We are perpetually seeking happiness.
Well, I think most of us are, anyway. I know a few people who seem to delight in misery—an idea that baffles me. For me happiness has always been something that has occurred spontaneously and many times without expectation.
A few years back I decided that rather than just allow happiness to pop in once in awhile and surprise me, I would go in search for the key to living happily. I dove into a host of self-help books like You Can Heal Your Life, The Happiness Project, The Art of Happiness and many more. I set intentions, I lit candles, I prayed, I went to yoga and I meditated. I tried my best to live mindfully, but happiness was still like the sunshine. When it was there, I basked in it and when it it wasn’t, I found myself in the dark.
No matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to grasp any control over my mood.
As a matter of fact, I seemed to struggle with an underlying depression that permeated every experience, both good and bad. I found myself at a crossroads. Learning that happiness was not something that can truly be harnessed, but rather an attitude, was a frustrating realization.
Self-help books can be like candy to a lost soul. I inhaled them because that was what I did when I was lost. My whole life I have been the kind of person to simply research my answers. When I wanted to get pregnant, I read about pregnancy. When I had a baby, I read about babies. When I wanted to change careers, I researched it thoroughly, checked into the best school in the area and accomplished my goal bit by bit.
How could I not just simply map out a plan and tackle these goals? This technique had worked for almost everything I have done in my life thus far.
I continued pouring over my books in the late hours at night and reading every blog I could find that claimed to have an answer—any answer. It was here that I sat back and looked at the bigger picture and an image started to form. Pieces of the puzzle started coming together. In my search, I found a few underlying principles that ran parallel to creating an attitude of contentment.
We are not the same.
We are not cookie cutter copies of each other. What works for me may not work for you. Maybe you like to camp and I like to shop. Maybe you like the tropics and I like the snow. Happy people are usually not concerned about what other people like and don’t compare it to themselves. They realize that what makes them happy is not a fit for everyone and therefore do not worry about it.
Accept what it is.
I am always amazed by the people that seem to never get their feathers ruffled. No matter what the situation is, they remain calm and take things as they come. I have slowly started applying this practice and have found it to truly be helpful. Does someone you know get on your nerves? Are they going to change because you don’t like the way they act? Probably not. We can choose to allow other people to bother us, or we can choose to accept it for what it is and find a way around it. Maybe avoid this person or spend less time with them. Whatever you need to do, just don’t sit there and be angry about it because that doesn’t solve anything.
Don’t waste your time.
One of the most common regrets people have is that they didn’t make enough time to do what they loved or to be with people they loved. Yes, we all need to go to work and pay our bills, but life is short. If you knew today would be your last day, would you be happy with what you did today? Would you be okay with everything you said? Make moments count. Time is not to be wasted.
Stop and smell the roses.
Being mindful, even in mundane tasks, allows us to enjoy what is happening in the present. We tend to be mindful during times of joy or intimacy, but not in simple things like driving to work or shoveling snow. Sure these things are not the most exciting times of our lives, but when we really stop and pay attention we find beauty in small things that can go unnoticed.
Happiness comes to those who are open to it.
Even in times of trial we can be open to the possibility of happiness. Sometimes I find myself wrapped up in my own problems so much that I stop being open to joy. It’s almost like I have walled off any chance to feel light and surrounded myself with everything that is going wrong. This state is a quick path to depression. By allowing it all in—the pain, the tears, and the sadness, we allow for the happiness to follow inside too.
Life is not about being happy and smiling all of the time. This is unrealistic and if we search for that we will find ourselves on an endless path. Life is about balance. Happiness is about accepting the bad, and coming out of it on the other side with joy still in our hearts.
I hope you find joy.
“The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance, the wise grows it under his feet.”
~ James Oppenheim
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