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5 Lessons The Dalai Lama Taught Me About Happiness

5 Lessons The Dalai Lama Taught Me About Happiness

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity of attending a lecture, titled ‘Happiness: the power of giving & receiving’, handed down by none other than the 14th Dalai Lama himself upon the eve of his 80th birthday.

Now, I’m not much of a spiritual person, or a religious person for that matter. I attended an all-boys catholic high school and was made to sit through hours of religion classes on a weekly basis, but it became quickly apparent that religion, prayer, and meditation weren’t really for me.

I came in with an open mind and I left with nothing but appreciation, respect, and praise for a man who represents so much, has been through so much more, and has such a wonderful and practical message to share with the world in search of inner peace and happiness for all.

In light of that, I thought I would share with you the 5 things that really hit home to me, not because they are profound or paradigm-shifting, but actually because they are so frank and deliberate, and can apply to everyone from every walk of life:

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You are your own master. Ultimately, no one can make you happy if you aren’t able to find it yourself

This was the key to his whole lecture. The only person truly responsible for your own happiness is yourself. Others can try; they can give you the world and expect nothing in return. But if your heart cannot find a way to find contentment and peace within your surroundings, whether engulfed with love and support or starkly alone, nothing else will be able to overcome that.

You are the master of your own happiness, your own sadness, your dreams, and your regrets. The Dalai Lama argued that happiness comes from finding inner peace with yourself and your life, along with service and engagement in your community. But one comes hand in hand with the other.

This one really hit home with me. On my travels, away from my support network of friends and family at home, I’ve had to teach myself new ways of finding happiness and peace when loneliness takes over. And I have found that engaging with the community, giving back to others, and embracing all aspects of the life I lead are major contributors to putting a smile on my face as I wake up every morning.

Seeking happiness through material goods brings only temporary relief, and hides the real problems

Just like the people around us are ultimately powerless to overcome our own feeling of emptiness, the value of papering over our issues with material things is also temporary. In fact, the Dalai Lama stressed that focusing our energy on distracting ourselves from the real issues only prolongs and clouds our path to fulfillment.

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So the next time you drown your sorrows in a bottle of wine, or turn to retail therapy to paper over the loneliness, try mindfully accepting and embracing the hurt, and focus on why it exists, and how you can shift your psyche to make it disappear.

Secular education and a strong sense of compassion for others is the key to happiness

I found this point of his to be extremely refreshing. For the head of a spiritual order to endorse secular education within schools, away from dogmatic religious shackles, and towards the scientific embracing of the mind and soul was extremely impressive.

He rattled off anecdote after anecdote about his time studying with scientists in psychology, neurology, quantum physics, and chemistry, explaining how science is the key to educating people into the future about the world we live in, and through that, building a global foundation of compassion and understanding.

It was truly inspiring. Through better educating ourselves of the world we live in, we build stronger connections with those around us. Through empathy we build compassion, and through compassion, we build happiness. From the poorest streets in Zambia, to the bustling skyscrapers of New York, this is true for everyone.

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The power of praying to a god or deity for happiness or help is questionable at best

This one shocked me a little. It really affirmed to me that the Dalai Lama is a rational, logical, frank, and open-minded person. Instead of preaching from the book, like the rest of the spiritual leaders around the world, he preached from his own mind and experiences.

He told us of his time as a refugee from his own country in March 1959. He recalled a period of great despair where, as leader of six million Tibetans and not much older than I am, he was powerless to protect his people from the might of the Chinese Communists. He was urged to pray to Buddha for help.

So he did. But does he believe that prayer to Buddha, or any deity for that matter, actually does anything? His answer, “I don’t know”, as he chuckled away. Instead, The Dalai Lama said that meditation, education, and deep thought about the issues he faced, were probably the key to finding his way through the toughest times of his life.

Formality impedes true connection with others

I found this one to be the most humorous, but also the most telling of them all. Obviously, the Dalai Lama receives a great deal of respect wherever he goes. He is greeted with a level of pomp and procedure received by few. But he made it very clear at the outset that he thought very little of the formalities prepared for him.

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In fact, he argued through his usual anecdotal style, that formality is a mask that sits in front of who we truly are, and that when we are simply being ourselves, we build stronger connections with those around us. It’s something we see every day, and simply accept as a part of life. But to have a man of such a high office argue against the acts of respect he receives in order open the floor for real dialogue and trust is a very impressive thing.

Breaking down the barriers of formality and hierarchy were a key tenet in his assertion that we really are all equal, including his holiness himself. The Dalai Lama spoke like the most traveled and educated man I had ever met.

His thoughts and beliefs reflected not that of a spiritual leader tied to his holy scriptures, but of a pragmatic and compassionate elder, enlightened by decades of learning from and sharing with people across the globe. Through education and the extension of his arms towards all he has met around the world, he stands as a shining example of the beacon of peace and happiness we can all be.

Featured photo credit: Minette Layne via flickr.com

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Last Updated on November 9, 2020

10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

Bad habits expose us to suffering that is entirely avoidable. Unfortunately, breaking bad habits is difficult because they are 100% dependent on our mental and emotional state.

Anything we do that can prove harmful to us is a bad habit – drinking, drugs, smoking, procrastination, poor communication are all examples of bad habits. These habits have negative effects on our physical, mental, and emotional health.

Humans are hardwired to respond to stimuli and to expect a consequence of any action. This is how habits are acquired: the brain expects to be rewarded a certain way under certain circumstances. How you initially responded to certain stimuli is how your brain will always remind you to behave when the same stimuli are experienced.

If you visited the bar close to your office with colleagues every Friday, your brain will learn to send you a signal to stop there even when you are alone and eventually not just on Fridays. It will expect the reward of a drink after work every day, which can potentially lead to a drinking problem.

