Love Really is All you Need, 8 Tips to Living a Happy Life

A guest post by Jared of How to Be Happy

If you search the world for happiness, you may find it in the end, for the world is round and will lead you back to your door.– Robert Brault

Just as the apple seed has everything it needs to sprout, grow, and produce fruit, each of us intrinsically has what we need to be happy, loved, and fulfilled. Most would agree logically that’s true. Then why do we often over-complicate happiness?

Maybe the reason is it takes a little bit of uncomfortable work. It means dealing with emotions. And as humans, we mostly try to avoid uncomfortable situations.

We avoid looking deep inside ourselves for the answers because either we don’t know how, or we’re afraid of what we might find. So we choose the path of least resistance; external sources and things that bring immediate enjoyment.

It’s okay that we behave this way, it’s natural. And it will make us happy for a while. But long-lasting happiness, one that’s built on a foundational knowing that everything is fundamentally okay, has many levels. And life of enjoyment is only one part.

In one of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies in history, known as the Grant Study, Harvard researchers examined and followed two hundred sixty-eight men over a period of seventy-two years.

The article “What Makes Us Happy?” published in the June 2009 edition of The Atlantic Magazine, revealed some amazing insights about happiness. Of all the data collected and examined, the article ascertains the key to happiness is love.

The job isn’t conforming; it isn’t keeping up with the Joneses. It is playing, and working, and loving. Loving is probably the most important. Happiness is love, full stop.– George Vaillant, director, the Grant Study

According to that study, love really is all we need.

In a support group I once heard someone say, “I settled for sex when what I really wanted was love.”

I could certainly relate to that, at least the concept of physical acceptance as opposed to love. For most of my life I was seeking acceptance, not love. Even when I thought I was—in love, being loved, acting lovingly—it was still just a means to an end. A tool I used to get more than my fair share of everything. I wasn’t intentionally mean or deceitful, just a romantic narcissist.

I was missing a crucial piece to the puzzle. Love for self.

According to the Beatles, “…nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time, it’s easy. All you need is love.” Maybe it really is that easy and not complicated at all.

Happiness was quite elusive for me over the years. Grasping moments of it here and there, later discovering it was always attached to something else; and always external.

Once I developed love and emotional connectedness with self, I was better able to identify what I needed both emotionally and spiritually. As a result, I no longer had the need to chase happiness. It simply found me, everyday, waiting just outside my front door.

Over the years I’ve discovered a few tips that have contributed greatly to my happiness.

Tip #1: love yourself

It’s a common theory that we cannot truly love others without loving ourselves. But I’m not sure I agree with that. From my perception, I certainly loved a lot before really knowing how to love myself. I would give anyone the shirt off my back, but don’t you dare try to give me yours.

Love for others in this manner is based on different motives. That we’re going to get something in return, maybe not something tangible like a shirt, but certainly acceptance.

Learn to love yourself and you’ll need less external forms of acceptance to be happy.

Tip #2: lower expectations

As the saying goes, “expectations are resentments in training.” Want to be happier? Expect less out of yourself and others.

Sounds pretty depressing I know, but this relates to unreasonable demands.

Like the dreadful relationship expectation of “getting back to the way things were.” You’re limiting yourself and your life to past experiences. Why limit yourself and those around you to something you’ve already experienced?

I admit I can still be guilty of this. Especially when traveling.

On a recent trip to Belize, I overly planned and wanted the trip to be perfect. I put a lot of pressure on myself since on our first date I asked my wife, “If there’s any place in the world you could go, where would it be?” Her response was, “Belize, because I’ve always wanted to learn to SCUBA dive and hear its great there.”

After becoming certified divers and traveling all over the Caribbean, we were finally going to Belize. I picked a nice condo rental right on the beach which received great reviews. The only negative comments were concerning a ground floor rental, as there was less privacy and security.

Upon arrival I realized we were on the ground floor, 30 feet from the ocean with a steady stream of locals walking by. I literally spent the first 45 minutes feeling disappointed and stressed about our upcoming week in this beautiful place. I had this vision and expectation of a second floor room (which I did request if available) overlooking the ocean.

