The funny thing about happiness is that it's more about realizing what you have than it is achieving what you don't. Sure, goals are important, and a crucial component of happiness is having something to work toward and look forward to each day. But those things don't bring happiness. Because once we achieve what we set out and work toward, if our focus is on what we still don't have, that's all we'll feel.
In the words of Jim Carrey: “I hope everybody could get rich and famous and will have everything they ever dreamed of, so they will know that it's not the answer.” The answer, of course, is awareness and gratitude and reverence for what is. For whatever is.
This is hard to maneuver most of the time. We're basically hardwired to seek out problems and then try to resolve them. This is what has kept our species going for so long. This isn't something you can psych hack your way out of. Pain isn't something you can opt out of, but suffering is, and it's usually a simple matter of refining your ability to be grateful.
If you were to take a good, cold, hard look at your life, you would probably find that you are happier than you realize. Sounds insane, but it's true. And it's one of the most wonderful and heartbreaking realizations you can have (firstly because you see you have all you really want and need; secondly because you realize you weren't being grateful for it all this time). So here, a few ways to determine that you're actually happier than you think you are:
There Is At Least One Thing That Excites You About Your Day
Whether it's your pet, or an aspect of your job, or the place you live, or the fact that you're still healthy and functioning doesn't matter. The point is that you can determine at least one thing that you become excited for each day.
You Feel Happy Each Day, Even If It's Just Fleeting
You experience the feeling of happiness about something – anything – even for a minute each day.
You Have Something To Hope For
Even if it seems far-fetched or impossible or like it will take a lot of dumb luck to achieve, you at least have something that you wish for yourself (a relationship, a home, a job opportunity, etc.).
You Have Something To Be Afraid Of
The weird truth about the world is that the more scared you are, the more you have to love and lose. It sounds like a paradox, and that's because it is: the more you have to fear, the more you have to love.
You Have What You Once Wanted
Even if your sole focus is on what you want next, you can look around and recognize that you already have what you once wished and hoped for.
You Have At Least One, True, Good Friend
You have an ear to listen to, a shoulder to lean on, genuinely, no matter what. At least one. (Even if it's just your mom!) Not everyone has that privilege.
Your Anxiety Comes With The Presupposition That Everyone Is Happy
If you were to take a serious look around you, and evaluate the world honestly, you'd see that if you were in other people's position(s), you'd have a lot more to be upset about. Objectively, things aren't that bad.
To Other People, Nothing Would Seem Wrong With Your Life At All
Not because happiness comes from what other people perceive, but because if someone else couldn't readily or actively perceive a huge "issue" with your life, you probably don't have one.
You Have A Roof Over Your Head, Clothes In Your Closet, Food In Your Stomach
In Maslow's hierarchy, you're at least covered on the basics, and can be grateful for that, if you really stop and think about it.
Your Problems Are The Result Of How You Think About Your Life, Not How It Actually Is
And similarly, the solutions are changing the way you think about your life as much as they are (possibly) altering some aspects of it.
You Want To Change What's Wrong
Being aware of what's wrong with your life is most of the battle, interestingly enough. If you want to change your life, it's because you love it enough to want more, and because you love yourself enough to want better. Don't forget that.