Kicking negative behavior patterns and steering clear of them requires a lot of willpower, and there are many reasons why breaking bad habits is so difficult.

1. Lack of Awareness or Acceptance

Breaking a bad habit is not possible if the person who has it is not aware that it is a bad one.

Many people will not realize that their communication skills are poor or that their procrastination is affecting them negatively, or even that the drink they had as a nightcap has now increased to three.

Awareness brings acceptance. Unless a person realizes on their own that a habit is bad, or someone manages to convince them of the same, there is very little chance of the habit being kicked.

2. No Motivation

Going through a divorce, not being able to cope with academic pressure, and falling into debt are instances that can bring a profound sense of failure with them. A person going through these times can fall into a cycle of negative thinking where the world is against them and nothing they can do will ever help, so they stop trying altogether.

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This give-up attitude is a bad habit that just keeps coming around. Being in debt could make you feel like you are failing at maintaining your home, family, and life in general.

If you are looking to get out of a rut and feel motivated, take a look at this article: Why Is Internal Motivation So Powerful (And How to Find It)

3. Underlying Psychological Conditions

Psychological conditions such as depression and ADD can make it difficult to start breaking bad habits.

A depressed person may find it difficult to summon the energy to cook a healthy meal, resulting in food being ordered in or consumption of packaged foods. This could lead to a habit that adversely affects health and is difficult to overcome.

A person with ADD may start to clean their house but get distracted soon after, leaving the task incomplete, eventually leading to a state where it is acceptable to live in a house that is untidy and dirty.

The fear of missing out (FOMO) is very real to some people. Obsessively checking their social media and news sources, they may believe that not knowing of something as soon as it is published can be catastrophic to their social standing.

4. Bad Habits Make Us Feel Good

One of the reasons it is difficult to break habits is that a lot of them make us feel good.[1]

We’ve all been there – the craving for a tub of ice cream after a breakup or a casual drag on a joint, never to be repeated until we miss how good it made us feel. We succumb to the craving for the pleasure felt while indulging in it, cementing it as a habit even while we are aware it isn’t good for us.

Overeating is a very common bad habit. Just another pack of chips, a couple of candies, a large soda… none of these are necessary for survival. We want them because they give us comfort. They’re familiar, they taste good, and we don’t even notice when we progress from just one extra slice of pizza to four.

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You can read this article to learn more: We Do What We Know Is Bad for Us, Why?

5. Upward Comparisons

Comparisons are a bad habit that many of us have been exposed to since we were children. Parents might have compared us to siblings, teachers may have compared us to classmates, and bosses could compare us to past and present employees.

The people who have developed the bad habit of comparing themselves to others have been given incorrect yardsticks for measurement from the start.

These people will always find it difficult to break out of this bad habit because there will always be someone who has it better than they do: a better house, better car, better job, higher income and so on.

Research shows that in the age of social media, social comparisons are much easier and can ultimately harm self-esteem if scrolling becomes a bad habit[2].

6. No Alternative

This is a real and valid reason why breaking bad habits is difficult. These habits could fulfill a need that may not be met any other way.

Someone who has physical or psychological limitations, such as a disability or social anxiety, may find it hard to quit obsessive content consumption for better habits.

Alternately, a perfectly healthy person may be unable to quit smoking because alternates are just not working out.

Similarly, a person who bites their nails when anxious may be unable to relieve stress in any other socially accepted manner.

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7. Stress

As mentioned above, anything that stresses us out can lead to adopting and cementing an unhealthy habit.

When a person is stressed about something, it is easy for bad habits to form because the mental resources required to fight them are not available[3].

We often see a person who had previously managed to kick a bad habit fall back into the old ways because they felt their stress couldn’t be managed any other way.

If you need some help reducing stress, check out the following video for some healthy ways to get started:

8. Sense of Failure

People looking to kick bad habits may feel a strong sense of failure because it’s just that difficult.

Dropping a bad habit usually means changes in lifestyle that people may be unwilling to make, or these changes might not be easy to make in spite of the will to make them.

Overeaters need to empty their house of unhealthy food, resist the urge to order in, and not pick up their standard grocery items from the store. Those who drink too much need to avoid the bars or even people who drink often.

If such people slip even once with a glass of wine, or a smoke, or a bag of chips, they tend to be excessively harsh on themselves and feel like failures.

9. The Need to Be All-New

People who are looking to break bad habits feel they need to re-create themselves in order to break themselves of their bad habits, while the truth is the complete opposite.

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These people actually need to go back to who they were before they developed the bad habit and try to create good habits from there.

10. Force of Habit

Humans are creatures of habit, and having familiar, comforting outcomes for daily triggers helps us maintain a sense of balance in our lives.

Consider people who are used to lighting up a cigarette every time they talk on the phone or eating junk food when watching TV. They will always associate a phone call with a puff on the cigarette and screen time with eating.

These habits, though bad, are a source of comfort to them, as is meeting with those people they indulge in these bad habits with.

Final Thoughts

These are the main reasons why breaking bad habits is difficult, but the good news is that the task is not impossible. Breaking habits takes time, and you’ll need to put long-term goals in place to replace a bad habit with a good one.

There are many compassionate, positive and self-loving techniques to kick bad habits. The internet is rich in information regarding bad habits, their effects and how to overcome them, while professional help is always available for those who feel they need it.

More on Breaking Bad Habits

Featured photo credit: NORTHFOLK via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] After Skool: Why Do Bad Habits Feel SO GOOD?
[2] Psychology of Popular Media Culture: Social comparison, social media, and self-esteem.
[3] Stanford Medicine: Examining how stress affects good and bad habits

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