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3 Steps to Realizing Happiness, Without Looking Far



3 fundamental steps to realizing happiness in life are indispensable, and can be found without looking far. Luckily, everything you need to get started is right in front of you.

  • Speed Peek (What is Happy; 3 Steps to Realizing It)
  • Understand More (Navigating Grey Areas; Clues and Keys)
  • Anti-Challenge Reframing (Happiness Prep Tools)
  • Short Story (My Happy Dragon)

What is “Happy”?

“The experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”
Is the definition of happiness we’re talking about, as defined by Research Gate [1], quoting “The How of Happiness”, by Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at the University of California.

3 Indispensable Steps to Realizing Happiness

  1. Prep yourself to recognize happiness when you see it.
    Just as a vehicle requires certain basics to function and transport you to a destination, your body and mind require certain basics to transport your thinking, carry out your actions, and enable you to realize happiness.
  2. Know that life is not cut and dried; black and white.
    Most of the way we experience life falls in-between hard facts.  This leaves all sorts of room for interpretation.  Which is another way of saying:  You have many choices in how to interpret and experience your life; choices that are yours alone to make. It is a fact that these choices will influence the happiness you experience.
  3. Accept that the elation of happiness is only part of life. Feeling unhappy does not change that you have been happy, and will be happy again.
    Sometimes our circumstances in life are not pleasant, for quite a while even.  Periods of happiness are “part” of life, they are not a cure-all.  However, having the memory of happy times you’ve experienced helps greatly when faced with unhappiness; reminding you of what will return when things change, yet again.
    (See Full Fundamental Steps in Understand More and Anti-Challenge Reframing)

There Is No One Size Fits All Checklist,
Even For You

Have you ever heard the expression, “There is no free lunch.”? The meaning of this idiom is there is a price for everything.
With regard to efforts we put into bettering our lives and getting to know ourselves more, I have found this to be true. There is no cheat sheet, or short cut, that brings magical insight into our individual lives by simply mimicking solutions that are right for the specific situations of others. Reading blogs, books, taking classes, or any other form of learning you embark on to improve your life will need to resonate with you in your own special way.

To get the most out of what your learn, it always comes down to asking yourself, “Am I personally seeing results?”.

It is crucial to recognize

the following points about happiness, and that your definition of happy cannot be determined solely by checking off boxes on a list made according to someone else’s version of happy.

  • Happiness occurs in many forms, and a variety of packages.
    If you are sincerely trying to discover more happiness in your life, keeping an open mind to suggestions of where happiness can be found is your best approach.
  • Many daily opportunities for available happiness are typically overlooked.
    Not only are there differences in the perceived happiness of other individuals, but your own perception of happiness will vary through your life.
  • Your sense of purpose and sources of happiness change as you adapt to the different chapters and circumstances of your life.
    (What provides you with a sense that life is good at age 15, age 30, and so on, will be different, and can even vary from year to year.)

The reason these points are crucial to understand is they all relate to this fact:
At the root of feeling happy, and positive about life in general, is the willingness to adapt and be flexible.

Also important to know:  While your specific checklist for happiness will vary through time, the underlying fundamentals of how to position yourself for easier change, changing your perception, and accepting reality, remain the same.

Where to Start: Consistent Fundamentals

Regardless of how happiness registers with you at any given time, or what form it is available in, there are fundamental ways of thinking you can adopt to put yourself in a better position to spot happiness and experience it.  Three of these fundamentals I find indispensable are:

If you allow yourself to experience happiness frequently enough, you will see what I have seen:

A definite pattern, promising the return of happiness.  This promise, once you are convinced of it, has a name:  Optimism.

Continue reading Understand More and Anti-Challenge Reframing for:
How to prep yourself for happiness
Clues and keys to navigating the “grey” areas
How to embrace unhappy times (maybe even squeeze a bit of happiness from them)   

[1] Citation: TY  – BOOK  AU  – Linley, Alex  PY  – 2008/03/01  SP  – 99  EP  – 101  T1  – The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach To Getting The Life You Want  VL  – 1  DO  – 10.1080/17521880701878182   JO  – Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice  ER



Clues, Keys, and Reminders for Navigating Grey Areas and Unhappy Times

Happiness, as you might guess, is one byproduct of perceiving life with a positive outlook.  This is not to say that life feels like sunshine and roses all of the time. However, you can use the methods of reframing, practicing acceptance, and mindfulness, to adjust yourself; allowing you to feel a general contentment and peace with life, just as it is.

These methods, when actually used, are major keys to happiness. When it comes to negative things beyond your control, they allow you to change the only thing you really can: The definitions you choose for what you experience.

