As emotional beings, it can sometimes be difficult to accurately define a feeling. So much can get lost in translation and leaves something to be desired. Perhaps that’s a part of the reason that so many people have trouble achieving happiness. At times it just seems so elusive and complex. I mean, what is happiness really? Are you only truly happy if you only experience that emotion, and that one alone?
Definition of happiness by different philosophers share the same theory.
There are many ideologies with their own philosophies on how to achieve happiness. For example, the Buddhists believe that happiness can only be achieved when you have rejected all need for material goods, reaching what they call Nirvana. Taoists attain happiness by living simple, uncomplicated lives; appreciating what is, and accepting what is not.
What these two theories have in common is the rejection of longing. You can’t be truly happy when you focus on what you do not have.
But what we believe is true about happiness has been hindering us from pursuing true happiness.
Myth 1: Happiness is a constant state.
If you think that you need to be happy 24/7 to be a happy person, that just simply isn’t true. Everyone gets stressed, everyone gets angry. We are capable of an array of emotions for a reason, to feel them. To be a happy individual, you have to know how to reel yourself back and not allow the other emotions to consume you. Take the Taoist approach here: appreciate what is, and accept what is not.
Myth 2: Money can buy happiness.
Before I get all preachy again, I’ll admit that I’m guilty of shop therapy. Getting something new and exciting, and fulfilling for the moment can be nearly euphoric. Especially when it’s something that you’ve been pining over, worked for, and are finally able to make that purchase and make it yours. But more likely than not, that new exciting object will become an old, forgotten thing of the past. Like a temporary high, it will cease to satisfy you. Here I am going to ask you to take the Buddhist approach: do not rely on material objects to bring you happiness.
Myth 3: Destination: Happiness.
“I’ll be happy when___”, “Things will get better when____”, does this sound like you? Happiness is not a destination. A new place, a new job, a new hobby will not completely alter your life, filling your soul with rainbows and sunshine. I mean, it certainly can help, and changing your circumstance is the first step towards achieving happiness. As it was once so eloquently stated by Jon Kabat-Zinn, writer and philosopher, “Wherever you go, there you are.” Happiness lies within yourself. Changing your circumstance isn’t enough, you must change yourself as well.
Success and happiness don’t need to be enemies.
To some, happiness is an idealistic fantasy; a hindering roadblock for a successful life. Well, hey now, what is success? When do you feel truly successful? Couldn’t success be defined as achieving your desired lifestyle and therefore achieving happiness? For some yes, for others it is a resounding no.
Many business tycoons have put happiness on the back-burner, sacrificing everything that gives their life meaning in order to grow their business, their empire, and most importantly, their bank account. The need to succeed monopolizes every other aspect of life with soul crushing force, leaving little room for luxuries like joy and bliss.
Although this isn’t the case for all workaholics. For them, working endlessly, building their dream, and growing their net worth is exactly what gives their life meaning. The key is finding a balance and learning how to prioritize the little things that make their heart sing, and including them into their daily routines.
Start with your smallest lifestyle change, and prioritize happiness.
Yes, that’s all you need to do!
There is a new trend in the workforce where primarily millennials are finding ways to pursue their passions, and building their empires by nurturing their interests. Many baby boomers sneer at this lifestyle, mostly out of resentment for not having the same opportunities; or the courage to do so.
Some people, specifically myself, cannot trudge through life mindlessly doing what is expected to fulfill my obligations. What is expected? Accept your life for the monotonous conveyor of: heinous commute, work at a job you hate, pay for the house in the town you want to leave, fantasize about the life you wish you had, cry yourself to sleep, wake up, repeat. Perhaps I’m being a bit dramatic but too many people have accepted this way of life, and I’ll tell you what, they are not happy.
They’re leaving out one very important ingredient, themselves. They let the light die out in their soul, they’ve forgotten their passions. They’ve let go of those important elements of life that make them think “THIS is the reason I’m alive!” When very simply, if they included one little ritual daily, or even weekly, setting aside time for what interests them, they can find that oasis of contentment and happiness that has been missing.
This is where things can get tricky. Because pursuing happiness can be exhausting when approached too forcefully. People tend to overwhelm themselves by taking on a bunch of new hobbies, or launching a side project for the dream business they’ve always wanted. Usually they take all of these tasks on at once and ultimately burn themselves out. This leaves them defeated, feeling as if happiness is as they say, just not in the cards.
Integrating happiness, and ultimately prioritizing it is a bit like a diet. If you take on too much at once, you’re bound to crash and give up. The key is small lifestyle changes that eventually become a part of your daily routine.
Now is the time to start prioritizing your happiness, and here’s how.
Create a list
Write down everything in your life that doesn’t satisfy you. Fold a sheet of paper down the middle and on one side label it: “What Needs to Change.” Perhaps it’s a bad habit that you can’t seem to kick, the fact that you feel bored, tired, sore, you don’t feel attractive, or you feel like your life doesn’t have any passion or meaning. Just write it all down and get it all out. Now on the other side of the paper, I want you to label it as, “Solutions.” List 3 solutions to each issue, even if they are a bit of a stretch. The idea here is that you’re searching for answers instead of ignoring the problem. If you can’t think of three solutions that’s more than okay. As long as you can come up with at least one you’re making progress.
For example: Let’s say that you wish you had more friends, or the courage to talk to people. Three possible solutions would be:
1. Say hello and start a conversation with a stranger 2 times a week.
2. Join a group or a class, surrounding yourself with like-minded people with similar interests.
3. Ask someone you think is cool on a friend date. Invite them to that class you just joined. Chances are they’ll take you up on the offer, and now you have a new acquaintance and possible friend to hang with.
Designated “Me” Time
Set aside time for yourself at least 20 minutes a day, whether it’s before or after work, or maybe on the weekend. Take this time to take a bath, meditate, go for a hike, pick up a new hobby such as watercolor or knitting.
I know you’re busy, we all are. But busy people are the best at making time for their top priorities, and you should always be number one. Give yourself a chance to replenish and recharge. Otherwise you’re just pouring from an empty cup, and it’s going to run you dry.
Reach deep down and think of an issue that concerns you. Women’s rights, food activism, animal activism, preserving nature, homelessness, etc. Whatever it is, there is a group fighting for the advancement of the cause and they need your help.
Contact them, see what you can do. It could be something as small as passing out flyers, or getting out there and giving fruit to the destitute.
You will become full with a new sense of purpose, and the knowledge that you did something to help. You’re now a part of the solution, and you’re awesome!
|||^||Buddhanet: Basic Buddhism Guide|
|||^||Personal Tao: Taoism 101: Introduction to the Tao|
|||^||Lahnna I. Catalino: Prioritizing Positivity: An Effective Approach to Pursuing Happiness?|