Updated: May 1, 2022
"Happiness isn't caused by getting something you wanted. It is experienced when you get something you wanted because, for that moment, you stopped wanting." ~Paul Linn
The desire for happiness has surely been around as long as humans have. It often has us on a quest for "more:" something else, beyond our current situation, which we believe will bring us this desired state. Our feeling of unfulfillment is at the root of obesity, gluttony, debt, and dysfunction in our relationships- conditions that most assuredly do NOT contribute to happiness. A lifetime of experience has shown me the truth of these teachings. I remember one particular incident many years ago, when I had gotten something very special I had wanted for a long time. Upon getting that situation, there was a lot of work and adjustment required, as is often the case when we've had a big change in our lives. A friend said to me, "You must be so happy now!" My honest reply, out of the awareness of my own mind was this: "Actually, it's strange to notice that I’m just as happy/unhappy as I was before, I simply have different reasons for being happy/unhappy!" Once I'd gotten beyond the initial excitement of getting this long-sought-after situation, my habitual default ratio of happy/unhappy was unchanged, leaving me with the reminder that happiness truly is an inside job. There is a wonderful documentary on this topic, aptly named Happy. It includes research and interviews, talking with people from all over the world in a wide range of circumstances about happiness. In conducting this research, they discovered that:
”…people's values are among the best predictors of their happiness.
People who value money, power, fame, and good looks are less likely to be happy than people who value compassion, cooperation, and a desire to make the world a better place. People who express their love, and who rejoice in the health and happiness of others, are more likely to feel loved and happy themselves.
Happy people have better relationships, better health, and happier children.
They have fewer conflicts and are less likely to commit crimes or pollute the environment. Happy people also tend to be socially responsible -
they improve the communities in which they live."
The documentary also showed that, once our basic needs and comforts are acquired, having more does not bring exponentially more happiness and often actually leads to more stress as we attempt to maintain and manage all those extraneous things in our lives. Recognizing that the pursuit of external things is like the water of a mirage rather than the fountain of happiness, how then do we achieve this desired state? By cultivating happiness right now, this moment, in whatever circumstances we are in. Looking for the happiness already available to us, our own attention nurtures that seed and causes it to grow. In times when this is difficult, we can ask ourselves, “What would it be like to feel happiness?” or “Where in my body is there some happiness?” Focus on the feeling state of happiness, and all associated with it: contentment, fulfillment, a sense of completeness, nothing lacking. Generating happiness inside us takes far less time, energy, and money than chasing external things AND is far more successful in bringing us our desired results!
Self Care Suggestion: Take just 5 minutes to be fully present in the moment you're in. Feel your seat beneath you. Feel your body. Then bring your attention to your heart space, and feel your breath here. Silently say to yourself, "What would it be like to feel happy, content, at ease?" and feel the internal response. Sometimes just asking yourself this question is enough to generate the feelings within you. Or state it as an affirmation: “I am happy, content, at ease.” Bask in this feeling for 5 minutes or more. Realize that your happiness is available right here and now, and that - regardless of your current circumstances - it is within your power to experience it.