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Don’t Focus on Happiness. Focus on Self Actualization

Don’t Focus on Happiness. Focus on Self Actualization

As a child, whenever anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always replied, “The happiest person in the world.” Adults probably saw me as either someone starting too early on a path to self-actualization or as just a really strange kid.

Most of us are in pursuit of happiness, yet most base happiness on conditions. For example, many envision they will be happy if they were wealthy.

I have met some of the wealthiest people yet they suffered from depression, loneliness and anxiety.

I have traveled across the poorest countries and met some of the most impoverished individuals. Yet, they frequently laughed and seemed to enjoy life, despite owning almost nothing.

True happiness is never in pursuit of happiness. It is a state of existence, irrespective of circumstances and this is what focusing instead on self-actualization will empower you to do.

What is self-actualization?

The psychologist Abraham Maslow created the Hierarchy of Needs [1] theory, which depicts a five-tier pyramid of human necessities. It begins with the most basic needs at the base and progresses to the top tier.

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The model consists of:

Tier 1. Biological and Physiological needs – food, drink, air, shelter, warmth, sleep.

Tier 2. Security needs – protection from elements, safety, security, job, stability, freedom from fear.

Tier 3. Social needs – love, family, friendship, intimacy, belonging, affection.

Tier 4. Esteem needs – achievement, accomplishment, self-worth, self-respect, respect from others.

Tier 5. Self-Actualization needs – self-fulfilment, personal growth and peak experiences.

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What are the characteristics of people who have experienced self-actualization?

  • Unafraid of the unknown; they accept and embrace it.
  • Instead of following what society dictates, they remain true to themselves. They are not sheep, but they do not reject everything like the average rebel.
  • Despite being unconventional, they are not deliberately so in a way to shock or cause a reaction.
  • Accept themselves as they are, along with their flaws. They, however, recognize and work towards changing negative habits.
  • Not dependent on the company of others. They are self-sufficient and can be happy being alone.
  • More interested in the pursuit of deeper and more meaningful connections. As a result, they have deep relationships but only with a few people. That said, they have affection for all people and are not judgemental.
  • Instead of lamenting about problems, they focus more on finding positive solutions.
  • Practice gratitude and appreciate the smaller things in life.
  • Have a strong moral sense of right and wrong.
  • While most people focus on the lower tiers in the ‘Hierarchy of Needs,’ they are more focused on personal and meaningful growth.
  • Not driven by social pressures or superficial needs.
  • Search for a deeper meaning of life.
  • Despite it all, they are not perfect and they are happy with that.

What are the benefits of self-actualization?

Our society is governed by pressure and competitiveness which are exacerbated by TV, newspapers, magazines, movies, billboards, the Internet, friends, family, etc. on an hourly basis.

By striving for self actualization [2], you can positively manage your life, happiness, and dreams. Your anxieties, stresses, and worries will be recognized for what they are: man-made fears, which mostly exist in the future. Anything that hasn’t yet happened (or may not happen) is not worth worrying about.

How to achieve self-actualization

Stop comparing yourself to others

Don’t measure your worth based on what other people are doing.

Maybe one of your friends became a high-flying lawyer and another friend settled into the perfect married life with children. And perhaps you haven’t found your dream career or partner yet, but maybe that gives you the freedom to go travelling. Something neither your lawyer friend nor married friend would be able to do.

Remember that everyone’s path is different and everyone has days where they feel the same as you.

Stop using social media

A study revealed that 25% of participants [3] who used social media for an average of an hour a day, showed very high signs of depression.

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Social media promotes depression and jealousy. It creates indirect peer pressure. People feel inadequate by how others are (seemingly) over-achieving. They then feel pressured to validate how happy their lives are also by updating statuses or photos accordingly. It becomes a never-ending cycle where no one is ever truly being himself or herself.

Don’t log in as often or if you are truly strong, delete it. Those who are your real friends will know how to stay in touch.

This too shall pass

No matter how stressed or worried you feel, remember that it is temporary and nothing ever remains the same.

Be true to yourself

Follow your own sense of purpose and love yourself (even your flaws).

And you can still keep adopting positive habits, for instance, if you have been trying to become fitter or to stop smoking.

Experience life in the here and now

Sometimes it may feel like you are driving in the dark, with no brakes or lights. But one of the most beautiful things about life is its unpredictability. In that darkness, you never know what person, place or moment you may encounter with each turn.

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Be open-minded and welcome that darkness because even if the ride is bumpy, it’s still ok because you are still moving forward.

Realize you can be happy now

Many people think they will only be happy when they become wealthy, have the perfect partner, or the successful career. But they may make millions and still have anxiety. They may find “the one” and still feel depressed.