What about truly tragic events that happen in most every life? Well, they are going to be emotionally painful. There isn’t much getting around it, if you are going to keep yourself healthy and experience your emotions. However, your pain can be lessened by using the methods above. In using these tools to accept realities as they are, you eliminate added suffering on your part. The pain you bypass is the internal battle of fighting to deny realities you have no control over changing.

About Change

Most people don’t enjoy change; so let me share a self-talk “trick” I use to increase the appeal of beginning a new practice. I look at the effort of practicing acceptance and reframing, as if I were tackling a positive, but not favorite, task that I do easily motivate myself for: Shopping.

For example, avoiding effort to change my perception:
I see my power to “choose my perceptions” as I would see “choices when shopping”.  When I shop, I get a positive feeling from the power of choice to select my purchases within my budget.  I see this power as a privilege, and enjoy selecting what I prefer from what’s available. Seeing my ability to choose how I perceive things in this same light, places me in a position of looking forward to doing what is necessary to achieve change.

For How To practice the methods used in learning to accept life just as it is, change your perception of people/places/things, and recognize realities for what they are, click the following links to articles in this blog:

REFRAMING: Changing your perceptions and beliefs.
Visit these 5 Life with Holley links for insight on “Reframing”:

5 Tips for a Positive Attitude
3 Ways to Change Your Perception
6 Fundamentals Needed for Action and Habit
How To Keep It Simple In 6 Thoughts

ACCEPTANCE: Gain the ability to embrace the feelings and realities that come with any situation.
Visit these 4 Life with Holley links for insight and How To on practicing acceptance
Acceptance – What It Is and Why You Want To Practice It
How To Observe Emotions when Practicing Acceptance
Learning to Name Uncomfortable Feelings
5 Mindfulness Details You Don’t Want To Miss-Acceptance Part 4

MINDFULNESS:  Learning to spot feelings in you and take note of life around you.
Read Life with Holley link for more insight and How To:
5 Mindfulness Details You Don’t Want To Miss-Acceptance Part 4

Overlooked Happiness

Humans have an innate desire for happiness.  Why then does it seem to elude so many?
One of the most common reasons: People buy into the misconception that happiness is an end goal; a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, so to speak.
The reality: Happiness is found in many forms throughout our experience of living, though is often passed up because it’s not recognized.

To the surprise of many, being happy does not mean winning the lottery, winning dedication from the mate of your dreams, or any other ‘happiness acquisition’.

If you want a little proof, that simply gaining things you want does not necessarily bring happiness, watch the headlines. You can see it in the sullen dispositions and the restless anxiety experienced by many considered wealthy, powerful, or lucky.

The emotion of happiness we seek instinctively is available in forms far removed from monetary or easy living labels.  These real opportunities are often hidden in the parts of life not everyone looks to for sources of happiness.  Take a look at a few of the less noticed sources of happiness:

Overlooked Happiness Sources 

  • Hope and confidence gained when an unknown mental or physical strength is found in yourself
  • Recognition of Lessons that will benefit you
  • New opportunity for change, to your benefit, presents itself
  • Joy brought to others is seen
  • Gratitude felt, in any capacity, for any reason
  • Receiving pleasurable reward; earned or looked forward to
    While this is a more obvious description of happiness, people often forget to truly feel gratitude along with the reward.
    Gratitude amplifies your pleasure, while the lack of feeling gratitude dilutes the strength of happiness felt and also shortens the time of your enjoyment.

Where to Start First

1. Prep yourself to recognize happiness when you see it.
Preparing yourself to recognize happiness simply means:  Ensuring that you are mentally and physically up to the task of putting effort and thought into what you are feeling.

This preparation itself involves what most people have been hearing over and over for years about:  Sleep and nutrition.

Continue reading in the Anti-Challenge Reframing section for a closer look at how sleep, hydration and nutrition directly affect your ability to feel happiness.  If you do not have healthy habits already established in these areas, you may want to consider a bit of reframing.   Even if you have your reasons for being skeptical about the happiness benefits of better sleep and nutritious eating, you have nothing to lose, and happiness to potentially gain, by trying it.

2. Know that life is not cut and dried; black and white.
For most people, it’s common to get into a routine, regimented way of interpreting life.  Routines are great, unless they block you from seeing new growth possibilities outside your norm.

If you are not noticing opportunities for happiness around you often, it’s not that they don’t exist; they are either being overlooked or bypassed.  Why would anyone bypass happiness?  Because these seemingly insignificant chances to change the insignificant into happiness are not recognized, or are dismissed as not important.  In turn, no time is spent collecting these little sparks of joy.

Followed by another clue to realizing happiness…

Lasting happiness that contributes to a positive outlook, again, is not just experiencing an event that thrills you, or life falling in line with your desires. If you look closely at what a happy-norm is made up of, you’ll find a compilation of many small occurrences.  When embraced, they bring appreciation to simply be alive.

