What does it mean to create unshakable happiness?
For me, it means that in every conscious moment, I am prioritizing thinking, saying and doing things, that expand my heart and open me up, rather than closing me down. Even—especially, in fact!—when things around me are challenging.
Truthfully, this is not easy. And…I didn’t always feel this way.
I’ve had many dark nights of the soul that forced me to do much soul-searching, navel-gazing, and lots of meditation, and it all comes down to this:
Happiness is a choice, one that I must make consciously in every moment of my life.
For those of us who are sensitive or empathic and tend to feel the suffering of others easily, this can seem like an impossible task. However, as one unknown interwebs author so aptly writes:
“This, my dear, is the greatest challenge of being alive: to witness the injustice of this world, and not allow it to consume our light.”
Thus I am sharing with you my learnings on cultivating happiness, a choice I have to make over and over in the face of hardship, challenge, change, and fear.
To be clear: choosing happiness does not mean to ignore difficult feelings or situations, nor does it mean to turn a blind eye to suffering. It means to radically accept all experiences as valid and to stay openhearted in the face of all of it. While this may seem counterintuitive—even impossible!—I can testify to the miracles that occur when I choose to accept the difficult moments as teachers, making me pause habitual behavior and choose a new path.
Happiness Tool #1: Affirmations
On one level, daily affirmations are so easy. All you have to do is say them, over and over, whenever you’re feeling in need of a shift in perspective. And yet, on another level, they can feel so hard to do, because usually when we most need them, we are really not feeling them.
Here’s why they work, even when you’re feeing resistant to them:
>> Affirmations set an intention for something the highest part of your consciousness wants you to experience…even when your mind doesn’t believe it.
>> That intention attracts the energies and situations to you that will help you understand what is causing you to feel resistant, allowing you to consciously release that resistance when you are ready to.
>> Once that resistance is released, guess what happens? The affirmation continues to draw the energies and experiences toward you, and now that you’re no longer blocking their flow, you now make the affirmation become true!
It is a beautiful example of our higher consciousness acting always to bring us that which our hearts truly desire.
Happiness Tool #2: Gratitude Practice
If you only use one tool in this series, use this one. Gratitude practice is the most effective way to transform a negative mindset into one of emotional openness. I’m sure there’s a reasonable, well-studied reason for this, but as I haven’t researched it, I can only attest from personal experience: this really works.
So here’s how to do this effectively:
>> Find something you’re grateful for. It can be anything, from the tangible (your house, car, job, fresh air, exercise, a good book), to relationships (favorite pet, a good friend, partner, family, loved ones), to the emotional (how you feel when the sun warms your face, when you smell a certain smell, when you conjure up a certain memory). It can even be gratitude for the help your higher self (or God, Creator, Source, your light team) is giving you to open your heart, to help you clear blocks to happiness, to bringing you more joy every day.
>> Focus on what you are grateful for. If worries or doubt want to move in, politely but firmly tell them you can attend to them later. Return to focusing on what you’re grateful for and fill yourself up with the feeling of appreciation for it. Stay in this feeling for as long as you can, allowing it to move into your chest, breathing it in. Then find something else you’re grateful for, and really allow yourself to open to it. Fill yourself anew with the feeling of being grateful for it. Do this for as long as you like! But if you’re short on time, even one minute of really feeling gratitude is going to help you shift your mood.
>> Gratitude practice can be effective even when you’re not feeling it. By finding something you are grateful for—even if it’s reluctantly felt—you set an intention to feel gratitude, which invites the energies of gratitude to find their way to you. If you’re going through the motions but feel blocked from actually feeling gratitude, ask for help removing the blocks, and then express gratitude for that help as though it has already arrived.
While I call this a daily practice, it’s really a minute-to-minute practice that can be called upon anytime you need it.
Happiness Tool #3: Love whatever arises!
Definitely the most challenging tool in the toolkit—and also the most liberating!—this one requires a deeper dive, found here.
I may not be in control of circumstances around me, but I am in control of how I relate to those circumstances. No matter how challenging, every moment is an opportunity to reframe the situation and choose inner happiness. Not instant gratification, or short-term pleasure, but the kind of happiness that actually feeds my body, heart, and soul.
Choosing happiness is a radical act of reclaiming one’s true power. For in choosing happiness, we uplift and inspire others to do the same, which creates a ripple effect. What would it be like to live in a world where the majority of us felt unruffled by outer circumstances? I imagine it would be a far kinder, more peaceful place.
It’s a good question to ponder the next time life throws a challenge your way, for how you respond to the challenge can bring more happiness into the world, one small act at a time.