The only one capable of making you happy is you. Don’t sabotage your own happiness by imposing conditions on it.

Practice gratitude

It is easy to forget the beautiful things to be grateful for. Maybe there is a breathtaking full moon outside your window or someone did an unselfish act of kindness for you this week.

Have integrity

We all know right from wrong yet sadly, not everyone will choose to do what is right. You are responsible for not only your actions, but also for how those actions will affect those around you–positively or negatively.

Self-development

Practicing mindfulness and meditation. Meditating for as little as twenty minutes a day will inspire changes to your physical, emotional and mental state.

Final Thoughts

Did I grow up to be the happiest person in the world? Sometimes I think I did. For the times I think I did not, I think that is still ok too. Life is meant to challenge us, and there is still beauty in that.

Did I grow up to fulfil my own self-actualization? Sometimes I think I did. For the times I think I did not, I think that is still ok too. I will still keep striving to grow, learn and evolve into the best “me” that I can be. Life is the best unwritten script we can get; never underestimate where the adventure of those pages might lead to next.

Reference

More by this author

J.S. von Dacre

Writer at Lifehack

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Published on November 28, 2018

How to Do Meditation at Home to Calm Your Anxious Mind

How to Do Meditation at Home to Calm Your Anxious Mind

The woman in yoga pants sitting in a lotus position atop a rocky cliff, overlooking a valley draped in fog — this is the glamorized version of meditation you’ll come across as you search. Yet if you’re seeking meditation to calm your mind, a fantastic setting with no distractions is rarely available.

So how to do meditation?

The truth about meditation is it’s an everyday practice for anybody. You could be a mountain climber or you could be an accountant — either way, your home is just as good a place for meditation as any.

Are you seeking to corral your racing thoughts and relieve a sense of unease, awkwardness, or uncertainty? Look to home meditation to cultivate a laid-back, creative, confident, and organized frame of mind. According to extensive scientific research, meditation relieves stress and anxiety, decreases blood pressure, improves sleep, and improves your ability to pay attention. [1]

From start to finish, this article will give you quick, easy steps to follow so that you can meditate at home regularly. You’ll begin by assessing, identifying and altering things that need to change in your home environment. You’ll end by understanding the basics of meditation so that you can let yourself do what you already know how to do deep down in the hidden reality of your mind.

You’re ready to let your mind be, and just be, in your own home — let’s begin.

1. Find the Right Space in Your Home

Where is your right space for meditation at home? Is it in your basement, your bedroom, your living room, or your study?

The right space will be one with the least distractions built in to its purpose. In that case, it may be your bedroom. If you’ve set up your bedroom to be a place for sleep and only sleep, it will lend itself well to meditation.

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The right space will also be a reasonably spacious one. Although comfort is not your goal, you need room to sit. Choose a space that is private, spacious, and quiet. If you don’t have a space in your home like this, create one. Free it from clutter and get it ready for you to meditate there any time.

Ultimately, your right space is one you feel comfortable meditating in, the space you can enter with no other expectations.

2. Improve the Feng Shui in Your Home and Meditation Space

Feng shui means “wind and water.” It’s the ancient Chinese art of placement.[2]

Feng shui improves harmony with nature. Adherents to the principles of feng shui believe all things have energy (chi). The focus of feng shui is to send negative chi (sha) out of the space and attract positive chi (yun).

Here’s the truth about feng shui: it’s not complicated or hard. The following will influence feng shui positively in your home and meditation space:

  • Living things, such as plants
  • Beautiful objects, such as sculptures or even a well-polished piece of driftwood
  • Mirrors in symmetrical placement with the lines in a room
  • Mellifluous sounds, such as trickling water or wind chimes
  • Furniture away from walls
  • A centerpiece, such as a small table with books or an ornate lamp on it
  • Incense or something else that smells good
  • A lack of clutter and an attention to organization that emphasizes the usefulness, purpose, and essential being of each item in your house

Given that feng shui is connected to Taoism and Buddhism, it will complement the meditative atmosphere you want to cultivate in your home.

3. Eliminate Pervasive Distractions That Can Harm Your Wellbeing

In part, meditation is about accepting the existence of distractions. When you meditate, you don’t judge and assign a positive or a negative value to distractions — the ticking of a clock, an itch, the barking of a dog — you let them occur and let them dissipate like waves.

However, in the same way that feng shui removes objects that attract negative chi, there are certain types of distractions that don’t belong in your meditative space. You must remove them.

