Why can’t I just be happy?” is a question more and more people are asking these days. It’s also a question that is near and dear to my own heart, as it was this question that triggered the beginning of a long and transformative inner journey that I went on a number of years ago.

Many of us look at our lives and realize we have SO much to feel grateful for and then wonder why we don’t feel happier. We’re confused about why we feel disconnected in our relationships and why we don’t feel more passionate about life.

From my own journey and the many people I’ve had the honor to work with, I’ve identified 5 key factors that must be considered and integrated into the fabric of our lives if we want to feel happier and begin to answer the question, “Why can’t I just be happy?”

Take a stand

We need to decide that we want to feel happy. Although this sounds like it’s common sense, it’s not actually a common practice. Many of us have barriers to actually allowing ourselves to feel happy. We say we want to be happy but deep down we actually set up barriers to our own happiness.

One of my biggest barriers was the belief that if other people would change then I’d be happy. I also felt like I needed to get permission and approval to make some decisions and when I didn’t feel I was getting it, I would blame the other person.

It doesn’t matter what it is, we need to first make a decision to accomplish something, even if we don’t know HOW we’re going to do it.

We start by beginning every morning telling ourselves that “today I intend to be happy and take responsibility for my own life. I don’t know HOW to do it, but I am open to learning.”

If we don’t make that decision and remind ourselves on a daily basis, we are deciding to fail, which means we are deciding to be unhappy and unfulfilled.

Thrive rather than survive

When our life circumstances mean that we no longer need to focus on what we need to survive, we are meant to turn our attention and focus our energy towards asking and acting on: “What do I need in order to feel fulfilled in my life”?

Asking the question about fulfillment means that we are at a time in our life that we are wanting and needing to become more self-actualized. As Abraham Maslow noted, when the basic needs of humans are met we are meant to move towards being fully alive and finding meaning in our lives.

It doesn’t mean that we’re selfish or not grateful or that we need to feel bad because something is missing in our lives.

It means we need to ask ourselves:

  • How can I contribute to my family, relationships, community and/or the world?
  • What do I want to experience?
  • And, how do I want to grow?
Take out the trash

In order to be happy, we must take the time and do the work to first identify and then clear away the inner clutter that is causing us to feel disconnected from our natural state of happiness.

As long we don’t separate our own voice from the voices of others; both past and present, we’ll feel like something is missing in our life. And what is most often missing is our authentic self.

Finding our own voice and living our own life is not easy, but it’s the only way if we want to be happy.

Get out of your head and into your body

Our happiness is linked with our feelings, emotions, and our body, not with our head. Our feelings are the barometer of our happiness and we need to spend more time in our body and less time in our head.

For years I thought that I wanted to go back to school and get yet another degree. I thought that it was the school that made me happy and when I dug a little deeper I realized that it wasn’t the school that made me happy it was the way I felt when I was connected with like-minded people who I could have stimulating and deep conversations with.

The awesome news is that realizing this meant that I didn’t need to spend thousands of dollars on another degree to get the “feeling” of connection and community. I just needed to create other opportunities for this in my life.

Create momentum with action

We don’t need to have it all figured out before we take steps in response to our inner yearnings and curiosity. We often believe we need to have it all figured out in terms of what will make us happy. This belief is a huge barrier to happiness and fulfilling our dreams.

The truth is that when we begin taking small baby steps in response to those things that light us up, we begin moving in the direction of happiness.

It’s about letting go of the expectation that we need to know what the end point is going to be and decide to just go with the flow and follow those inner nudges.

For example, I really didn’t know what difference meditation would make in my life when I committed to spending 5 minutes a day doing it. I knew I needed something, but I didn’t know what. I would have never dreamt that those 5 minutes a day would lead to becoming a certified meditation teacher, meeting a lot of inspiring people, living a more spiritually nourishing life, improving my relationships, starting my own coaching business and ultimately living a life that I could never have dreamed of.

We reconnect with our natural state of happiness when we say “yes” to those things that might scare us and proceed into the unknown.

Happiness is never found when we resist what nature has intended for us. Nature and life have intended for us to connect with our spiritual self, shed what isn’t serving us, align our lives with our gifts, contribute to something other than ourselves and continually grow and expand.

When we relax and embrace these truths we open the door to happiness and fulfillment.