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How to be happy: Get to know your true self

Why do I feel like this? How do I feel happier? Those are questions I’ve asked myself countless times. Maybe these are questions you’re asking yourself right now. I wish I could tell you exactly what to do, what to eat, or what to buy that will bring you instant happiness. That would be badass. But the truth is feeling happy is a mindset and getting there takes introspection and growth.

Happiness is knowing yourself.

Some people equate finding happiness to a journey, but I am not a fan of that metaphor. To me, finding happiness is an excavation. Imagine yourself as an archaeologist, brushing away history to reveal a beautiful treasure layer by layer. The more you sweep away, the better you understand what you’ve discovered. And you can find joy in the process.

When it comes to happiness, you are both the archeologist and the treasure. Being more self-aware will not directly make you happy, but it is the only way you will experience the personal development and growth true happiness requires.

“You have to understand the problem before you can solve it.”

Photo by @spencerdavis

You have to dig deep to get to know yourself

We have all certain things we tell ourselves to make sense of how we feel, who we are and what our lives entail. We identify reasons for accepting less, feeling bad or justifying behavior. But are these reasons or are they excuses? You have to dig deep to understand the difference.

Let’s start with the two most important rules when it comes to self-awareness and growth:

  1. Be patient with yourself.
  2. Be honest with yourself.

At first read, those concepts seem simple. You know what? They are. But just because something is simple doesn’t mean it’s also easy. Patience takes time. (See what I did there? I’m funny.) It’s important and necessary in your quest to find yourself. But I believe the most crucial skill you can learn for self-awareness is being honest.

Ok, b*tch! Let’s put the concept into practice.

How to take an honest look at yourself

Start where you are.

However you feel right now, wherever you are at in your relationship with happiness is the exact right place to start. Don’t fall into the trap of waiting until an imaginary deadline.

Make a point to take a regular inventory, ask yourself questions and explore the reasons behind your feelings.

Think quick six!

An easy way to jump in is grabbing a pen and making a list. Are you ready? You are not allowed to stop writing once you start.

  • Write the numbers 1 – 6.
  • For each number, quickly write one word that describes your life right now. Don’t put the pen down. Just pick the first six words that come to your head.
  • Now fold the paper up and walk away.

Give yourself some time to change your mindset. Go for a walk, watch a video with capybaras, play a game of Tetris. When you are ready, go back and look at the words you chose. How do they make you feel?

A normal day off

What does a normal day off look like for you? Write down, in detail, how you usually spend your day.

  • Morning
  • Afternoon
  • Night

Imagine that someone who hasn’t met you yet sees the breakdown of your day. Take some time to think about what that day says about you.

  • Is it filled with what brings you joy?
  • Does it reflect who you really are?

Where you spend your time and energy should be a direct indicator of what you value. If your day doesn’t match up, what are some concrete steps you can take to change that?

Meditate on a question

Meditating can seem abstract and intimidating if you are a newbie. But it doesn’t have to be. Find a quiet place and get comfortable. Focus on your breathing and close your eyes.

Your mind is going to wander. That’s ok. When you recognize it, just pull your focus back to your breathing. Once you’re ready, ask yourself a question:

“What makes you happy?”

Don’t try to answer the question. Don’t focus on anything. Just throw the question out there and see what bubbles up. Repeat the exercise every day for a week. Make a note about how you feel and what answers came to mind.

Photo by Hannah Reding

Make a commitment to self-reflection

Start working toward happiness right now. Set aside time that’s just for introspection.

If you feel overwhelmed, just do a little at a time. For the first week, find 10 minutes each day to explore your honest feelings. Set a timer and don’t let anything distract you. If you get interrupted, start the time over again. Give it your all.

When you begin the next week, add an extra 5 minutes to your new habit. Repeat the process weekly. At the end of the month, you will have dedicated 8 hours to self-awareness and being happier. That’s a whole workday. The more energy you devote to knowing yourself, the better you will feel.

Self-awareness takes honesty and patience. When you dedicate time and get to know yourself better, not only does your mood change, but your perspective changes, too.

Need more inspiration? Check out the Self Aware As F*ck section in the Be Happy, B*tch workbook.

By Tiff Reagan

Tiff Reagan is a writer, a storyteller and a public servant. She is a policy subject matter expert for the rad state of Oregon and has a Master's degree in Educational Psychology. She also lives with clinical depression.