“Happiness will come once everything is done” – I used to tell myself.
I thought that happiness was a by product of having everything else in order. Like happiness was a beautiful scent that came after you nurtured the flowers. Or the beautiful song that came after caring for the canary. But I was wrong. Happiness is an action – caring for the canary – watering the flower – and the action is cultivating happiness.
“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”
Once I began to take responsibility for my own happiness, I noticed a big change. Happiness stopped being just out of reach, and instead became a part of my day. I set an intention around it and actively made space and time for happiness. Space as in my garden, or the beach, or yoga mat – and time as in meditation, or cooking, or writing. Happiness began to be part of my flow and now I see happiness as something I can dial up or down as I require.
When I am tired, I might lean deeper into happiness and make time and create space to gift myself some happiness. Some quiet time reading, or clearing space in the kitchen or laundry. When, first thing in the morning, I notice my thoughts drift to complaining or negativity – what might have been excuse for a “bad hair day” in the past is now cause to set an intention for the day – of gratitude, or thankfulness, or kindness. Being happy is about being prepared and putting into place a plan as the situation requires. It simply isn’t enough any more to leave happiness to random chance. Now you have this awareness with it comes the responsibility to yourself.
Being Responsible for your Happiness
I definitely know when I am happy. On the other hand, I can also tell very quickly when I am not happy. It’s part of the glorious simplicity of happiness that we know this much instantly. And working forward on the idea of simplicity, let’s see if we can put in place a simple, easy to follow plan to bring more happiness into our lives.
We begin with responsibility – such a powerful, ownership word – and taking ownership of our happiness means we are coming from a place of no excuses, and we are untangling ourselves from whatever past history or personal story that might have become caught up in our our happiness story. Whatever happened in your past does not limit where you might go in your future.
There’s also a lot of forgiveness – firstly of yourself, and then radiating outwards to everyone who may have offended or hurt or rubbed up against you in the past. By letting go of this baggage we can start our happiness journey from a place of clear, level ground – without any overhanging shadows or towering regrets blocking the view.
Happiness and Simplicity
There is also something profoundly happy about simplicity and straightforwardness – once you strip back all the artifice and pretence of so many things there lies a natural, organic beauty that approaches my ideal of pure happiness. Adding layers of complexity only adds an element of suspicion that it might be hiding something. Pure simplicity is raw and bare because it has nothing to hide and no blemishes to polish. It is simply good and enough by itself, without anything else.
When we get distracted with showing the signs of happiness, or appearing outwardly happy – we can quickly lose sight of the quiet humble contentment that actually is happiness. And this means we are so bravely flaunting our happy look that we become exhausted and spent propping up the illusion.
“one does not become happy overnight, but with patient labor, day after day. Happiness is constructed and that requires effort and time. In order to become happy, we have to learn how to change ourselves.”
L & F Cavalli-Sporza
So is there anything I can do to ensure I experience more moments of happiness and less moments of not-happiness? What I came up with was a mix from the best of buddhism, positive psychology, personal growth and spirituality. No one strand of thought has a monopoly on happiness – just as no one person has grappled with happiness and some up with a definitive recipe for attaining it. But that’s what I am attempting here.
The answer is yes and it involves setting expectations, following repeated actions and being grateful for your progress. In short happiness is a discipline, a focus and an intention – and it is definitely not somethig left to chance or luck as we might have been led to believe. Just becuase happiness is a vague feeling/emotion doesn’t mean we can’t plan and prepare around it for expected outcomes.
And no, putting a plan in place for predicted happiness doesn’t make it any less potent a form of happiness – planned and prepared happiness is just as fulfilling and satisfying as random, fall from the sky happiness.
Happiness is also not something that comes “after” – after you have achieved a goal, or reached a milestone, or mowed the lawn. There is the potential to be in a happy state before and whilst you mow the lawn, and then, after you have mowed the lawn, the choice to sustain you happiness even further.
Happiness at it’s core involves changed your self so that you are more able to be happy – and in so doing you become less prone to staying stuck and frustrated. Happiness in this respect means being open, flexible and willing to learn and evolve as you grow older – something which goes against the grain of establishing comfort zones and enasuring that things stay the same.
Happiness in this sense means not clinging or becoming too attached to the present – and being open to the changes and losses and growth that will naturally occur with time. Happiness is being in the flow – and adpating and bending with things as they change – and not clinging too tightly to things that we all know are only temporary.
Happiness is not endlessly collecting a catalogue of happy experiences or seeking gratification from every exchange as thought it is a win/loss game. Happiness is more subtle than that – it is actually about contentment and the quiet humility that goes with cbuilding your own resources for happiness.
Happiness is about connecting with your self. For me, that means connecting at a basic level with your body – as there is such an impressive scope for your body to create feel good vibratiosn that affect the mind. Eating a filling meal after a period of hunger, for example – is a perfect example of how the body can bring a complete satisfaction and feeling of happiness.
Happiness through the body through exercise and activity is simple, direct always accessible and doesn’t have the draw backs of overeating or weight gain. It is always a great starting point if you can find a physical activity that brings your body awareness and you enjoy thoroughly. This means you will always have a positive, healthy way to escape the treadmill of your mind and get some short term body happiness.
Once you have access to body happiness – the feel good hormones, the feeling of being spent, the burning off of anxiety feelings, the deep muscle soreness that is strangely relaxing – you can begin to cultivate othewr areas of happiness.
Happiness through meditation is a lifelong pursuit of gently waving away a thought to instead relish the temporary void. And in that temporary void, actually relish that the experience of void itself is actually not void -m as it is an experience and so become lost in the endless mirror and reflection of waving away and allowing back in – wave away, allow back – endlessly. With a calm, patient resolve that cultivates acceptance surrender and crystal clarity.