My wife is amazing. In the most loving way she suggested I just relax and that my unmet expectations were robbing me of this wonderful moment. She was right. I took a few minutes to sit and meditate and get back into the experience of where we were and our wonderful life together in that moment.

That room ended up providing the most amazing experience. Being on the ground level, right on the beach enabled us to interact more openly with locals. We made new friends and were invited to local events and amazing opportunities. Many of which would not have been possible had we been secluded away on the second or third floor.

Lowering expectations opens you up to the possibility of something greater.

Tip #3: be of service

I believe there’s no greater calling in life than to be of service to others. Imagine the world if everyone overcame their biggest obstacles and committed to helping others going through something similar.

However, you must be careful of giving for the wrong reasons. If you’re expecting something in return, besides feeling good about yourself, see #2.

You can be of service anytime, any day, anywhere, regardless of your career or place in life.

Tip #4: find gratitude

Anger, fear, unhappiness, any negative feeling has little room in a heart full of gratitude. One way I practice this is with a gratitude list.

Write down 10 things that you’re grateful for. It can be anything; food, shelter, hair, a sense of humor. Just get it on paper. It works, it really does.

Tip #5: be understanding rather than understood

One of the benefits of emotional connectedness and self-love is the ability to relate better to others. We’re better equipped to tap into our own emotions in order to understand what someone might be going through.

The next time someone cuts you off in traffic or takes the last cup of coffee at work, remind yourself that you have no idea what they may be going through. Maybe they’re on their way to the hospital due to a family accident or late for a crucial meeting. Everything isn’t about you.

Life happens around us, not to us.

Tip #6: swan dive out of your comfort zone

The most significant turning point in my life was the awareness that I needed to change. Not just where I lived or what I did for a living, but the way I viewed the world and my place in it. That point was reached out of desperation, so I was willing to try anything.

The result was the willingness to get completely outside my comfort zone. I sought help from books, life coaches, spiritual advisors, therapist, and any resource I thought would help. Many of them suggesting things I would not have tried had I not been desperate.

Like when I started a new job, my life coach suggested that I spend each morning going around the office and introducing myself to three new people. I said, “That’s not like me, I’m shy don’t you know?” He’s response, “Jared, everything is not about you.”

Doing things, taking action outside of your comfort zone puts you in direct contact with the universe. Actions facilitate movement through space and time and affect the universe around us. Actions enable feedback from our environment and nurtures learning through experiences with others.

Get out and do something uncomfortable.

Tip #7: you get more bees with honey

This is one of my wife’s favorite sayings. And it’s so true.

Think about the last time someone changed your mind or the way you think by expressing themselves verbally. I mean something that you really knew, deep in your heart, was a certain way; like a core belief or deep-rooted perspective about life.

Chances are that’s never happened. At least you didn’t suddenly change the way you thought because they said something in a brilliant way or nagged you about it.

Think about that next time you’re trying to argue your point with someone. Think back about number 5 above and be understanding.

Tip #8: learn to sit quietly alone

This was perhaps the toughest of all for me to learn. For the majority of my life, my head was filled with fear, guilt, or regret. Sitting quietly was excruciating and just not possible. But through self-discovery and hard work, I’ve dealt with those issues and learned to accept the consequences of being myself.

There’s a correlation between the levels of happiness I experience and how at peace and centered I am internally. The better I’m able to mediate, be still, and enjoy time alone with self, the more fully I feel in all aspects of life.

You have to be with you 24/7, 365. It’s time you start learning to play nice.

