for things in the future. And you can still be “in your head” when it makes sense. But being in the present moment keeps these balanced and moderated. It keeps yourself sane.

Staying in the moment may begin as an artificial exercise you perform but you’ll quickly come to appreciate the naturally calm, centered, peaceful, lucid state that you’ll find yourself in and it quickly becomes your “new normal”.

Eckhart Tolle came out of nowhere with the instant classic, “The Power of Now“. It teaches the importance and power of mindfulness and staying in the present moment. As of 2009, it has sold 3 million copies in North America alone and translated into 33 languages. He’s now regularly considered one of the top spiritual leaders in the world.

Here’s a great video by Eckhart that explains the power of the present moment:

low-angle-of-black-metal-tower

23. Personality Frameworks

Everyone’s personality is unique. But personality types and functions of the mind have been mapped and categorized within different models to help understand the mind. You should get used to some of the models so that you have a good “mental map” (literally!) of your mind.

Some of the most popular frameworks are the conscious/subconscious/unconscious mind, the Big Five personality traits, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Enneagram.

Watch this video on understanding your conscious, subconscious and unconscious mind.

Some companies have their employees tested for and have them wear their MBTI personality designation (ISTJ, ENTJ, etc.) on their badges to help each other understand where they’re coming from. It’s a big deal in many companies.

TASK: Take a free Myers-Briggs personality test here.

The Enneagram’s approach is that we have specific personality traits when in a neutral state and slide to different traits when under stress and recognizing this helps understand ourselves and others.

TASK: Take a free Enneagram test here. Write your designation and thoughts on it in your journal. Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson and wrote a great book called, “The Wisdom of the Enneagram”.

24. Habits, Motivation, Determination, Frustration

What keeps us working towards our goals every day? The sad truth is, most people don’t finish what they start. What’s different between someone that finishes what they start and one that doesn’t? They may look similar in many ways. But if you pay attention, you’ll notice the finisher does things different. They’re subtle but they’re the difference between failure and success.

Motivation vs. Determination

People succeed by using determination and developing habits. People fail when they only act when motivated or inspired. Motivation and inspiration are fleeting. Determination is more permanent, and habits help keep it present when it wanes.

Habits

You may have heard, “It takes 21 days to form a new habit”. Not quite. Read this article by James Clear.

He discusses Maxwell Maltz’s initial research which actually reads, “These, and many other commonly observed phenomena tend to show that it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.” (emphasis mine). Society incorrectly shortened it to “takes 21 days”.James goes on to explain further research shows it can take 2-8 months to develop a habit. Interesting read.

Check out Jame Clear’s site here. In his words, ” My writing is focused on how we can create better habits, make better decisions, and live better lives. I combine ideas from a wide range of disciplines including biology, neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, and more.” Great stuff. Be sure to check out his book reading list.

James has also written the best-selling book, “Atomic Habits“. As he puts it, “an easy and proven way to build good habits and break bad ones”. Definitely check it out if you struggle with habit breaking or forming.

I personally don’t struggle with habit management (believe me – I have other challenges – we all do). I’ll explain what works for me. I don’t know if it’s universal but it’s definitely works for the way I’m wired.

Forming Habits

First, let’s do an exercise that you might find fun and… weird. Form three trivial habits to get into the habit of making habits. Here are some examples.

  • Walk completely around your favorite chair in your home before sitting
  • Stroke your coffee cup every time before taking a sip
  • Say a phrase before getting out of your car
  • Wash your body with the opposite hand in the shower
  • Brush your teeth with your opposite hand than usual
  • Lead with your opposite foot when walking up steps.

Pick three from the list or make up your own that are similar. They’re ordinary, mundane, “small” habits on purpose. Nothing too earth-shattering. Force yourself to do them until they’ve become habit. This makes it WAY easier to develop habits for more important things. Some of the little habits I developed on purpose:

  1. Touch my right toe to the sink when I brush my teeth
  2. Touch a tree branch from the woods I set against the house when I take out the garbage
  3. Change my phone’s profile from ‘work’ to ‘driving’ (turns on Bluetooth, etc.) the last time I use the bathroom before leaving work (after I wash my hands of course – yuck!)

They’re silly but they let me experience what making habits feels like. And that makes it easier to develop more important and harder habits.

Another Example

OK, here’s another exercise for you. Do five tasks that make you frustrated. Keep doing them until they no longer make you frustrated.

For example, do you get road rage when driving? Take a drive and notice when your frustrations flare up. What’s causing it? Is someone going slower than you think they should? Did someone cut you off? Did the light turn red as you were coming up to it? Perform the Pause Technique when your frustrations arise:

1) Count to 10 while taking deep breaths and don’t react in anyway

What happens? How do you feel? Write down your thoughts and experience in your journal each time you do the task for at least a week. Do your frustrations simmer down?

Journal ten habits you’re happy about and ten that you want to change or get rid of.

