I know, I know. You're asking: "How do I get there?"
This is A Life with Wisdom's Secret to Happiness...
in 10 "easy" steps.
Firstly, let's identify what happiness actually is. To understanding happiness is basically to define it. Happiness is the state of being happy. Happiness is a state of mind. Happiness is reactionary. Happiness is a form of knowledge. Understand that it's an emotion and that emotions are a choice. Happiness is a choice.
Step 1: Choose Happiness
Since happiness is a choice, choose to be happy. I know what you're thinking and yes, that sounds silly. But that's also what makes it easy. Being happy is as easy as deciding to be happy. This is due to the reality that happiness is a perspective.
Imagine a coloring book. Allow for the outline of the image itself to represent the world around us. Then, allow the paint or crayons to be symbolic of our emotions and perceptions of the environment. The world wants us to believe that when we open that book, the colors have already been completed for us. Therefore, we're told that we have no control and we are instructed into how to perceive things. In truth, the drawing itself has always been in black and white, which grants us the privilege to decide how we want to interpret the world. You are free. You have always been free. You are the painter. You have the ability to choose your own colors. You can utilize this knowledge to break free of the world's attempt to feed your own emotions to you. That begins with a choice.
Step 2: Color your World
Many people expect happiness to exist only in grand moments like weddings, work promotions or childbirth. Yes, these are huge life events with a great and happy value, but happiness is not these events. "Happy" is an adjective. The word itself means nothing short of symbolically defining a feeling. Despite the callousness of this description, these events are inherently neutral. They have no color whatsoever.
Naturally, we assign an emotion to these circumstances. We attach our reactions to these events. We decide how we want to interpret them. We have the ability to perceive these as happy events. We use our thoughts to assign that "happy" emotion to these events. We attach that adjective to that noun. If we have the ability to do that with some events, we can do it with multiple. When we utilize our thoughts and perceptions of things in such a way that we can re-interpret them so to genuinely perceive them as "happy," we are creating the state of mind that embodies happiness. If we can attribute that "happy" adjective to any given noun, we are intrinsically creating a happy environment for ourselves. We are creating a happier Self. Despite how doubt tries to intervene and explain things away, give yourself permission to challenge this doubt so to experiment with the possibility. This is the moment, when I hand you a paintbrush, strip the coloring book of its color and assign you the responsibility to have fun decorating it.
Step 3: Be Thankful
Anywhere and everywhere you look for advice on happiness, you will always encounter words that encourage gratitude. This step is imperative.
"If one should give me a dish of sand and tell me there were particles of iron in it, I might look for them with my eyes and search for them with my clumsy fingers and be unable to detect them; but let me take a magnet and sweep through it and now would it draw to itself the almost invisible particles by the mere power of attraction. The unthankful heart, like my finger in the sand, discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and as the magnet finds the iron, so I will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings." [Henry Ward Beecher]
Step 4: Appreciate More
Gratitude is an act of affirmation. Gratitude is an act of discovery. Gratitude is a scavenger hunt for worth, for value and for goodness. Gratitude is an appreciation so profound that it becomes humbling. Look around you. What do you see? (Go ahead, I'll wait.) Reflect on your day. What was your favorite moment? Your least favorite moment? I'm asking you to be so mindful of your moments and all things within it that you can train yourself to find the value in them. To appreciate is to affix worth onto all things encountered, current or past. This is the act of assessing your life, your day, then appraising everything with a new sense of wonder. Therefore, even in the greatest trials of life, you can find their worth.
The reason for this advice is to help you to remain continually aware of why concepts are appreciated. With gratitude being a discovery of goodness, this attentiveness to the blessings, even ones that you had once considered to be mere minutiae, helps the mind to appreciate nuance and detail. Again, look around. Those gifts are everywhere so assume the responsibility required to discover them! Be the magnet that finds those tiny particles of iron. Even when pondering grateful moments amidst a walk in the park, stay cognizant of specific sources of gratitude. The benefit of explaining these elements of gratitude is key in explaining those definitive details within the Self that guide our very thinking. No matter what transpired, whether good or bad, death or celebration; we must always look back and find the ways in which we are to be grateful.
Step 5: Want Less
This is the step that's gonna really hurt where it counts. This is where most of us seem to slip up and when happiness becomes difficult.
"Happiness is the absence of striving for happiness." [Chuang Tze]
Many voices have been quoted referencing that happiness is the state of no longer wanting. This is the act of accepting that all in existence, in this present moment, is just as it should be. Many of us have been taught that money is representative of happiness. We learn that we can utilize it to obtain "stuff." Subsequently, we have attached the happy feelings or the expectation to receive happy feelings if we intend to spend it later. Happiness does not always rely on the attachment to objects. In fact, in most instances, it's quite the opposite. However, we value happiness so much that we are willing to pay for it. "Man does not possess wealth. Wealth possesses man." [Benjamin Franklin]
"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." [Psalm 23, the Holy Bible]
Step 6: Expect Nothing
This also, is another difficult step. Oh, the things I could say about the danger of expectations! Actually, I already have mentioned it, at least once: A Day without Anger
Expectations are terribly detrimental for one's happiness. Due to our expectations, we open ourselves up to allowing these expectations to fail. When an expectation fails, we can become angry, disappointed, and depressed.
