Most people have come to dread the word ‘happiness’ in a world where our new default mode is ‘restrained state of anxiety’. Regular everyday life, and the ‘normal’ ways of social bonding, vacations etc. that we used to associate with ‘pleasure’, ‘leisure’ or even ‘happiness’ are more an aberration than a norm. How then, can we hope to find happiness and joy?
Lucky for us, now is as good a time as any to reflect upon the meaning of happiness, on how happiness can bring the joy of living back into our lives, and to find ways to experience happiness every day.
Happiness is a Choice
Epictetus in his classic book “The Art of Living” says that “Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle:
Some things are within our control, and some things are not.
Most of us hold on to the notion that having control over our lives is directly linked to our happiness. We try to control our finances, business, people at work, relationships, even our future. And when things go a little askew, it takes a bite out of our happiness.
In the past few months, I have seen many racked with guilt because they were miles away from parents or children who had to fight COVID all alone. I have seen others spiral down into gloom and negativity because they lost their jobs or had serious business losses.
What all of us need to remember is that there will be events or situations that will not be under your control, there will be times when things will not go according to plan. But you know what?
You are allowed to not let them affect you. You are allowed to not feel guilty about things that were never in your control.
I also understand that it is easier said than done. To get to the stage where your happiness is independent of external validation, it requires continuous self-reflections and a determined practice of mindfulness.
To infuse little sparks of happiness in your daily life, here are some perspectives you can follow:
Happiness is Guilt-Free.
“Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” —Abraham Lincoln
Joy should not depend on what is happening around you, because you can be joyful even when life is a little difficult. No pain lasts in its intensity and severity for a very long time. Things that made you inconsolable two years back, do not hurt that much today. You might have chosen to replace those hurtful thoughts with something else and eventually the hurt has faded away.
By practising quiet contemplation or guided meditation, you can learn to consciously divert your attention from anxiety or guilt, focus on the things that make you smile, and find the wisdom to move away from people or things that do not.
The easiest way to guilt-free happiness is to the simple act of giving. Give yourself some credit. You are doing the best you can. Give yourself some me-time. Because you are more important than the things you are responsible for. Give yourself some positive nourishment. Invest in meaningful relationships.
And keep giving without guilt.
Happiness is a Verb
As Michael Singer writes in his book, The Untethered Soul, “If you want to be happy, let go of the part of you that wants to create melodrama. This is the part that thinks there is a reason to not be happy. You have to transcend the personal, and as you do, you will naturally awaken to the higher aspects of your being.”
The unhappy mind is the mind that choses ego and melodrama over happiness. A truly happy individual is one who has learnt the secret of asking his ego to take a hike.
At times, being mindful demands us to address uncomfortable truths that are buried deep inside us. If followed religiously, it opens up your psyche to acknowledge and be comfortable with your limitations, and to embrace your strengths. In time, mindfulness leads to a never-ending fountain of inner happiness that rejuvenates you when you are sad, and boosts you up if the path looks daunting. It grows your roots, but also gives you wings to fly.
Happiness through mindfulness is a daily practice. A daily effort of self-awareness in the most important and challenging moments of life.
Look around you and you will notice people who have taken to baking, gardening, yoga, zentangles, journaling, dance, NLP or even poetry to channelize their energy towards things that nourish their souls.
So find a few minutes every day to do at least one thing that makes you happy. Because Happiness is within you. Just reach inside and seize it.