Happiness can be defined as an emotional state characterised by feelings of joy, satisfaction, contentment, and fulfillment.
Happiness is a combination of how satisfied you are with your life (for example, finding meaning in your work) and how good you feel on a day-to-day basis.
There are many ways to define happiness whether it’s from a theory point of view or from a personal point of view; happiness can look different for everyone. My favourite notion of happiness comes from Naval, he suggests happiness comes from peace and peace comes from indifference.
All good things come from peace. I gain peace from not being too concerned with things I deem insignificant; meaning I try my best to avoid placing value judgements on most if not all situations, instead I view them as what is, and by doing so, I keep my emotional state pretty stable.
The more at peace I am, the happier I feel.
Naval also stated that a fundamental delusion exists in that we think something out there will make us happy and fulfilled forever. I’ve been working on requiring less outside of me to make me happy, because I wholeheartedly believe that I am the source of my happiness.
Recently I read the Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz and the book resonated with me deeply. Since my early 20’s I’ve been intentional with self – inquiry and developing my awareness. The book touches on many key points, I’ll go into a few of the lessons that rings true and could benefit you too.
Happiness never comes from outside of us
You can feel joy, get pleasure, as well as have a strong sense of love when you are with other people. But if you are not happy with yourself then that joy, pleasure and sense of love is either superficial, masked behaviour, a distraction and most certaintly not long lasting; those aforementioned feelings that we associate with happiness will disappear. Relying on another person, pet or things to make you happy opens you up to vulnerability and dependence. It’s because you are not in control, and there will be a point where said person, thing or object can no longer provide you with that happiness. Of couse other people can help to make your experience a positive one but they cannot create your happiness nor be responsible for it. That’s on you. You are responsible for your own happiness, and being aware of this will change your life. I am in control of my happiness and nothing or no one can mess with that. I know what makes me happy and it’s not as a result from something outside of me, it’s from within.
Being aware is essential. I’m so adamant about paying attention and looking at things as they are and not as I wish them to be, because awareness brings clarity and clarity allows choice. The more I learn about myself the better informed I become. I am able to choose and cultivate my happiness specifically for me.
The most important relationship you have is with yourself
The relationship you have with yourself is another fundamental concept. There is no one that exists on this Earth and in your lifetime who you will spend more time with you other than yourself. When you wake up it’s you and your thoughts, throughout the day it’s you and your thoughts, even during a conversation with another person you are still having internal dialogue between you and yourself, and before you go to sleep it’s you and your thoughts. We spend all of our lives with ourselves and it is necessary that this relationship before any other relationship is one that is healthy. Ask questions to examine how you speak to yourself: Am I patient? Do I give myself grace and show kindness? Is the language I use generally postive? Do I encourage myself when things aren’t working out? Do I judge myself? Am I accepting of myself? The answers to these questions depends on where you’re currently at, but if you found yourself saying no more than yes. I would then ask if you would like to change. If you said yes, you may want to try and dig deeper and ask more questions to gain a better understanding of how you’ve developed such a relationship with yourself.
There’s no right or wrong here, the only advice I would suggest is to be honest with the answers.
I am not entirely sure why being our own biggest critic appears to be our default setting; we find it so easy to pick out what we consider as the ‘bad bits’ about ourselves but when it’s time to pick out the ‘good bits’ all of a sudden we face difficulty. But with awareness we can change and go from being our own biggest critic to being our own bestfriend.
I put ‘bad and good bits’ in quotes because nothing is good or bad, thinking just makes it so.
Refrain from taking things personally
These days, I try my best not to take anything personally simply because my peace is my priority and I will not open the doors to allow others to rattle me. Not taking things personally contributes to happiness because you are solely responsible for your own thoughts, feelings and behaviours and no one elses. I often say, we are not mind readers yet we still waste time and energy attempting to do so. E.g. ‘I wonder why x said that to me’, ‘Did I do something wrong?’ We cannot control what others say, think and do nor are we responsible for what they understand. Of course there are times when people do things intentionally to cause a specific reaction. But I’m talking about the general non-significant things that tend to annoy us which in the grand scheme of things is only disrupting our being. We all have our own version of reality, so we draw our own conclusions from the unique experiences that we’ve had. Knowing this, means that I can be compassionate towards others because I know they are viewing life from a different lens. It gives me a better understanding of the reasoning behind their behaviour and if it evoked a negative effect in me, then it’s a matter of having a conversation and deciding how I handle my emotions at the time.
Forgiveness is healthy
Holding on to what hurt you or is currently hurting you is only going to acheive one thing and that is hurting yourself even more. I read a tweet the other day that said, if you have a problem with someone, who has the problem? You suffer when you hold a grudge because the onus is on you. If you want to free yourself from pain, learn to let go. Forgiveness is always more about you than the other person. I came to this realisation when someone did something very disrespectful to me, initially I was shocked, annoyed and even in denial. And then I started questioning their thought process (as much as I advocate for not trying to mind read, sometimes I fall into the trap of doing so!) After a while I thought to myself, I’m the one in pain here, it’s uncomfortable and I don’t want to continue feeling this way. So, I accepted the situation for what it was and moved on. I concluded that despite the disrespect, I benefited from the matter because they revealed their true colours. Basically every experience is an opportunity to learn and it’s helpful to keep that in mind, when going through tough situations.
Hopefully some of these lessons encourage you to think a little differently about happiness. As a final note I want to say that although we cannot control what happens to us, we can can control how we respond.
The theme here is that the choice is always yours and you can choose happiness, it’s up to you.