Think back to when you last felt truly happy. What was the reason for it? Were you full of joy because of something you did? Or perhaps you felt that way because of how you looked? And more importantly: Did the feeling last?
Buddhism teaches that we must attain a satisfying life through awareness and insightful learning. Scientific research suggests we need elements of psychological health to further access lasting happiness.
The psychology of happiness
In psychology, there’s a theory called “self-determination theory”. It shows that psychological health is paramount to experience happiness, and that such health stems from a balance between autonomy (feeling in control of our own behavior/goals), competence (becoming a master of a skill), and relatedness (feeling like you belong/relating to other human beings).
The common trap
However, a serious error in our relationships with others is harsh judgment, which ruins our autonomy and relatedness.
When we judge, we are really attempting to gain control of things we cannot be in control of, thus weakening our autonomy and causing those we judge to become defensive. For instance a person might not meet your expectations of attendance, and you judge them to be lazy. This only causes a weakening in our own strengths, and in turn makes us far less happy. Moreover, this would ruin our relationships with our loved ones.
Studies have shown that when we are mindful, we can understand that each person is simply on their own path of contentment. This means that although another person might not match our expectations, we should not judge them to be more or less than exactly what they are. We must not view people as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, only as different to ourselves.
By saying that another person is wrong, it is adhering to our own insecurities and needs. In a way you are saying “I am more important” or “I am better, and you are worse”. This is unhelpful both to the situation, and to your own self. Practicing self worth will increase your knowledge of psychological health, and better your understanding of why it is so important to understand not who is right and wrong, but what is actually important.
How to refrain from judgement
In Buddhism, they teach that we should start by holding a strawberry. When we can comfortably look at the strawberry without seeing whether or not it looks good to us, without seeing its immediate effects of how it does or does not affect us directly, we can then move on to something larger. Perhaps it will be a meal, and then perhaps something larger, like a book.
Finally, when we are comfortable with all of this, we will be ready to try it out with a human! There will be a lack of desire to accept the person (or book, or fruit) for anything but what it is exactly in that moment.