Shifting Perspectives to Find Happiness

Everyone wants to be happy.

After all, seeking happiness is an instinct that goes beyond cultural backgrounds, socioeconomic status, or personal beliefs. Humans are wired to pursue happiness, as it is an inherent part of our emotional makeup. Just like hunger or thirst, the desire for happiness drives us to seek emotional well-being and contentment.

Happiness is first being able to have our basic needs satisfied; if we have food, shelter, safety, and love, then that is something to smile about. When we are happy, we contribute to our mental health, leading to reduced stress, anxiety, and less likelihood of depression. 

As we are social beings, we crave companionship and a sense of belonging. So to be happy, we build and nurture relationships. The meaningful connections we nurture keep us feeling sustained and inspired. Relationships also give us the support we need in times of uncertainty.

When we feel like we are learning and undergoing self-actualization we can also feel accomplished. As humans, we are driven by the need to fulfill our potential, pursue our passions, and achieve personal growth. Learning, acquiring new skills, and setting and achieving personal goals contribute to a sense of purpose and happiness.

Losing Happiness

But sometimes staying happy or finding happiness for as long as we are alive is not always as easy. There are many reasons why people may lose their happiness.

The very source of our happiness can also be the source of our greatest pain. We find happiness in relationships, but when someone we love dies or we break up with someone, the pain can also be unbearable. We can lose the job that gives us the security we need, grow bored of it, or fall into financial difficulties.

Another reason that we can lose our way is when we are always barely enduring high levels of stress, whether from work, relationships, or other responsibilities. You start to neglect self-care, both physically and emotionally. 

Ignoring personal needs, not setting boundaries, or failing to prioritize one’s well-being can lead to burnout and more unhappiness. Physical or mental health issues can arise. Chronic pain, illness, or mental health disorders can diminish one’s ability to experience positive emotions.

But one of the biggest reasons why we can easily fall into unhappiness is our inability to shift perspectives or fail to adapt to whatever new situation we find ourselves in.

Rising above the blues through shifting perspectives

It is important to note that losing happiness is a natural part of the human experience, and it is normal for people to go through periods of unhappiness. Stress, grief, or frustrated dreams can cause us to go through dark periods. The only thing we can do is try our best to consistently rise above the blues. But how do we do that?

The value of considering different viewpoints and addressing stubbornness 

One often overlooks the significance of considering different viewpoints. It is a universal truth that our experiences and perspectives shape our understanding of the world. While this individualistic approach may seem comforting, it can also lead to stubbornness, which hampers our growth and prevents us from finding true contentment.

Stubbornness, as defined by an unwillingness to adapt or change, can hinder our happiness by closing off opportunities for personal development. When we become fixed in our beliefs and refuse to consider alternative viewpoints, we confine ourselves to a narrow and rigid worldview. By doing so, we limit our growth potential and prevent ourselves from fully exploring the many possibilities that life has to offer.

Moreover, stubbornness often goes hand in hand with unwillingness to make a change. The fear of the unknown can trap us in comfortable yet stagnant situations, preventing us from reaching our full potential or discovering new sources of happiness. 

By considering different viewpoints, we expose ourselves to a multitude of ideas, experiences, and approaches, expanding our understanding of the world and opening ourselves up to new possibilities. This willingness to embrace change not only empowers us to navigate life’s challenges but also enables personal growth and, consequently, finding happiness continuously.

The value of shifting perspectives to prevent a negative spiral

Failing to consider different viewpoints can lead us down a path of negativity and isolation. A negative spiral is characterized by a sequence of unpleasant thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that keep feeding back on themselves, making the situation worse and worse.

One common way to start a negative spiral is to draw conclusions that are too dire. And when we surround ourselves with people who share our perspectives, it is easy to fall into an echo chamber where our opinions go unchallenged, reinforcing our biases. This filtered reality can perpetuate negative spirals, where discontentment thrives and happiness diminishes.

Shifting perspectives is a valuable tool for preventing negative spirals, as it allows us to see situations from a different angle, challenge our negative thoughts, and open ourselves up to new possibilities and solutions. 

When we find ourselves stuck in a negative spiral, our thoughts and emotions become increasingly negative, which further reinforces the spiral. By shifting our perspective, we interrupt this cycle and create an opportunity for positive change.

When we shift our perspective, we can better empathize with others and understand their motivations, feelings, and circumstances. This can reduce negative judgments and conflicts that can very easily make strained relationships unsalvageable.

Developing the skill to shift perspectives strengthens our ability to adapt to and cope with adversity. It helps us find silver linings, focus on opportunities or growth, and bounce back from setbacks more quickly to avoid negative spirals.

Cultivating Happiness

Shifting perspectives does not only mean remaining focused on the positive aspects of situations or our lives but also fostering feelings of gratitude and appreciation despite the adversities of life. After all, we can better feel joy after knowing sadness. 

The ability to shift perspectives helps us adapt and keep up with the constant change in life. And through that, we can always cultivate happiness, no matter what we have to go through at each point of our lives. One of my favorite Buddhist teachers, Thich Nhat Nahn shared in his teachings, that there is no suffering without happiness and there is no happiness without suffering. The two go together so that we can truly understand and appreciate each experience.