“Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
~ Abraham Lincoln
I’ve heard it said that many big ideas and breakthroughs come to light while driving.
Such a moment happened to me the other day when I was traveling from one work function to the next. The song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams came on the radio. The chorus of the song goes something like this:“Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof Because I’m happy Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth Because I’m happy Clap along if you know what happiness is to you Because I’m happy…”
As I listened, a feeling of complete clarity washed over me. I felt it in my soul.
The lyrics are so simple, but they struck me in a profound way. I thought, “Yes, happiness is the truth! All we have is this one moment and in this moment, I am happy!” The realization of my happiness was brought on by this song, but it was very clear that the feeling was coming from inside, with no real “reason” for it.
And then, as the mind tends to do, it started questioning my happiness. At the very moment I was acknowledging this beautiful, serene state, I started to ask myself why I was happy, because I need to have a reason,
don’t I? A person can’t just be happy for no reason, without any external accomplishment, situation or something to look forward to, right?
Think about the typical occasions when people proclaim their happiness: promotions and raises, vacations, weddings, babies, relationships, new material objects… the list goes on. These are all external catalysts for joy and happiness.
But can you really feel happy as a state of being? Without anything prompting that feeling?
Once I had realized my inner state of happiness and then had questioned the reason for this happy feeling, my mind turned to all the reasons why I shouldn’t be happy.
Talk about self-sabotage.
“You can’t really be happy,” whispered this snarky little voice. “What about all your bills? Remember how there’s no food in the house? Did you forget about this, that and the other?” My mind seriously went down the list of all the things I should be worried about instead of just being happy.
The mind is a fascinating thing. It can be your closest ally or worst enemy, depending on how you relate to it and train it. In this instance, I was able to step back and see the hilarity of how much I was attempting to self-sabotage. I couldn’t believe what I doing to myself. I was literally robbing myself of an honest, real, happy state of being.
I was reminded of how worry steals all the joy from the present moment. If I hadn’t been able to step back and observe, I would have gone straight from feeling contented and calm to worried and anxious! And what good would that do me?
Worry is just a thief who robs people of joy.
It serves no useful purpose for me. I certainly wasn’t going to solve all my problems by worrying about them.
I have always been an anxious and worried person under stress, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve become more aware of myself when this happens. It is so crucial to be able to step back and observe emotions when they surface. These skills of self-observation and reflection take us back to the present moment and allow us to separate from the intensity we may be feeling in a given situation. We are also able to distinguish between fact and fiction. Is this story I’m telling myself really true? Or is this something I’ve made up and chosen to believe?
The question that surfaced after careful self reflection was, “Is it
okay for me to still feel happy even though my life isn’t perfect?” And my true self answered, “Absolutely!” And through that I was also able to see the falsehood of believing otherwise. If I waited for life to be perfect, I would never be happy! There will always be situations we wish were different, things to be improved on, but that is life.
True happiness is a state that starts from within, no matter what is happening on the outside.
The fact that I was able to glimpse that one moment of real happiness and notice it at the time felt so amazing. It made me remember how sweet life can be if I take the time to cultivate that happy inner state of being. It takes practice and discipline to develop a daily routine; learning to quiet the mind and observe our own emotions is no easy task.
I will continue to practice observing my emotions and keep reminding myself that happiness is an inner state of being, as opposed to a reaction from external circumstances. I know the more I practice meditation and reflection, the more I will be able to appreciate these beautiful moments and the more frequently these beautiful moments will occur.
Next time I’m in the car and the “Happy” song comes on, I intend to enjoy my happiness uninterrupted by my chattering mind.
I’m learning to accept that happy is my natural state.
And it just might be yours too.
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Editorial Assistant: Yaisa Nio / Editor: Catherine Monkman