How to be Happy Right Now

August 3, 2009 by  
Filed under Serenity Space

Our society is founded on a very limited definition of power, namely wealth, professional success, fame, physical strength, military might, and political control. My dear friends, I suggest that there is another kind of power, a greater power: the power to be happy right in the present moment, free from addiction, fear, despair, discrimination, anger and ignorance. This power is the birthright of every human being, whether celebrated or unknown, rich or poor, strong or weak.

~Thich Nhat Hanh – from The Art of Power~

Did you read that quote? Go back and read it again.


Powerful, isn’t it? The power to be happy right in the present moment is our birthright!

Are you happy, right now, this very second?

I have to admit when I read these words, I pulled myself up sharply. I’d been fretting, worrying, feeling a little anxious with that tight feeling in the chest that you get when you start anticipating something that may or may not happen sometime soon.

You know the feeling? Yep. That one.

We’re all a little prone to worrying, and sometimes even catastrophising, about the future. I’m certainly not immune. Especially in the middle of the night.

But Thich Nhat Hanh, in his book The Art of Power, tells us that worrying never solved anything. It takes away our power – because our power resides right here, in this very moment.

In a recent list of things I’d learned in the last month, a stream-of-consciousness thing, I wrote

“Living in the now means I am strong. I can get through almost anything if all I have to do is live this. very. moment.”

Karen Swim responded:

“I never thought about it in that way but you’re right it takes courage and strength to be fully present in this moment, not looking behind or jumping ahead.”

(Don’t you just love how these things happen, serendipitously?)

You see, Karen saw something different in my point to what I’d actually meant. And in that moment I knew what I’d write about here this month, on power and strength.

You see, I think we’re both right. We were simply looking at the same coin from two different sides.

On my side – heads – I see that I can only stay strong, and be powerfully present and powerfully me if I stay in the moment. Living here. now. means I can be strong no matter what the Winds of Change or the Gods of Chaos are throwing at me.

Remind me to tell you a little more about those Gods of Chaos later by the way.

On Karen’s side – tails – she saw that it took a certain strength just to be in the present moment. That the very act of living in the now required courage to not go looking behind or jumping ahead.

Now can you see why the lightbulb went on for me?

Life = Change

Life is always throwing things at us, challenging us, rocking our boat or sinking it completely and without warning.

One Half of Happy by Justin Lowery

And since change is the only constant, and ofttimes is accompanied by its lifetime companions – pain and fear – we need a plan to stay whole and sane despite change. Because of change.

And that can only come in the present moment.

A month ago, as I was publishing the July issue of Calm Space, the Gods of Chaos arrived. Again. I’ve learned they are never really far away in a life lived well. If I hid in my wardrobe all day, and never interacted with anyone, they’d still come a-calling.

They buffetted me with strong winds, threw a couple of well-aimed lightning bolts my way, and generally caused the chaos and mayhem they’re renowned for.

And I discovered something about myself all over again.

I can survive.

Right here, and right now, I’m OK. The rest is out of my control.

Use your power – be happy Now

It’s not easy, and it can take large amounts of strength and courage, but being happy right now is possible.

In fact, this is the only time you have to be happy.

Here’s some things that help me be happy right now, most of the time:

  • Breathe – when things get real tough, you’ll notice you’re having trouble breathing. Your chest gets tight, and your throat seems to close up. As soon as you notice, focus on your breathing. Breathe deeply. Evenly. Count if it helps.
  • Move – take a walk, dance, jump up and down – moving your body helps you get out of your head, the place where a lot of worry and heartache begins
  • Write it Out – get the stuff out of your head. Whether it’s lists of all the things you need to get done or simply writing out how you feel, writing it down helps clear your mind
  • Reach Out – don’t try to do it alone. There are people out there just waiting for you to honour them by asking for help
  • Nurture – take the best care you’ve ever taken of yourself. Drink plenty of water. Eat nourishing, wholesome foods. Rest. Pamper. Do what you need to do.
  • Knit – I find knitting a moving meditation. It stills my thoughts and allows my body to relax. Find your activity of happiness.
  • Beautify – fill your days with beauty. Make your home a haven you love to be in. Nourish your senses with beautiful views, wonderful scents, glorious music, tactile fabrics and delicious food.
  • Give Thanks – be grateful for all the good that is in your life in this moment. You’re richer than you know.

Go out. Grab your birthright and be happy. Right Now.

What is stopping you?


11 Responses to “How to be Happy Right Now”
  1. Joanna Young says:

    Great stuff to start the week and new month Karen! Thank you.

    It’s all in the way we (choose to) look at things, isn’t it? The pain and worry comes from the attachment we have to the way things are ‘supposed’ to be. I find that happiness comes along when I let go and allow things to be.