Jared Akers is a writer and tester of the impossible. He writes, inspires, and enjoys sharing on How to Be Happy. He’s been developing a life of happiness with his wife for the better part of the last decade while sharing his journey. You can follow Jared on twitter @jaredakers

 

{ 31 comments }

1 Shilpan February 8, 2012 at 12:09 am

Jared,

This is one of the most inspiring articles that I’ve read recently. All we do in life is to achieve happiness. And, selfless love brings eternal happiness.
Shilpan´s last blog post ..Best Way to Invest Money for Food Lovers

2 jared February 8, 2012 at 8:04 am

Thanks Shilpan. Well said, “selfless love brings eternal happiness.”
jared´s last blog post ..HTBH Podcast 004 – Coping with Death

3 Susan February 8, 2012 at 9:15 am

I was all set to order this but is it true it’s only offered in Kindle?.. How about us iPad users???

4 jared February 8, 2012 at 9:23 am

Susan, I’m not sure what you’re referring to?

5 Rose Byrd February 8, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Seeking to understand rather than being understood has opened up incredible avenues for me. It has been very freeing in spiritual terms, as well. I find all your points very helpful, but this is probably the newest one I started practicing back in late September when I very intentionally started my own blog with the purpose of finding other blogs to follow, particularly new ones, that I could support and encourage. WOW! My own number of followers increases daily!
Rose Byrd´s last blog post ..WE WOBBLIES AND WE SQUABBLIES

6 jared February 9, 2012 at 8:28 am

Hey Rose, thanks for taking the time to comment. It’s amazing what we can learn or the different perspective we get when we concentrate less on being understood. That’s actually something I got from the Prayer of St. Francis. A great little prayer and it says a lot about how I try to live. Looking forward to stopping over and checking out your blog. Best of luck.
jared´s last blog post ..HTBH Podcast 004 – Coping with Death

7 Paige | simple mindfulness February 8, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Jared,

I LOVE this post!

It looks like we’re on the same mission with our blogs, just coming at it from slightly different directions. All of your points are so incredibly important and, like you, I’ve learned many of them the hard way.

My mission is to help as many people as possible learn and understand how to be happy by being more mindful of all the little things inside and around them (your tip#3). I’ve been doing #3 for so long in my corporate career with those I work with because I want others to be happy (that’s what makes me happy). When I went through the processes to find my passion, I felt that this was it so I’m turning it into my new profession.

I love what you’re doing! If there’s ever anything I can do to support you, please let me know! (maybe some joint projects?)

Paige
Paige | simple mindfulness´s last blog post ..How Free Do You Think You Are? Really

8 jared February 9, 2012 at 8:35 am

Paige, thanks for the great comments. Life can be a tough teacher.

For me, helping others is certainly what I feel called to do, but I make sure I’m always keeping my motives in check… I actually think I’m too hard on myself in that area at times. Like… gee, do I give away everything? Do I charge for my new book I’m self-publishing? etc. LOL. But then I have a good team of supporters, mentors, etc. that encourage me and having the confidence in knowing I’m creating something of real value.

I also have to make sure I’m making myself happy and not just looking to get validation from helping others to boost my own self-esteem. It’s a funny circle or perspective sometimes. That helping others is (in a way) selfish, as we get something out of it. I know… I over analyze things a lot. LOL

Looking forward to getting over to your site and checking things out.
jared´s last blog post ..HTBH Podcast 004 – Coping with Death

9 Cathy | Treatment Talk February 8, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Hi Jared and Mary,

Beautiful post and perfect for this love month. I found the study very interesting, especially this comment – happiness is love, full stop. That is what it really boils down to when we go off into all sorts of unsavory directions. What we are really searching for and missing is love. Enjoyed your post – thank you.
Cathy | Treatment Talk´s last blog post ..Are You the Child of an Alcoholic?

10 jared February 9, 2012 at 8:39 am

Cathy,
Thank you for the wonderful comment. I absolutely love that part also, “happiness is love, full stop.” It really says a lot. At the core, I’ve realized I’m either in a place of either calling for love (fear) or giving love. But I have to maintain a balance I think, just giving love all the time, it’s easy to get into a motive that’s expecting a payback of some type. Although many say there’s a payback for everything… which is something I’m still researching. :-)
jared´s last blog post ..HTBH Podcast 004 – Coping with Death

11 Kathryn Trombly February 8, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Jared,

Great post and the list is fabulous! “Love yourself” we hear this so often, and we know it, intellectually, but feeling it – like really feeling it can be so difficult.