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In a survey of 1,700 people who visited social media sites at least 30 times per week, 30 percent reported high levels of sleep disturbance and 25 percent presented symptoms of depression. [3]

Those individuals who experience sleep disturbances or mental health issues due to social media are not setting boundaries between themselves and their connected devices.

Part of learning how to meditate at home is learning how and when to set boundaries between yourself and your connected devices and social media accounts. If you need your phone for a timed meditation practice, but you normally receive social media notifications on your phone, set it on Do Not Disturb or Airplane mode during your meditation time.

4. Flow into Meditation Through Time

Next, set aside a time for meditation each day. It’s right to be structured and disciplined about your meditation time.

Buddhist monks whose lives revolve around meditation are very structured and organized with their tasks each day. Structure provides the balance your being needs. Once you are meditating, your mind has no need for time. Outside of your given meditation time, you are completing tasks essential to the wellbeing of yourself and your home.

Consider meditating as the sun rises. This is a quiet and contemplative time of the day when it is natural to set your day’s balance through meditation.

5. Recognize the Rightness of Doing Nothing

At home, you’re probably used to always doing something. When you do meditation at home, you are being, which is doing something and nothing simultaneously.

Maryville University points out that successful people unplug by doing nothing. [4] Not only this, but they set the right expectations for the time during which they will do nothing.

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We oftentimes look forward to the future by expecting something to happen and by expecting something of ourselves. To meditate from home, look to that time and that space by expecting nothing. You will not do any chores. You will not catch up on work. You will do nothing but meditate for a certain amount of time each day.

This might sound crazy, but in taking on meditation from home, you’re not expecting yourself to improve and become a better person. As Ram Dass put it, you are expecting yourself to be here now.

6. Choose from the Incredible Variety of Meditative Practices

As I outlined in my post on types of meditation, there are many different and not-so-different types of meditation from which to choose.

Many beginners find it right to choose guided meditation, for which there are apps, videos, and audio tapes available.

If you are not necessarily a beginner but are merely moving your meditative practice into the home, you can facilitate a practice such as Nada Yoga — sound meditation — by placing a fountain in your space or listening to ambient alpha wave music.

If you’re used to meditating outside of your home — perhaps you are drawn to the outdoors because of the sounds of nature — a practice like Nada Yoga can help you transition into your home space.

7. Understand You Can Meditate Any Time at Home

What if I told you to throw out all of the tips that came before this? Sounds crazy but that is how radical mindfulness meditation really is. We don’t think of it as radical because it is now ingrained in our popular discourse.

Mindfulness meditation does start as a sitting meditation practice. It goes like this:

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  1. Sit comfortably and close your eyes.
  2. Focus on breathing. Inhale through your nose slowly and exhale slowly.
  3. As distracting thoughts arise, don’t judge them and don’t hang onto them. Let each thought go as you focus on breathing.
  4. Treat all physical sensations and feelings in the same way you do thoughts: register them, then let them go, returning to breathing.
  5. Extend this practice to everyday activity, remaining “in the moment” of the body’s activity with each new breath.

As you practice mindfulness around your home, note the physical characteristics of the things in themselves. Note physical sensations: sounds, smells, textures, appearances, tastes. Stop now and then and do a body scan from head to toe, noting what each section is doing and how it’s feeling.

Note thoughts that come and the emotions attached to them: let them go. Concentrate on the breath and the physical activities — including the details of the objects with which you’re interacting.

You’ll notice that your home will lend itself to a meditative state when things are in order. This is where true feng shui originates. You will naturally sense how the arrangement of things affects the energy in a room.

Clutter will disappear because mindfulness tells you to dispose of unnecessary things. Plants will bloom. Birds will make their nests in your backyard. Your home will smell pleasing and people will naturally be attracted to it and your presence.

You’ve Reached the Beginning and the End

Once you are able to do mindfulness meditation even as you are attending to the normal and abnormal requirements of your home, the mundane and the unusual, you are at both the beginning and the end.

You are at the beginning because meditation never ends. Continue setting aside time each day to do sitting meditation in the space you’ve set aside. Continue practicing mindfulness as you attend to the energy of your house, your own energy, and the energy of those around you.

You are at the end because you grasped what it means to do meditation at home: it means letting go of cares and concerns and being in your home as you attend to the right tasks. The right tasks are those necessary for being in your home.

As you sit in your home, rise, open the door and you leave, you are calm in your mind because you are home.

Featured photo credit: Simon Rae via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Healthline: 12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation
[2]Marquette University: Feng Shui: The Wind and Water
[3]Rutgers University: Social Media and Well-Being
[4]Maryville University: How Successful People Unplug

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