Happier Now: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Embrace Everyday Momentsby Nataly Kogan
In Happier Now, Nataly Kogan talks about happiness and what we must do every day to be truly happy. It presents different approaches to escaping the happiness trap, such as practicing gratitude, getting in touch with emotions, practicing acceptance, and offering intentional kindness to yourself and others. By practicing the actions in this book, you’ll surely feel happier and more fulfilled every now and then!
Escaping the Happiness Trap
“On the surface, it makes sense to think that when we achieve something important to us, we’ll feel happy for a long time. Yet, in reality, it doesn’t always work that way.”
If you’ve ever found yourself thinking that you’ll only be happy and content when you reach a certain social status, financial success, or specific milestone, you’re likely to be stuck in the happiness trap. This isn’t the best way to perceive happiness because it doesn’t always work that way. After all, our lives may go sideways at any given moment despite our best efforts - regardless of our social or financial status.
So, what leads to long-term happiness? It’s a series of positive emotions resulting from reaching your potential or fulfilling a goal. People are happiest when they set specific goals and are actively engaged in achieving them. There is no universal path to happiness, but everyone creates their own scenario according to their plans, talents, and preferences.
We all want to be happy, and consciously or not, we all act in this direction. But what if we stopped, from time to time, to ask ourselves: Are we really happy? What if we allowed ourselves a five-minute joy break? A time to take in the small moments with our full attention and to honestly permit ourselves to enjoy them.
“A grateful mindset has been shown to have stronger links to mental health and life satisfaction than most other personality traits, including optimism and hope.”
Happy people know how to express gratitude, which represents the tendency to observe and appreciate the positive aspects of the world and the good things around us. This includes respecting others, focusing on what we have rather than what we want, making positive social comparisons, expressing gratitude, and realizing that life is short and unpredictable, so it’s important to savor every moment and hold onto the good things.
Optimistic people are also happier because they have positive expectations about the future and believe that things can get better. These expectations can significantly impact our physical and emotional well-being and can even help us to better handle negative events.
Of course, life isn’t always easy, and we all face uncomfortable situations and experiences. However, even on a rough day, there are always things to be grateful for, such as a message from a loved one, a blooming tree you saw on the street, or even the fact that you managed to wake up earlier and exercise.
By making a habit of seeing these things and simply enjoying them, you will be able to see life from a new perspective: a balanced one. You will realize that every day has something good to offer. This shift in perspective can actually improve your life and bring more happiness into it.
Actions to take
“When you move into fear, everything in your world narrows, even your field of vision, as your entire body focuses its energy to fight whatever it is you’re afraid of. ”
Happiness is something that we all desire, but it can also be something we fear, even if we don't realize it. The pursuit of happiness can quickly turn into an obsession. The more we run after it, the less we rejoice when we meet it. We fear what we want.
When we are obsessed with success, the fear of failure paralyzes us. Then we are afraid to be successful. So it is with happiness. Constantly searching for things that could bring us happiness will always make us feel unsatisfied.
When we make happiness a goal, we begin to speculate about what will make us happy. We end up worrying and feeling frustrated. This is why some people embrace unhappiness to draw attention to themselves. It's not that people don't want to be happy; it's that they fear it without knowing it. They might think that happiness comes at a high cost or that it will be followed by disaster. Others feel guilty for being happy while those around them are suffering.
When people are on the verge of achieving happiness, they often feel anxiety to some degree. This fear of being happy might come from a dark and catastrophic story we tell ourselves, and it can be deeply unsettling, even in the arms of love. But when we accept this fear, it is no longer an enemy. It's just a part of life that we all have to deal with from time to time.
Actions to take
Getting in Touch With Emotions
“When you stop serving your ego, the universe will help you. But for a while, it will be very hard.”
It’s understandable that many people find it difficult to express their emotions, especially in a society that often sees emotions as a sign of weakness. We may try to hide our feelings or express them in unexpected ways to avoid being perceived as vulnerable or irrational. However, emotions play a huge role in understanding the world and communicating with others. So it is crucial to learn how to connect with our feelings.
Suppressing them does more harm than good. A sign that your feelings are repressed is that you tend to erupt like a volcano when you least expect it. For example, you avoid telling a person what bothers you about him, and one day you simply explode.
When you don't allow yourself to express or healthily release your emotions, you reach a point when you can no longer control them. Other signs of suppressing emotions can be intense stress, anxiety, fatigue, and even insomnia.
Mental fatigue is not necessarily the result of personal failures or upsetting events. Instead, it is the accumulation of too many—too many decisions, too much work in a short time, too many interruptions, demands, and shifts in focus, and too many things happening at the same time without the possibility of taking a break.
This type of mental fatigue wears us down when the volume of tasks and activities we have taken on exceeds our ability to deal with the stress positively.
To avoid this, we need to practice self-care daily, no matter how selfish it sounds. Do at least one thing every day that makes you feel truly happy. Another way to release mental and emotional blockages is to practice acceptance. This could be accepting certain traits in your life partner, occasional personal mistakes, changes at work, or something as simple as your child's indecisiveness when discussing breakfast.
Actions to take
“Many of us are afraid not just of the emotions themselves but of admitting, even to ourselves, that we’re experiencing anything “negative.”
Practicing acceptance means giving up the past, surrendering to the present, and accepting it as it is right now.