We can be awfully hard on ourselves. Especially when we want to change our lives and become happier, which is a good thing – a great thing in fact. Except too often we get so caught up in what we are changing, and growing to, that we forget that we are perfect, we are loved, exactly as we are, exactly where we are, right in this moment. We always have been, and always will be.

Love for ourselves, isn’t bargained for. It isn’t a quid-pro-quo with life where we “must do this in order to be loved.” No love just is, for in our purest most authentic, connected place, that is what we are.

So in a sense, it’s not all we need is love, but all we have, all we are…is love.

Thanks for sharing and inspiring others with this post.

Always,

~Kathryn

12 jared February 9, 2012 at 8:46 am

Kathryn,
Well said, I particular took notice of this part in your comment, “we get so caught up in what we are changing, and growing to, that we forget that we are perfect.”

I heard someone say in a support group one time something that sort of put that into perspective for me, “we spend so much time trying to figure out how we got something on us, when we need to figure out how to get it off.” Actually, reading back your comment that I quoted now I’m not sure that my response is relevant… It just popped in my head so maybe it is. LOL

I think all along I had an idea that I was perfect (deeper in a non narcissistic way), but then I also feared that “what if I do strive for that perfect me, achieve it, and I’m still miserable… then I’m really screwed.” That kept me stuck for a long time. It’s the paradox of clinging to the security of hope rather than trying and failing… or in many cases, succeeding.
jared´s last blog post ..HTBH Podcast 004 – Coping with Death

13 Sandra / Always Well Within February 8, 2012 at 10:58 pm

Jared,

There’s a depth of wisdom to this post that I appreciate. In particular, the idea that real happiness depends on knowing that everything is fundamentally OK. I also liked the way that you uncover love disguised as the need for acceptance. These are great tips. The one that resonates for me especially right now is lowering expectations! I’m a big fan of meditation too.
Sandra / Always Well Within´s last blog post ..A Simple 6-Step Prescription for Greater Happiness

14 jared February 9, 2012 at 8:57 am

Sandra,
Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. Really, it’s appreciated.

Managing expectations is difficult. Everyone says how important it is, but man, I didn’t just wake up one day and intuitively know how to lower/manage my expectations. It was a long process, but started with self-acceptance, and knowing that no matter what, everything IS fundamentally OK. Then I had less expectations of life and others in general.

We sometimes think that lowering expectations means we’re settling, but that’s certainly not the case for me. It’s being realistic, and most importantly having a realistic view of self. Like in my case, I would often have the best of intentions, but my actions were not always in line with those intentions. As a result, I had a skewed vision of myself as seen by others (as it was based on my intentions which were only accessible to me… if that makes sense).

The most damaging part I discovered was having expectations of others and not sharing them. Then later resenting them for it. So unfair to that person. It’s crazy now looking back and how clear it is now to see all these things about myself.

Thanks again for your comment.
jared´s last blog post ..HTBH Podcast 004 – Coping with Death

15 Roshawn @ Watson Inc February 9, 2012 at 2:08 am

Great tips Jared.

I liked your managing expectations point. It caught me off guard initially. I always think that we should strive to be awesome (whatever that means for us), but we should not let that aim poison our temperament and rob us of fulfillment. That’s definitely food for thought. Cheers, and thank you for sharing this post.

16 jared February 9, 2012 at 9:07 am

You’re welcome Roshawn. Expectations are good in many ways, if they’re realistic; at least for me. The damaging part was having them turn into resentments when they’re not met. So it takes communicating them (if they’re of others) and not attaching our self-worth and happiness to them (if they’re of ourselves). There’s nothing wrong with accepting greatness, and certainly it doesn’t mean we need to “settle.”

