There would be virtually no danger of addiction to drugs or alcohol if those substances didn’t offer an often high degree of “fun.” However, before long, those feelings dissipate, so that it stops being as much fun as it used to.
So you do more, and continue using compulsively, overdoing even when it hurts you. Drugs may provide a high but, ultimately, it’s a false happiness.
In sobriety and recovery, you must discover a new form of fun, one that is truly life-giving, healthy, and supportive for you at your best. Here are five steps that can help you live a life of true happiness.
1. Pay attention to yourself
Spend some time in introspection, asking yourself what makes you the most happy. When you think about what “a happy life” looks like, what you are imagining? Also pay attention to your own emotional space.
What makes you feel at your happiest? Would you rather be surrounded by people, or surrounded by nature? Try new things, play new games, or explore a new creative artistic activity, and see what it feels like.
Different people’s states of happiness are going to look different from each other, and only you can figure out what happiness means for you. Once you find it, don’t be afraid to “follow your joy,” spending time working towards your heart’s desire and your soul’s passion.
2. Stop Comparing
One of the main sources of unhappiness is dissatisfaction with the way things are. True happiness comes from learning to love yourself, recognizing your value and worth that goes beyond what other people think or what you have or look like. That is why comparing yourself to others is a toxic habit that make it hard to find happiness.
You might think that someone with more possessions, a different job, a romantic relationship, or traits that meet an artificial standard of beauty are happier than you. The truth is that happiness can come from within, from you loving yourself just the way you are.
3. Be Kind to Others
Total happiness and health is not possible in isolation. Connection with others, helping other people, and intimate sharing gives your life purpose. Another person’s perspective can help you get out of harmful inner dialogue by enjoying what is good about the moment in front of you.
Giving to others, and making a contribution in someone else’s life can bring you happiness as well, because it helps you find purpose and connection in the world around you. If you find yourself feeling angry at someone else, breathing your way to becoming calm and getting to a place of forgiveness can help you let go of resentful feelings that can take away your happiness.
4. Focus on the Moment
Your brain can sometimes play tricks on you that may take your happiness, if you let it. Sometimes it wants to replay an embarrassing, shameful, or frightening event from your past, bringing you back and reinforcing those negative feelings.
On the other hand, sometimes you can feel worried about something that is going to happen in the future, something out of your control that you don’t know about. Both dwelling in the past and dwelling in the future can make you unhappy, but the best way to find happiness is to be present in the moment. Your breath can be a good way to gently bring your attention back to the present moment, where you can relax into feeling happy.
5. Be Grateful
Of course, not everything that happens to you is going to be good. Feeling happy does not mean repressing your emotions or fighting your way to bliss. It is good to allow yourself to feel sad, angry, or any “unpleasant” emotion, to express the way you are honestly feeling.
The key is to learn how not to dwell on the unhappiness, but to let the unpleasant feelings fade so they take their place among all of your feelings and experiences. There will be something in your experience and surroundings to feel grateful for, something positive towards which you can direct your attention. Dwell on that positive part of the experience, allow it to seep into your brain and make you feel secure and peaceful, no matter what else you may be facing.