Trying to be happy all the time is not the answer. You can't be emotionally perfect. There is no such thing.
Contentment is your natural state of emotional balance. It comes from negotiating with the ever changing nature of your emotions. You will not be happy all of the time, and that’s ok.
Contentment is a choice you can make. If you give yourself permission to be content, you are well on your way.
First, use your emotional antenna to sense what makes you comfortable or uncomfortable, happy or unhappy. At any time, ask yourself some simple questions:
— Am I feeling comfortable or uncomfortable?
— Am I feeling happy or unhappy?
— If I feel unhappy, I am unhappy because _____.
— What am I allowing that makes me feel unhappy?
— Then, ask yourself, "What steps can I take?"
You don't have to stay unhappy or miserable, ever. Move toward your own state of contentment. Don't wait for someone to give happiness to you. As a friend of mine once said, "Only you can bring happiness to yourself. Everyone else is probably busy anyway."
Since the secret of contentment lies within you, you can find a way to liberate it.
Contentment doesn't come from the immediate satisfaction of a specific desire, but arises instead when you are not anxious about the present, when you don't feel pangs about the past, and when you have no worries about the future. Once you develop a strong enough sense of contentment, the external circumstances of your life don't matter. You are still content from within yourself.
Trying to be happy all the time is not the answer. You can't be emotionally perfect. There is no such thing. Emotional perfectionism is the biggest obstacle between you and your ability to stretch beyond your comfort zone. Worrying about being perfect only makes you emotionally limited. It doesn't make you happy. It's okay to get messy. You get messy when you deal with your emotions, anyway. So, why not learn to play in the mess?
You need to be emotionally messy — confused, distracted, anxious, depressed, melancholy, sad — in order to find out who you are, why you are here, and what you're supposed to do. If you accept your untidy, imperfect emotions, you'll find they have tremendous value.
Here's a yogic technique for increasing and developing positive emotional states — friendliness, compassion, happiness, steadiness, and strength. Attitudes like these are curative. What makes them powerful is using them creatively. In this exercise, you learn to consciously intend to create more positive attitudes, desires, and expansive states by aiming your consciousness toward a certain goal.
Do this exercise anytime, anywhere, even for a few seconds. Practice it regularly, taking one thought or idea at a time, and automatically your awareness will shift. You'll feel lighter, happier.
Learn more in my book, "Emotional Yoga: How the Body Can Heal the Mind".
(Photo: Painting by Milton Resnick, Untitled, 1949)