The pursuit of happiness has become elusive.
There must be something different that happy people do, right? Well, kind of.
I’m convinced that our happiness has become quite conditioned in the past few centuries. The world is moving so fast, and new inventions are emerging by the day. The abundance of “things” has had a major impact on our notion of happiness.
We’ve associated happiness with financial security, stable relationships, and health. And, while I wholeheartedly agree that attaining certain things in life can help minimize our stress levels, outside conditions don’t always complete our happiness.
Positive events provide us with a dopamine boost and give us the “fix” we want. But dopamine works in our body temporarily—and in no time, we drown back into misery.
According to Buddhism, this is the essential problem: the objects of our happiness don’t last—they’re inherently temporary. And bad things are always bound to happen in life. That said, when our happiness is dependent on outside factors, it’s prone to considerably fluctuate.
Buddhists define happiness as a state of mind. It is not dependent on external objects, so it doesn’t come and go.
I have seen people with much less than I have who are genuinely happy. I’ve also seen people with a multitude of abundance, but who are unhappy. From my own experience, those with less have clearly worked on their mental discipline.
Now, before beginning the process of disciplining our mind, it’s valuable to understand that being happy doesn’t mean we stop experiencing other emotions—such as sadness or grief. We’re humans with variable emotions and experiences, and so, it’s normal to frequently oscillate between them.
Nonetheless, if we cultivate the right attitude, even when we experience sadness, it wouldn’t be challenging for us to tap into happiness again. Even in moments of grief, we’d still feel a sense of peace at our core.
We can start with these helpful Buddhist-inspired tips:
It’s all in the mind. We need to understand that everything in life starts with how our mind perceives it. The thoughts are the starting point. We often miss this and focus on making a change outside. The fact is, real change is within. Taking action should undeniably happen, but we should always back it up with a correct inner perspective. Start from the inside out.
No more excuses. As long as we make excuses, we’ll never reach happiness. External factors change. We don’t need theories to prove this to us, because impermanence is a fact. Be willing to accept the alteration of outside factors so you can perceive the notion of happiness differently.
Relinquish greed. Anything that we force in life runs away from us—including happiness. This story is the perfect explanation: A man said to the Buddha, “I want happiness.” Buddha said, “First remove ‘I,’ that’s ego, then remove ‘want,’ that’s desire. See, now you are left with only ‘happiness.'”
Practice meditation. Ten minutes of daily meditation is enough to ground us and teach us how to deal with our thoughts. The main source of our happiness lies in our mind. Meditation teaches us how to tame our mind and become its master. Through meditation, we overcome the habitual, emotional responses and the destructive thinking pattern.
Mettā bhāvanā is essential. The happiness of others should be as significant as ours. We should be concerned about the well-being of other people because selfishness triggers suffering. His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, said, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion; and if you want yourself to be happy, practice compassion.”
Eradicate attachment. Buddhists believe that attachment and craving are our main sources of suffering. Attachment comes from ignorance and the need to fill perceived or imaginary gaps in our life. Detachment doesn’t mean aloofness. It means relating to things differently, without expectations or dependency. Happiness starts with non-attachment.
Understand impermanence. When we grasp that all things are transitory, we cease the quest of finding happiness in them. We thoroughly enjoy life and work on achieving our goals—however, our happiness is not dependent on the result. If certain things or people no longer permeate our days, we’ll still be at peace anyway. Embrace change, don’t fear it.