“Every day there is only one thing to learn: how to be honestly happy.” – Sri Chinmoy

Happiness is something we hear a lot about. Advice on how to be happy proliferates on the Internet and almost anyone you ask will give you a different suggestion on how to achieve it, how to know if you have it, what to do if you lose it. If you say you want to be happy, that implies that you are somehow not happy at present. In reality, you probably are happy, yet you’re expressing an overarching desire for happiness in your life — your entire life. Trying to map out a strategy that ensures you’re absolutely happy all the time, however, is both unrealistic and unsatisfying. What is a good strategy, though, is learning how to be honestly happy today.

I have some experience on the subject of trying desperately to find happiness, searching in all the wrong places, expending energy doing what I thought would make me happy and wasting precious time in the process. It wasn’t until I realized that happiness is already within me and I have but to embrace it that I stopped my frantic search and started experiencing happiness.

How did this all come about? Furthermore, what secrets about happiness did I discover that may prove useful to others? Here are some of the tips I learned about how to be honestly happy today.

Be open to new experiences.

Not everything you do today will be thrilling, causing you to gasp in recognition of how happy it makes you feel. You must be willing to take some unpleasantness, including sadness and pain that may accompany the experience, before or after you acknowledge that you are happy.

This takes patience and practice, yet it also requires courage. It’s not always easy to do, although it is something that you can learn.

One example from my childhood stands out. It was winter and my mother ushered us kids outside to play. My brother wanted to go sledding down Devil’s Elbow in a nearby city park. I was afraid, having heard many stories of broken bones and lost eyes from sledding the steep, icy hillside with its hidden stumps and tree limbs. I watched my brother take a few turns down the hill before I summoned the courage to go myself. I recall flying down the hill, feeling exhilaration, fear and uncertainty. I made it halfway before the sled careened off a submerged stump and I catapulted into the thorny bushes adjacent the sled run. I suffered a few cuts, but nothing major. It was, however, one of the most wonderful experiences I’d had to that point. I was proud of my accomplishment and happy I’d overcome my fear. Oh, and in that moment, flying down the hill, I was honestly happy.

Learn to distinguish fake happiness from honest happiness.

Not only is fake happiness distinctly different from honest happiness, it’s also easy to recognize one you know what to look for. Fake happiness is feigning glee or forcing a smile on your face when you feel anything but happy. Not that you shouldn’t make it a point to smile even in the midst of difficulties, but trying to fool others isn’t being honestly happy. You’re not really happy, just pretending to be.

What is honest happiness, then? It’s generally the by-product of being actively involved in doing something. Suppose you’re diligently working, yet decide to take a break to call your son or daughter. You’ve been thinking about the fact that your child has been having a tough time at school and asked for your help. Even though you are busy, you love your child and want to help him or her do their best. The words of encouragement, tips and questions you offer could make all the difference. When your child expresses thanks for your assistance, you experience happiness. This is being honestly happy.

Freely congratulate others for their success.

Let’s take an example from the workplace when one of your co-workers receives accolades for a job well done. You’ve also worked hard, although you know that your co-worker really does deserve this recognition. You offer your congratulations to your colleague and mean it. You are genuinely happy for his or her happiness. In this instance, you’re being honestly happy.

I had a bittersweet experience during the announcement of winners of a screenwriting competition where I knew I was a semi-finalist and wanted so much to be named the top winner. As the names were called, and mine wasn’t, I just knew I made it to number one. I came in second. Although initially I felt the sting of disappointment, I knew that the winner’s script was judged better than mine. I congratulated her on her winning script and receipt of the top screenwriting award honor. I meant it and it felt good. I was honestly happy in that moment.

Embrace opportunities to learn how to be honestly happy.

Happiness exists on many levels. Not all are blissful and all-encompassing. Some are tender, some are bittersweet. Some happiness makes you feel like you’re going to burst, while at other times, it sneaks up on you. The key is to acknowledge your happiness in the moment, and look for the little things in life that bring much joy.

You can be happy for what happens to others, what happens to you as a result of your actions. You can be honestly happy that today is filled with sunshine, that you’re blessed with good health, have a wonderful family, sufficient savings, excellent credit, terrific friends, a welcoming and comfortable home, pets that provide endless comfort and joy, and so much more.

Indeed, from the time you wake up in the morning until you go to sleep at night, you have countless encounters and opportunities to learn how to be honestly happy. When you embrace this unfolding panoply of priceless experiences, you’ll know what it is to be honestly happy today.