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Most of us believe that we need to pursue happiness.
We associate it with material possessions, perfect relationships, money, fame, power, success, a dream house, dream job, good car, and fancy vacations.
We look for it externally, and hold on tight to it. Then, when things go wrong, our happiness breaks like a flimsy branch amidst a storm.
Why? Because we can’t pursue happiness. Looking for happiness outside ourselves almost always ends up in disappointment because everything external is fragile. What’s outside is nothing but a momentary stimulator to pleasurable feelings.
However, those feelings don’t define happiness, because what makes us happy today has the ability to make us sad tomorrow.
So what is happiness? If we can’t keep it forever through relationships, dream jobs, money, or vacations, where do we find it?
Well, we don’t find it—we only tap into it.
Happiness has been our most innate state since the moment of birth. We choose to either experience it or to disregard it. And we make that choice every day—right here, right now. Once we choose it internally, we “find” it in everything outside ourselves and we can never lose it. Then, even when things go wrong, we’re okay, we’re happy.
We can cry, get angry, feel wretched, experience confusion or disappointment, but through all of this, we’re aware that our emotions are swiftly changing. A wave of ecstasy can wash over us, followed by a wave of dejection. But it’s okay, because at the core of any felt emotion and any external event, there’s a non-changing state inside us called “happiness.”
To be happy means to accept external conditions and the internal emotions they stir up within us. It means that we choose how to react—we’re aware of what’s occurring inside of us and make the choice to stop any destructive behaviors.
It can be challenging to constantly bring our awareness back to our emotions, reactions, and perceptions of the world. But if we do, we can tap into the happiness we’ve been blessed with since the beginning of time.
Here are four things we do to sabotage our happiness, and how to stop ourselves:
1. Waiting for something out there to happen.
It could be a date, a job, a friendship, a trip, a reunion, or a miracle. Waiting for something happy to happen is unhappiness in itself.
The world is a challenging place to be in. The same way that there’s blessings, peace, and cheerfulness, there’s also pain, frustration, and injustice. Hoping to get only one side of the coin is an automatic way to say “no” to life.
To be happy means to accept that there will be a few (perhaps many) bumps along the way, and to anticipate them, even when the ride is smooth.
2. Worrying too much.
Worrying is a habit most of us suffer from, and something we subconsciously start to do when things get tough.
To be genuinely happy means to train ourselves not to worry and to take action instead. If we can change something, let’s do it. If there’s nothing we can do, we must learn how to relax and let things take their course.
Taking action doesn’t mean we try to control the situation though. Know that surrendering to what we can’t control is an action in itself.
3. Blaming the world for our troubles.
Let’s agree that we all have problems. But blaming others, God, time, or circumstances is in no way making us happy.
The world is what it is and people are who they are. To blame others or external factors for our misery is an indirect way to brush responsibility off our shoulders.
True happiness means we accept that some things in our lives are destined to happen. If it’s our fault, let’s take action and try to resolve it, without all the negative self-talk.
4. Clinging to the past.
The past is long gone, but it rarely dies inside our minds.
What we need to remember is that although we can’t stop past memories from occurring, we can learn to deal with those memories in a healthy way. Instead of dwelling on the whys and hows, we should see the past as a bridge leading to a better present.
The past has shaped who we are today and has taught us valuable lessons—that’s why we must look at it with gratitude. Looking at it with regret or sorrow only disrupts our happiness.