We tend to create a story about our lives, about how things are supposed to happen. We do this because we are taught that negative events prevent us from getting where we want to go, that we should be liked by many people to be successful, and that if negative things happen to us, we should do everything in our power to get out of them as soon as possible.
These things are true, in part. Being liked by as many people as possible provides us with protection and safety, but somewhere along the way, these recommendations became absolute rules.
Today, you would probably hear people having this kind of thinking: "I am a valuable person only if I do things perfectly, or if I do not make mistakes. And, if I make mistakes, I am a bad person, and others will reject me.” or "If I am not loved or liked as much as I wish, or because I am not as good as I am at my job, at my hobbies, then I am not a good, talented person, etc." This thinking is harmful, as our worth doesn’t depend on our skills or characteristics.
Aside from this kind of thinking, we also tend to catastrophize. When we do, we completely disregard the positive aspects of our lives, as well as the possibility that things will improve or become easier to bear.
While we may not control the negative things in our lives, we have direct control over how we interpret these situations. This theory, from the basis of cognitive behavioral psychotherapy, gives us confidence that we can learn to manage our emotions and behaviors better.
When we practice acceptance, we can choose how to act rather than simply react.
Actions to take
Offering Intentional Kindness
“There is a connection between asking someone for help and doing something kind for others: our vulnerability.”
Kindness is the disposition to be good and to do good. Each person uniquely perceives kindness. We all experience it, and we all offer it, but in different ways.
Kindness is the essence of our lives: peace, patience, and acceptance. It derives from love—love for beauty and love for people. It is associated with qualities without which it would not be complete: compassion, goodwill, tolerance, gentleness, generosity, and admiration being the most significant.
Intentional kindness, however, requires effort and understanding. Fortunately, some people put themselves in the service of goodness and compassion, regardless of their actions, thus maintaining the balance of the world.
Intentional kindness helps us create connections with those around us. A gesture of service is also a door to a person's soul. Of course, kindness is only sometimes rewarded in proportion; people are often selfish and quickly forget the good done once, let alone take advantage of it.
Second, intentional kindness can be used to express gratitude to someone. Some people feel the need to do good to feel better. Charity actions, above all, are a way to get a better image of yourself and help someone who needs this help.
We all need good thoughts now and then, and we all need good people to inspire us to do good deeds. And we need the inspiration of others to pass on our kindness because "no act of kindness, no matter how small, is in vain."
Actions to take
Finding Our Greater Purpose
“Having a sense of the greater purpose of our efforts, what I call the bigger why, sustains and inspires us when things are good and can be a powerful source of motivation to keep going, even if we encounter obstacles.”
Life can be demanding, and it’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind and lose sight of what truly fulfills us. There are two key aspects to a fulfilling life: using our potential and being in genuine contact with ourselves and others. When we tap into our potential, we feel energized and alive. Ignoring it, on the other hand, can lead to frustration and a lack of self-trust.
The other aspect of fulfillment is the ability to be in contact with ourselves and others. This means paying attention to ourselves, including our own thoughts and feelings, as well as being empathetic and accepting of others. It also means listening and truly understanding their experiences and needs.
There are numerous perspectives from which we can examine the meaning of life, our bigger why. Regardless of the meaning we assign to life, it serves its purpose as the locomotive of our development when we capitalize on our resources and shape our destiny.
Actions to take
“Where do our feelings of unworthiness come from? Why is it easier to be kind to a friend or more understanding with a family member than with ourselves?”
Taking care of yourself means providing yourself with the satisfaction of all those basic needs: food, rest, and physical and mental security. To feel that you live in an environment with psychological security means that your needs for love, attachment, belonging, and touch are satisfied, that you feel useful and important to someone, that someone really cares about you, that someone needs you, and many more.
Self-care is the mindset, activities, practices, and habits we bring into our lives to cope with stress, unhappiness, physical or mental illness, and many other difficulties. Self-care is being able to stop when we feel overwhelmed, and it's about taking a holistic approach to our problems. To take care of yourself, you need to know that you have needs, that they are justified, and that you deserve to meet them and learn to look for them.
Actions to take
Becoming a Force of Good in the World
“When we learn to let go of trying to achieve perfect happiness and instead compassionately embrace the reality of our lives and ourselves, we discover many deeper, kinder, and more meaningful connections within our social networks than we thought possible.”
Happiness means something different to everyone, and people experience it in different ways. Some people feel it is permanently present inside them, while others search for it constantly without finding it.
One thing that sets happy people apart is how they approach life. They have a good opinion of themselves and are satisfied with who they are. However, they also recognize that there’s always room for improvement. They are confident, optimistic, adaptable, and resourceful. They also seek out solutions on their own, rather than playing the victim. Happy people know what matters to them, what they need, and that some things are non-negotiable.
In terms of relationships, happy people see them as an extension of their lives rather than the center of them. They live in the moment but also accept change. They believe that all things happen for a reason. Moreover, they’re also grateful for even the small positive things in their lives. They have simple pleasures, and appreciate new experiences, adventure, and opportunities.
Happy people also prioritize their mental well-being, surrounding themselves with positive people and finding ways to get rid of stress and anxiety. They also don't let depression get the best of them. They know when and how to take breaks, to distance themselves from the stressful elements in their lives. Many such people are very spiritual, spending a lot of time in nature or meditating.
Happy people have control over their own destiny, exercise their passions, and do not let themselves be defeated by negative situations.