I recall many years ago sitting on the couch, with my girlfriend at the time in a house we had just moved into. It wasn’t the healthiest relationship by any means and I was sitting there and the dreaded thought came into my head, “what if this is as good as it gets? I guess I’m OK with that.” What a depressing thought now, I knew there must be something more but didn’t love or know myself enough to go get it. I had all these amazing expectations of life that I just assumed were never going to be fulfilled. That relationship eventually imploded and I was forced (out of desperation and several more years of extreme pain) to completely abandon ALL expectations of myself, life, others, and just start over from scratch.

One of the simplest ways to look at expectations for me today is; set some goals or character traits or things I want to strive for, but don’t demand them as a need for happiness. Avoid attaching some state of being as a result of reaching them, plus, concentrating on them so hard completely robs me of what I’m doing right now.

Cheers to you as well and thanks for commenting.
jared´s last blog post ..HTBH Podcast 004 – Coping with Death

17 M. Tohami February 9, 2012 at 4:58 am

I believe happiness is the direct result of following your heart. Passion is king.
M. Tohami´s last blog post ..How Do Some People Kill Their Passions and Are You One of Them?

18 jared February 9, 2012 at 9:17 am

I would certainly say that’s true for me to some extent. The issue for me was not knowing how to tap into my heart. Like the saying, “the farthest distance in the world is the 12 inches between your head and your heart.” Or, “just follow your heart.” I had no idea what that meant. Conscious? Maybe, but I had such a skewed version of what I needed or wanted out of life that compass was all screwed up. Plus, I had passion for a lot of things that were self-destructive. Putting that passion into self-discovery and learning how to be emotionally connected with self was what finally started me towards true happiness.
jared´s last blog post ..HTBH Podcast 004 – Coping with Death

19 Noch Noch | be me. be natural. February 10, 2012 at 2:11 am

I once read a quote that said “when all else fails, lower your standards”
i guess that’s similar to lowering expectations. yet, sometimes, when do we know to forgo our standards and when to lower expectations, for high standards / expectations is also a catalyst to improve?

But all said, agreed, we just need to be ourselves and we’ll be happy
thanks for the post
Noch Noch
Noch Noch | be me. be natural.´s last blog post ..today I laughed: how is business done in China?

20 jared February 10, 2012 at 8:28 am

Noch Noch,
Interesting perspective. When I think of standards I think of limits I put on something. For me it’s where I place the most value and on what standards. Like I have high standards of people I choose to spend time with, that they are caring people. But that’s not to say I’m not available for those where are uncaring, for once I could have been considered uncaring as well I’m sure. Although the term “standards” seems sort of self-righteous to me as well. Sort of like the term “tolerance,” like it’s saying “I’m better in some way and people should be grateful that I’m tolerating them.”

Certainly setting high standards or expectations allows me to set goals or ideals I’d like to achieve and provide a catalyst for improvement. But I have to be careful not to attach my happiness or self-worth to the outcome.
jared´s last blog post ..5 tips on How to Be Happy and Content with Life

21 John omonigho February 11, 2012 at 1:03 am

Its really educating, Thanks for sending me these chapter of the book.I Hope and pray to God,things will get better in my life and fulfil my purpose in life.There are people out there suffering from one problem or the other,There are people who are rich,but they dont help the less privilege,some they do help but after sometime they are tired of giving,it a common problem with the rich people around the world,ask their closest friend why they dont give,this what they come up with,they say, when they suffering on how to pay their school and having personal problem know body was there to support them,but they forgot one thing that God was always there with them.I want to be the first to change how these generational rich men think,and make the world a better place God helping me.

22 jared February 14, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Blessings to you John. I think about what it takes to be of service sometimes and realize it doesn’t always take money. That I can be of service if I’m willing no matter where I am. I hope you can change the generational rich men.
jared´s last blog post ..005 How to Be Happy Podcast, Managing Expectations

23 Anne-Sophie February 12, 2012 at 6:57 am

I agree that love really is all you need. During my recovery from my eating disorder, I had to learn to love myself from scratch. It was hard work, I am not going to lie, but the more you try it the better you get at it and now I have built a deep relationship with myself and my life has completely turned around. I am happier than ever before and I can be an inspiration and a pillar of support for others. Being there for others is something that is incredibly important for me, but you cannot really love others when you don’t love yourself.
Love should be the center of your life and it can make everything else happen more easily.