    And moving is great, even just a short walk, it allows your energies to flow and things to get back into their proper perspective

  2. Wow. Thanks Karen for opening my eyes to this new-found power I have. During a rough few days recently, I actually did the 8 things you suggest here, and they worked very well. I had to be reminded of the first – breathe – by a friend who saw what I needed, and the rest came soon after. But I never thought of it as powerful till now.

    Interesting isn’t it, that the power to be happy lies within, and not in owning more stuff, as is promoted so often?

  3. Anne says:


    you have hit the “Be.Happy.Now” nail on the head! We’re only given this present moment to live…and poof! we’re onto the next one: .did I just waste that last moment, or did I make it “life-giving”? We have a choice as to whether we clobber or celebrate each moment, whether we make each thought “life-giving” or “life-denying/life-depleting”.

    “I’ll be happy when…” is poison. Be. happy. now. Thrive now, don’t just survive.

    It’s our privilege, as humans, to be able to decide and choose how we will feel moment by moment. This is AWESOME to realize! It’s not so much the circumstances (like our minds want us to think it is), but how we’re thinking/feeling about the situations at this present moment.

    If one stops, breathes (as you’ve said), acknowledges one’s negative feeling (anger, pain, etc) as deeply as possible,THEN choose to, in gratitude, find the good (no matter how small) and/or the lesson in what’s happening/happened, and answer the question “What do I really want right now?” (To be at peace, to be happy, to be…?) and finally, act (move) on that choice…you can get to “happy”!

    For me, getting to “happy” is thru gratitude….I ask myself: “What can I be grateful for in this moment?” I call this my “5 G’s”….5 things I’m grateful for, 5 things (for every 1 negative thing) that I can appreciate in this Now moment. For me, heartfelt gratitude is the secret to life.

    For 6 months now, since MWA/JJL did the book reviews, I’ve been studying “positivity”, gratitude, happiness, appreciative living. I’ve read over 40 books on this subject!! And my attitude has changed dramatically!

    And it (for me) has all come down to two words: Gratefulness and Now. (Be grateful now; be happy now; choose joy now.)

    Now is all we have. I choose to be grateful and happy. Now.

    As you’ve said, Karen, there’s so much to be grateful for!
    Thank you for this wonderful “appreciative-living” August thread!
    You go girl! :-),

    Joyfully yours, Anne

  4. karen says:

    @ Joanna – “I find that happiness comes along when I let go and allow things to be”. You always have exactly the right words, thank you. Here’s to letting go and allowing… and watching love and joy rush in!

    @ Angela – that’s phenomenal – proof that this works! Yay! I’m sorry to hear you had those rough few days, but so thrilled you found your power. Here’s to defeating those Gods of Chaos… one breath at a time.

  5. karen says:

    @ Anne – your comment warmed me to my toes on this cold, winter morning… and brought tears to my eyes. The moments you took to visit here and write this certainly were life-giving for me, and I hope for others who read here.

    That journey you’ve been on for the last 6 months is the journey of your life, and I have noticed the change in you through your comments at JJL. 40 books is a lot of positive, and a lot of joy! I am so thrilled for you, and grateful you’re part of our Calm Space community. Kx

  6. Vitania says:

    Oh such a joy to read this and a wonderful start to the month.

    “The power to be happy right in the present moment is our birthright.:”

    I think what I love most of this statement is that it justifies the time I take for myself. to re-group, gather my strength and move forward. It’s my birthright !!

    Thanks karen

  7. karen says:

    @Vitania – thank you. I hope that a month well begun will only improve. We’re thrilled to have you here at The Calm Space.

  8. Bo Mackison says:

    Why is it so hard for most of us to live in the moment? I’m as guilty as the next person. Here, we’re in the midst of a gloriously verdant summer, the tall grass prairies are in full bloom, thick, swaying gently, full of warmth and life. And yet I wrote a post yesterday admitting that my mind keeps racing ahead, thinking how soon it will be autumn, and then after autumn, the dreaded long winter. How funny is that? It is AUGUST – hot and summery here – and I’m letting thoughts of the cold creep in.

    Thanks for bringing me back to my senses. I’m going to go out this morning and love what I love about summer.

  9. karen says:

    Bo – welcome to the Calm Space! I’m thrilled you stopped by.

    Your summer sounds so wonderful… I do hope you’ve gone out and loved that summer day to bits! That long cold winter will be there soon enough no matter what. I’m learning to enjoy the cold winter here this year – the nights are freezing, but the days – ahhh – the days are glorious. Warm, even, if you’re in the sun.

    I just stopped by your website, and found the most wonderful photography! When I have a few spare moments I’m coming over to explore more… like those pioneers of old, a wondrous new vista at every turn.