To understand how this works, and the importance of paying attention to the small joys, you can use the simile of comparing these overlooked bits of happiness to drops of water.

When you recognize and experience these small moments of happiness it is like gathering drops of water in your drinking glass. If you let these drops of happiness go by without experiencing them, they are falling outside of your cup. If you do not recognize the value of the drops, you don’t make time to catch (experience) them.

The problems you create by not paying them due attention, are not realized until:
You are thirsty, your glass is empty, and no temporary, grandiose thrill is in front of you to quench you.  Paying attention to your drops of happiness, and gathering them often, allows you to ease the thirst of negativity that will come when times are troubling. 

3. Accept that the elation of happiness is only part of life. Feeling unhappy does not change that you have been happy, and you will be happy again.

This step has been one of the easiest for me to see results from.  It is the life jacket/rope/bridge that keeps me from going under when the unpleasant life experiences come barreling in with force.  By recalling my own track record, which proves things always change, I don’t stress the hard times as much.

Just the other day, I was asked two questions:
Are you happy?
If you are, what do you attribute it to?

I needed to give a bit of thought to answering.  Why would I need to give thought to something that I honestly feel?  Because my knee jerk response was: “It depends in which capacity you mean.” 

That is when I started really giving it some thought:
Why am I happy?
The short version, is there are two underlying reasons:
1. I thoroughly embrace and absorb both large and small happiness’s in my life. I savor them, and deeply feel my gratitude for them.
2. I’m truly excited by the personal growth that comes from the times when I do not feel “happy” (as in joyous, carefree, or content). I see this growth as a silver lining.  

There was a time when I thought the only cure for an unhappiness in part of my life was physical change.

I now understand that the choices I make ‘between my ears’ are where it all starts; it is where my true power lies to achieve happiness.
There is however, a partial truth in physical change being required.  I have seen proof in my own life, that only I could instigate the physical changes that did occur.  In turn, the changes lead to the way I think of ‘happy’ now.  I now realize the real nugget of gold found through this action was a new way to perceive all things in life: Practicing acceptance; defined as accepting myself, and all else I’m aware of, as simply being reality at that moment.

Now, the actual practice of acceptance of all things is something I admittedly still play tug-o-war with from time to time. 

However, I’ve seen enough happiness stemming from when I do practice acceptance fully, to know in my heart I’m on the right track.The way I find happiness, even when I fall short of the mark, is by appreciating that I at least have acknowledged there is a shortcoming or problem.  While admitting there is a shortcoming is a far cry from applying all available solutions, it is still without doubt progress. And honest-with-myself-progress, not perfection, is a gift that keeps me from being too hard on myself.  It’s tough to enjoy the happiness in life if you’re beating yourself up all the time.



Anti-Challenge Goals/Instructions:
1. Read
2. Think
3. Take action

Where to Start:
Step 1
(Prep yourself to recognize happiness when you see it)

So where do you realistically start?  You’ve read articles, you’re sitting at home, waiting for happiness to find you, yet it seems nothing is happening; what gives?  If happiness does not suddenly drop from the sky and into your lap, there are two measures you will want to take.

This is in the reframing section for a reason:  You may need to rearrange your priorities on where to begin when you can’t find your ‘happy’. I highly suggest these get top priority, a quick check, when you just can’t shake a funk you’re in.  I learned the hard way that no matter what else I tried, if these were not in place, solutions just did not work as well, or at all. (Listed in reverse, for easier readability.)

2nd thing you will need to do, is realize the need to engage with others, or in thought.

1st thing you will need to do (the immediate order of business to attend) when you feel happiness is nowhere in sight:

Ensure the tools you will use to recognize happiness are working correctly.
Time and again, I see this necessity for working tools dismissed, as if they have nothing to do with happiness except how happy your doctor will be at your next checkup. 

I want to say clearly:  These 2 tools have everything to do with your ability to find and experience happiness fully.

1) Your mind: Is it rested? and
2) Your body-systems: Are they functioning the best they can?  

How To Check Your Happiness Tools

Preparing yourself with the correct tools to recognize happiness when you see it can save you a lot of frustration. If they are what’s holding you up, other solutions will not work as well.
You can look at it the same as when you try using a hand tool that’s worn out, it’s not effective in assisting you.
If you have a secret notion lurking in your mind that you can overlook these “too simple to make a real difference” solutions, you can expect poor results to catch up to you if they are indeed a problem.  These are biological facts you can’t wish away, or adjust your perspective to correct. 

To understand better, try seeing the similarities between these tools of your mind/body and a car.

