Happiness comes in many forms: contentment, joy, pleasure, delight, and satisfaction. It can bring belly-aching laughter and tears of joy. Or it can be experienced in moments of peace while alone. Either way, it is our natural and entitled state.

Why then does happiness take so much courage sometimes? Why must something that we are born with slip away?

Life will never be short of learning and growth. This is what we are here for, to come to know ourselves, our true authentic selves, and we do this through growth. And while some of this will stretch our spirits, minds, and hearts, causing pain and challenges, growth can also bring joy and beautiful rewards of contentment and satisfaction.

The thing that hinders happiness the most is expectations. Without always being conscious of it or intending to, families place expectations on us from the moment we are born. They dream our lives for us, based on their past experiences, their own joys and pain. They bring us into the world with hope of providing a better life for us than they had for themselves, to try and improve with each generation.

We in turn, develop expectations of them; expecting them to understand us, expecting them to allow us to be ourselves, based on our own life experiences. Yet we have all walked in our own shoes, not each other’s. So while we can try to understand each other, our assumptions will never be wholly correct without honest communication.

On top of our expectations of each other, we also develop expectations of ourselves. Our dreams and yearnings drive us forward. But in the fast-paced world we live in, we put an unnatural amount of pressure on ourselves. It can be a tough enough world to survive in, without adding our own criticism.

With so much pressure and expectation, both from external and internal forces, happiness can slip away quietly until it is so rare in our lives, that we almost forget what it feels like to be happy. But it is our inherent right to feel good and full of joy. It is what we are here to experience the most. There will be ups and downs through life, certainly. But happiness should still be a large part of that.

So how do we bring happiness back in, or ensure we don’t let it slip away? The best habit to create in one’s self is to learn how to stay present, living in the moment you are in. It may feel at first that you are denying existing problems, that you are avoiding dealing with life. But it isn’t so.

By learning to bring yourself back to the present moment whenever you can, it settles the mind. And in doing so, it allows the answers and solutions to come through at the right time, instead of being blocked by busy, negative, and troubled thinking. It also allows the beauty of the moment you are in to be appreciated, and gratitude is a powerful force in turning life around.

So, wherever you are, just be there. Note the layers of sounds around you. Listen to how many things can be heard. Look at the colours, or the people, or nature. Feel your breath slow down. And simply allow yourself to be; observing, listening, breathing. This is never a waste of time. It is one of the most important and beneficial habits you can create in your life. Your problems will wait, and you will be calmer for having had such time out from them. This in turn leaves you more capable to then deal with the challenge.

Communication is another habit to develop. This involves both the courage to speak honestly, as well as allowing others to be heard without interruption or judgement. It shouldn’t take so much courage to be able to be yourself, but unfortunately it can at times, due to other’s expectations of you.

Remember though, that such expectations are really about them. And you have the right to be who you are here to be, who you dream to be. Learn to express yourself, ask to be heard without interruption. Try not to accuse or attack others. Instead, speak your own truth and of the life that makes sense to you. Even if it is not received how you would like, you will know in yourself that you are now living a life true to yourself. And the more you communicate your feelings honestly, the easier it becomes, and the happier you feel. It takes time and practice. But it is a habit well worth sticking with.

Your life is your own. Others are here to guide you and have done the best they could, as who they were at the time. But to create ongoing happiness and true contentment within, you must also learn to be kind to your own self. You are incredibly deserving of love, including your own love.

See yourself as the amazing, unique, beautiful, and capable individual that you truly are. This is who you are, when all of the pain and expectations are removed. It is your right to be happy. It is also your choice.

Become as present as you can. Communicate honestly. Keep doing it until it becomes easier and a more natural part of you. Release expectations of yourself and others. Love who you truly are. You are a beautiful person, with a beautiful heart: a heart that wants to be happy.

The choice is yours. It is simply about developing new habits and learning to allow happiness in. And remember, happiness wants you as much as you want it. It is time to be happy.

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This article is part of a free e-book being released in late 2011 titled “I decided to be happy”. It is compiled of articles from several authors. Please keep an eye out for it. Also, thanks to the lovely Janet for her smile in this photo.