Your Big ‘Why’

The biggest step in developing determination is to define your goals in detail – your big “why”.

Why do you want to take steps to improve your mental health? Simply saying “to get happy” isn’t enough. Give specifics:

  • “My dad was depressed and distant and I want to instead be there for my son”
  • “I’ve never been comfortable about groups of people but I want to finally be able to talk in groups”
  • “I have to give a speech at work next month and want to do great”

The more details you give, the more real your goals are. And the more you’re able to focus on them and choose them when distractions come along.

And distractions and doubt will come – you can quote me on that! But the way to counteract them is to remind yourself of your ‘big why’. Your ‘big why’ needs to be bigger than any distraction or doubt that can show up.

TASK: Think about and define your ‘big why’. Why do you want to improve your mental health? Be as detailed and specific as possible. Put it in your journal.

Frustration

You’re bound to experience frustration as you work towards your goals. It may stem from:

  • Your mind trying to protect you in its own weird way from pain and discomfort,
  • Your mind feeling like its pushed out of its comfort zone,
  • Your mind feeling like the goal is too difficult,
  • Your mind feeling like reality does not match your expectations,
  • Your defense mechanisms and neurosis flaring up (I cover these in a later lesson),

Notice I’m describing your mind as if it’s separate from you. That’s because it is! I mean this literally. Your mind is a part of you, but is not you. Your mind is generating the frustration and you can choose to ignore it.

“We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”

– Lucius Annaeus Seneca

We don’t always have control of events but we always have control of how we respond to them. Be on guard when you become frustrated. Persevere and push through it! I know. Easier said than done. But it is possible.

I know in my most frustrated moments, I’m screaming, kicking and cursing everything in sight. The last thing I’d want someone to tell me is to “push through it.” That’s why you need to tell yourself that in the heat of the moment. Dig deep, remind of yourself of your ‘big why’ and PUSH. Success lies on the other side of your frustrations.

Patience

Showing emotion when frustrated does not help the situation. It can also make you feel helpless. You should instead strive to be stoic. Enduring the hardship without expressing emotion or complaint.

Overcoming frustration in this way blossoms into patience. It empowers you to push harder and longer and achieve more than you ever thought imaginable. I’m not saying to be a robot and not show emotion. One of the main ideas of this ultimate guide is the exact opposite – to feel deeper and to express yourself more.

But what I’m saying is though in the heat of the moment when you’re frustrated or pissed off. That’s usually the time to bite your tongue and not say a word. Complaining for the sake of complaining isn’t constructive. Feed those emotions into positive action. Don’t spew it out around you because that is toxic to you and everyone else.

Just Do It

At the end of the day, the biggest thing you can do to improve your chance of succeeding at something is to start it.

Thinking, learning and researching all have their proper place. But for most goals in life, you don’t need to have the end figured out to be able to start. Don’t develop “paralysis by analysis” and overthink things.

The biggest risk is to not take one. Start working towards the goal. Adjust each step of the way as necessary. Don’t over-engineer or under-engineer a plan. Learn to find that middle sweet spot.

The hardest step of anything is the first. This is because you have no momentum to start and need to overcome the inertia of you being “at rest”. Things get easier the more success you have though. And here’s the secret why: confidence you gain from past successes pushes you through the start of the next task. It gets you beyond your initial “at rest” state faster.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Of course no lesson on being effective can be complete without mentioning Stephen Covey’s seminal book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.

He does an amazing job at giving a framework for understanding the mind and how to tackle your goals. Here’s the shortlist:

  1. Be proactive
  2. Begin with the end in mind
  3. First things first
  4. Think win-win
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood
  6. Synergize!
  7. Sharpen the saw; growth

Better Ideas

I want you to check out this guy’s YouTube channel. His name is Joey Schweitzer and runs the “Better Ideas” channel. He talks about why your mind works the way it does. He gives great advice on how to be more productive, learn faster and how to develop habits.

I get a kick out of his video titles. Such as, “Why you’ll fail your New Year’s resolutions (probably)”, “How I tricked my brain to like doing hard things” and “Why your life is so boring”. If you’re moved to, be sure to subscribe and leave a comment on his videos and show your support. He deserves it.

25. Break Social Media Addiction

Social media is a scourge on our society. I don’t mean to sound dramatic but it really is doing horrible damage.

Benefits of Social Media

First, social media isn’t all bad. There are benefits to it:

  • Keeping in touch with family, friends and acquaintances
  • Us humans like stories and so we like the visual stories told to us by others through social media
  • Quickly share updates in the event of a disaster or emergency
  • Learn something odd, interesting or fun
  • Be entertained by funny posts

That’s all good stuff and not what I’m concerned about when I say social media addiction.

The Dark Side of Social Media

Social media has a tremendous dark side. It comes down to a couple things that it can do:

Ultimately, it can make you end up living for others instead of yourself.