24 jared February 14, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Anne-Sophie,
I couldn’t agree more. I can so relate.

Being at a point in my life where self-love was non-existent, I’m thankful I had a support group who could love me enough until I learned to love myself.

It’s a completely different way to live, in being emotionally connected and in-tune with my emotions, and love for my life and others. And you’re right, everything else does happen more easily, as I’m not longer resisting myself and the world. Just accepting myself and the world for what it is in all it’s glory.
jared´s last blog post ..005 How to Be Happy Podcast, Managing Expectations

25 Next Starfish February 14, 2012 at 1:17 am

Love is all you need – but learning to love is a life’s work.

Nice post. I’d also highlight the importance for most people of friendship or companionship – I do strongly agree that time alone is important (and something many people struggle to achieve), but just as important I believe is time spent in the enjoyable company of others.

I read something recent;y that made me think – “meditation, contemplation, self-knowledge, positive thinking etc – are all great ways to stop oneself feeling unhappy and appreciate one’s life. But if you want to feel proper ‘lost in the moment happy’ then go and spend more time with happy friends” – I don’t know what you think about that ?

-STEVE-
nextstarfish.com
Next Starfish´s last blog post ..This Good Earth

26 jared February 14, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Steve,
I certainly think there’s some balance there. My issue was I was using the company of the world to not have to sit with myself. I really couldn’t just sit alone and “be.” I had to always be doing something or going somewhere.

But I certainly think, as the Grant Study suggested, that happiness is love, that’s being shared with others. It reminds me of the last scene from Into The Wild when Christopher writes in his journal, “Happiness only real when shared.” It’s sort of like, “if a tree falls in the woods” sort of deal.

I can attest that early on in my journey towards self discovery, I had no idea how to be happy so I kept it simple. I would write in my journal what I was feeling, what I did that day, etc. Then, if I was feeling sad or depressed, I would go back through my journal and see what I did last time. I could see, “oh, I went and had dinner with some friends and I felt really happy.” So then I’d call up some friends and go have dinner.

After some time of working on my self finding love and acceptance — a lot of hard work via reading, therapists, seminars, life coaches, spiritual coaches, Ad nauseam — I slowly realized I could sit alone, be still, and be happy with the underlying feeling that everything was fundamentally okay. That made my relationships with others even more deep and meaningful.
jared´s last blog post ..005 How to Be Happy Podcast, Managing Expectations

27 Alice February 15, 2012 at 10:04 pm

Self-love turned out to be a pretty important factor for me. If I get that right, everything else (including happiness) usually falls into place.
Alice´s last blog post ..Managing Different Interests

28 jared February 17, 2012 at 9:55 am

Alice,
It’s certainly been that way for me also. Self-acceptance, knowing that I have everything I need and it’s enough, love and gratitude for self, then happiness has just been the by-product of that. It’s weird now though, looking back at myself in certain times of my life and having real empathy for that person. Like even when I write about certain times in my life now I get choked up and want to hug that version of me. I think that’s a good thing. :-)
jared´s last blog post ..005 How to Be Happy Podcast, Managing Expectations

29 Lalitha Brahma February 17, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Thanks Jared. Tip number 6 is something I need to work, as I am also shy in certain areas. But your explanation as below is definitely an inspiration to get out of my comfort zone. thanks

” Everything is not about you.”

Doing things, taking action outside of your comfort zone puts you in direct contact with the universe. Actions facilitate movement through space and time and affect the universe around us. Actions enable feedback from our environment and nurtures learning through experiences with others.

30 jared February 29, 2012 at 8:33 pm
31 jennifer brower February 21, 2012 at 3:12 am

Selfless love and selfish Love are things people need to learn about!

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