Did you know there is a formula for happiness? I’m sure you did. This magic formula is shouted from the rooftops, mentioned in what feels like every blog, and shared on social media quite regularly. You know the one, doesn’t it go something like this?:

Exercise + Eating Healthy + Finding Your Passion + Waking Up Early + Yoga + Meditation + Gratitude Journaling + Good Relationships + Sex + Running + Vegan Dieting + Quitting Your Job + Reading + A Clean House + Owning A Pet + Quitting Netflix + Morning Pages + Being Out of Debt + Feeling Your Emotions + Creating Good Habits + Living Creatively + Getting 8 Hours of Sleep + Spiritual Oneness + Finding Time For Yourself = HAPPINESS!

A little overwhelming isn’t it? Notice how exercise, yoga, and running are all listed there? That’s because whoever is writing the formula adjusts it to fit what has worked for them and then preach that that is the path to TRUE HAPPINESS. One person says its meditation and no sugar while another says it’s having a clean house and being debt free.

The point I’m getting to here is that while it may seem like there is a single formula for happiness…there isn’t. The formula changes and is different for everyone. But how do you navigate through the murky waters of internet self-help (I’m aware the irony here), the massive amounts of books on every aspect of happiness you could imagine, and what seems to be working for everyone else to break through to the happiness formula for yourself? By following these guidelines (note: guidelines, not formula):

1. Work your way through the “shoulds”

A long list like the one above can feel overwhelming because we instantly think that we should be doing all of those things.. and if we don’t, we won’t be happy. We all want to be happy so…we get caught up in the shoulds. Take meditation for example. I could guarantee that you’ve read at least one article or facebook post about how beneficial meditation is. And you’ve thought to yourself that you should do that. But it wrapped up with all the other things we “should do,” just hangs over our heads and helps feed the guilt of what you should be accomplishing. I’m not saying meditation is inappropriately in the happiness formula, I’m saying that we must not get caught up in the shoulds but make our way through the list and see what really works for us, instead of making ourselves feel worse. Which brings me to the next guideline.

2. Pick and choose but keep trying

The overwhelming possibilities of happiness tasks accompanied by countless articles and information as well as the shoulds can make us freeze. The trick is to pick one thing, try it and see how it makes you feel. Again, the meditation example. If it doesn’t work for you (I should mention here to give it the proper amount of trying time), it doesn’t mean you’re broken or doomed to unhappiness. It means that it may not be what you need right now. Choose the next task that seems exciting to try and see how it works for you. Pick and choose what feels right to try and keep trying new things, even when you’ve found a few that work. The wonderful part about this is that you are in control and you can keep trying different things (which may be discovered through books, internet articles, or this Pinterest board) to feed happiness for the rest of your life!

3. Create your own happiness rituals

Once you’ve worked your way through what you think you should be doing, and are trying new things, it’s time to create your happiness ritual. Rituals, habits, daily routines that encompass the things that support our happiness are the true way to living a happier life. Without these, the tasks that assist our happiness would fall to the wayside. With happiness rituals, you can find and live your own happiness formula.

The key to breaking the happiness formula to understand that there isn’t one. Read and educate yourself on the options but, in the end, don’t stress over the shoulds.  Pick and choose what feels right to you. And find your own “formula.” And above all else, don’t forget that you are capable of happiness (on your own terms) abound.

Share how you’ve broken the happiness formula to create your own in the comments below!

Photo by Frances Gunn

Taylor Proctor