In order for your car to operate, you will need to start the engine, the moving parts will need to move, and the car will need enough fuel to power your vehicle for the journey. If you remove the battery from your car, drain the oil, or refuse to put gas in the tank, do you expect to drive the car? Of course you don’t.  Why is it then you would expect “yourself” to operate without the same basic necessities?


When I have trouble getting past resistance stage of “I don’t feel like it”, it helps to remember:
Does it make sense to charge my battery, ensure I am not low on oil, and fill-up my gas tank before driving a journey?  Yes, it does.  Does the same logic apply to me?  Yes, it does!

The battery will need to cause spark plugs to fire  Sleep=Battery
Spark Plugs=Mind
The gears and moving
Parts of your car need
Lubrication for the
Engine to work and
your tires to turn
Fuel will be needed to keep it all moving  Nutrition=Fuel

In Plain Words

Before you start looking to more complex reasons why you are not feeling the desire to do what it takes to add more happiness to your life, first check and correct the basics:

  • If you are tired, or have slept less than 8 hours in the past 16 hours: Sleep.
  • Drink a glass or two of water, and keep hydrated.  Even if you don’t feel thirsty, 8 ounces (236.5 ml) of water will not hurt you.  If you really just don’t care for water, try drinking it cold or warmed to the temperature of tea. (A lot of people really don’t care for plain water. If you are one of them, you need to decide if you want to try something that may help the discomfort you have, or wonder if it would have helped.)
  • Ask yourself, when was the last time was you ate a portion of protein? If it has been more than 5-8 hours, eat protein; plant based or otherwise.

*Suggestions from proof shown in my own track record:

Exhaustion, inadequate hydration and basic nutrition can be overlooked culprits that seriously impair or block your happiness.  Sure, you may still function, pull off a deadline, or handle an emergency, with your foggy mind and impoverished body systems.  But you can forget about there being extra energy to truly enjoy happiness that comes your way; much less, have the ability to search for it.  

This is not a full nutritional guide; it is an outline of the simplest things I have found to work. Good all-around nutrition and hydration is definitely a subject worth looking into; your emotions and physical health go hand in hand.

*As with any health related activity or change in diet, please check with your primary healthcare provider to ensure there is no issue with your personal health.

Life with Holley
“Anti-challenge Reframing © 2018” was created from an idea, and partial
terminology, derived from a comment made on my June 25, 2018 Instagram
spoof-post: “International Anti-Selfie Day”.  Thank you to Vaughan
(@vaughan.knight  Instagram) for your insightful, witty words: “You could offer
a ‘reframing’ service; new opportunities from old!  Start a new
anti-challenge whenever life doesn’t live up to expectation. Therein lies
something not to be found in the successful events.”



My Happy Dragon
I can honestly say, it is indeed the little things in life that keep happiness within reach. Take this dragonfly for example.
On a sweltering July evening last year, I was a bit too tired for a race out to the optimal sunset location I originally had in mind.  So instead, I went with the standard back up option that I choose, when I don’t want to choose:  I figuratively closed my eyes, and let the breeze carry me to a mystery shoot.

Every time I decide to go with a ‘mystery’, I get excited, and with good reason: Nine times out of ten, something unique appears.  This summer night did not disappoint. 

The breeze delivered me to a walking trail I had not been to in a while.  Even before I was out my car, I spotted an area with light filtering through the trees; yup, this was already panning out well!

Strolling around for about 40 minutes, I took a shot here, a shot there, and then began meandering back to my car.   That’s when I noticed what a pretty shade of blue the sky was; it’s also when my little friend caught my eye.  There he was, perched high in the overlapping branches of two trees.

I’d been milling around this area for almost 10 minutes; I
wondered if he had been watching me with a wary eye?

Suddenly, I was eager to capture him, for fear he was about to glide off. Well, it turned out the concerns I had were unfounded.  My little friend stayed put for me.  In fact, he still hadn’t moved when I had taken all angles I could think of, haha.

Right at the moment I took my last shot, it dawned on me that I could not have staged what I just experienced any better.

The lightening, the leisurely shoot, and how very still my small model had stayed for me, caused a ripple of gratitude to run through me. With the sun at the horizon, I stood in awe for a good 10 minutes, marveling at the gift I just received.  There was no mistaking it, this was one of my “drops of water” (sparks of joy) collected for that day.
If you weren’t sure what I meant earlier by collecting drops of water (happiness) in my cup, this is what I was referring to.
The reaction I experienced, is what making happiness last longer by adding gratitude to gifts looks like.

How can I be sure of these claims?  As I recall this summer evening shoot, 9 months later, I can literally feel the happiness experienced.
In my opinion, that’s a good return for paying close attention to my little happy dragon.

Image: “My Happy Dragon” 
f/7.1 – 1/500– ISO 400
focal length 280mm
Canon XT
July 16, 2018 

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