Watch these powerful and mind-blowing videos:

How to Tell If You Have Social Media Addiction

Read this article to help determine if you are addicted to social media.

How to Break Social Media Addiction

Watch this video from Thomas Frank for a lot of great ideas on how to break your social media addiction:

I’m not saying everyone should stop using social media. Or that everyone gets hooked into its dark side.

What I am saying is that you need to live intentionally and understand that social media is trying to intentionally program you to use their platforms because that’s how they make money. And to be on guard to social media addiction and don’t fall prey to them. It can really hurt your mental health. If you have gotten sucked in, break the addiction and get free.

26. Grief

Grief is the response to loss. We feel grief especially when someone we know dies or moves out of our life.

There are many symptoms of grief.

My Experiences with Grief

I never experienced grief until my mother died in 2017. Grief is a unique emotion. It’s a sadness that comes over you. But it’s not a dark, evil feeling like depression.

The most important thing I’ve learned about the grieving process is that it’s OK to feel however you feel while you grieve. You don’t have to try to grieve in a certain way or feel guilty about how you’re feeling.

When my mother died, I didn’t cry immediately but grief came over me. I was fine a lot of the time. But then grief would hit me at the most random times.

I remember breaking out in tears while driving to work one morning out of the blue. Another time I was in the grocery store, saw a woman that reminded me of my mom and I almost lost it. Grief is weird! And not how it is in the movies. You’re not always sad or wearing black. And that’s all OK. It is what it is.

I know my sister struggled with this. She told me at the time that she felt guilty because she thought she was supposed to be more sad more of the time. I told her at the time and I’m telling you now – however you feel is OK when you’re grieving (or at any time!). Never apologize or feel guilty for how you feel. We’re all working through emotions and the grieving process unfolds very oddly and that is completely OK.

27. Forgiveness

Forgiveness was a foreign concept to me until recently.

If someone did something I perceived as a sleight against me or those I love, I’d instantly go to, “Screw them, they’re dead to me,” and hold a grudge for a long time. Not over ever little transgression but over things I felt were big or bad enough. Forgiveness was the last thing I thought about. “Never forgive, never forget” was my unspoken motto. Until I realized one huge thing:

Forgiveness is for you, not for them.

The person that (you think) did something to you that you’re holding a grudge against – they probably haven’t thought about it again since doing it. And they probably don’t even realize it’s bothering you. So your grudge hasn’t really affected them. But how about you? How has your grudge affected you?

You’ve developed bitterness. Maybe even repeating thoughts about it and you can’t let it go. You’ve hurt yourself. You need to forgive them to set yourself free.

My Experience with Forgiveness

I became the president of our sub-division’s HOA (Home Owner Association). We have around 95 homes. Many legal issues going back nearly ten years stopped the HOA from being legally functional. I stepped up to help. It took a year of working with neighbors, builders, developers, the township and lawyers but it got fixed and is functional now.

But it was a difficult road. Many neighbors didn’t help. Some said they would, but then didn’t. Some actively fought against the plans. I also felt my fellow officers weren’t stepping up (in my mind). That’s all normal stuff when dealing with a diverse group of people.

But man, it made me so frustrated. Frustration turned to anger. I resigned from the HOA in disgust. Anger turned to resentment. Resentment turned to bitterness.

I couldn’t even walk my dog around the neighborhood without feeling bitter with the whole neighborhood. I know that wasn’t logically the right thing to feel but feelings aren’t logical a lot of the time. I had only hurt myself by not forgiving.

Until I realized that forgiveness is for me, not for them.

Man, I remember the moment I realized that. It was such a eureka moment for me. A lot of the frustration, anger, resentment and bitterness melted away.

Forgiveness is a Process

I say “a lot” and not “all” because I also realized forgiveness is a process, not an event. It’s just like the grieving process in that way. It takes time. But I feel free. Free enough to walk our dog around the neighborhood without feeling bitterness anymore.

Once you’re able to forgive others and realize it’s for you and not them, then you can begin to understand why this young man did this in the video below. He forgave and hugged the woman that shot his brother to death:

28. Conclusion

Alright, this is the end of this ultimate guide to getting happy. We’ve covered a lot:

  • What it means to be happy
  • Happiness vs. contentment
  • The right attitude
  • Relationships and communication
  • Personality frameworks
  • Fight or flight
  • Defense mechanisms
  • Neurosis
  • Meditation
  • Self-realization and enlightenment

… and more. That’s a lot. Does it cover everything? Of course not. There have been hundreds of books written on each topic I’ve touched on here. But it’s meant to give you a big hug of knowledge and encouragement to help you get happy.

To that end, I hope this guide has helped you, motivated you and pointed you to many great mental health resources and ideas. This is the end of the guide, but just the beginning of the rest of your life. I wish that it’s full of health and well-being. I wish you the best!

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Jason Howe

Jason Howe is the founder of Man the Ship.

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