The act of wanting is rooted in expectation, which itself, takes root in the ego. By establishing expectations of how we believe life will transpire, we are also establishing a proposed desire for how we'd like for it to appear. Therefore, the ego is once again at fault for feeding us an illusion of happiness. The act of wanting causes us to be conscious of things or experiences that are not with us in the present moment. This will prompt us to neglect that for which we could be grateful. By addressing moments before or after this present moment, we lose sight of that state of contentment and we rely on our expectation to create a false sense of hope. To make an example out of the ego, its act of wanting might prompt us to resent and grieve, convincing us that the state of acquisition is synonymous with happiness. Gratitude has a means of transcending time which allows for these past events or achievements to brings happiness to us in "the now." Many people want happiness, but cannot define it; therefore they don't know when it is present.
Step 7: Forgive
Oh, how I love forgiveness so very much!
Just like the essay on Anger, there is already an essay here at A Life with Wisdom for Forgiveness: A Day for Forgiveness
In brief, forgiving releases the expectations. While discussing Forgiveness, I mentioned how it is a tool utilized to encounter various changes in life. This is due to the reality that we set expectations for how we anticipate life to happen. Again, this is when we think we can predict future outcomes. When things don't coincide to how we had envisioned them, we can become disappointed or frustrated. None of these qualities lead us toward happiness. When we become angered, we have allowed our ego to trap us into falling away from happiness. When we judge others, that bitterness halts our centered happiness and only feeds our selfish ego. Forgiveness enters to sacrifice the ego and free us from its bind.
Step 8: Foster Happiness
One of the benefits in knowing who you are is that you inherently know what you favor. This knowledge provides the talent to preserve our own happy moments. I call this "fostering happiness."
This begins with the awareness of your own unique and personal sources for happiness. Consider your favorite music. Is there a certain park or restaurant you prefer? Do you know a particular friend who inspires you? "Let us be grateful of people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom." [Marcel Proust] The act of fostering your happiness begins with the awareness to that which makes you happy. The reason for this awareness is so that you can remain mindful of your happiness amidst the absence of happiness. Happiness exists in a spectrum, or in a continuum; there are many segments to happiness. Therefore, if one segment becomes tarnished, you can utilize other realms in your knowledge of happiness to nurse you through that sorrow. This will allow you to maintain a healthy homeostasis of your happiness.
"When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad; I simply remember my favorite things and then I don't feel so bad." [lyrics from 'The Sound of Music']
Step 9: Enjoy
Ok, so you've chosen to be happy because you understand happiness and what makes you happy. Now what? Enjoy it! Enjoy life! Be thankful for that knowledge and celebrate it. Something that makes celebration unique from happiness itself is that there is enthusiasm. Often this is called "joie du vivre," or joy of life. In this celebration of life, there is wonder and there is awe. This act of celebrating is a means of pausing to make time to identify your appreciation. If there is a party, we appreciate our time together. If there is a funeral, we appreciate the value of the individual who passed. If a goal has been met, whether by us or a friend, we appreciate that victory. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of this potential for continuous happiness. It is a great error that we perceive happiness as a thunderous flash of excitement. Our search for that flash blinds us from seeing happiness present in every moment. Happiness has a natural ebb and flow like the nature of breathing. Just as we must take time to grieve, we must also take time to celebrate. However, we still have the ability to make a decision to breathe in the same manner that we can take the time to recognize our happiness and admit our appreciation. That ebb and flow occurs between the experience of one celebratory moment and the quest for the next. This is how it feels to be "in joy" or rather to enjoy that moment. In every moment, there is always a reason for celebration.
Every day is a celebration. Happy today!
Step 10: Love
Finally... Step 10! It would be pointless to describe various sources for happiness and then ignore Love. And yet, one of the greatest paradoxes of love and happiness is that we are often willing to sacrifice our own happiness if it can produce happiness in another person.
"Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own." [Robert Heinlein]
"Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness is never decreased by being shared." [Buddha]
What is there really to say about love apart from the very real truth that love feels good and makes us feel happy. Like gratitude, love is also born from an appreciation. Love is a profound appreciation of the relationship between the self and another entity. Most times, loving is more than knowing, we must feel that appreciation. Like an infant seeing its face in a mirror for the very first time, we are granted self-awareness. This is the initial moment when we are introduced to Love.
Once we've been attuned to love, loving becomes easier. As described earlier, sharing happiness generates more; also that the happiness of others is valuable for our own peace of mind. We call this kindness. Kindness has also been featured in its own essay, very early in the existence of this blog. See here: A Day of Kindness One can foster happiness by doing random acts of kindness and creating happy days every day. Every day is a great day when you're in the proper mind.
So there, 10 easy steps to discover happiness. Reflect on them. Pay attention for your expectations so that you can quash them when you see them manifest. Then do it all over again.
Thank you for your time,
(Aug. 1, 2014)