Last week I wrote about aspects of happiness that are hard, that require work or temporary difficulties to obtain. I promised to follow that up with “Happiness the Easy Way“ so to speak.
To me, this is the aspect of happiness that simply requires being. That philosophy of letting go of the striving, to simply be in the present moment. To enjoy right now, and let happiness and contentment come to us. So often, in our busy world and lives, we are constantly functioning in a planning state of mind – always thinking about our to-do list, the next thing on our agenda, problems to solve and stuff to do. In this way, we are really living in future moments – not being really present in this moment, experiencing it fully and mindfully. I wrote about this in my Meditation Project; this is why meditation helps with this.
So perhaps it’s more that being in the present moment is simple, though not necessarily easy.
However, my point is that this path to happiness and contentment not only doesn’t require thinking, reading, planning, work and effort – but actually thrives in the absence of those things. This is much more common in Eastern cultures than Western cultures. The Thai have a common expression that really encapsulates this: mai pen lai. It literally means “never mind,” but not so much in the sense we say that, as in “don’t worry about it.” The meaning is more about taking it out of your mind, to stop thinking, and instead simply feel what you feel and be where you are, and be okay with those things without analyzing it all.
All of this puts happiness at a completely internal level – and if happiness is as internal as we can make it, then external situations, problems and people cease to affect it. Happiness is determined more by our state of mind, reactions and perceptions than by any external event; and only we ourselves can ever make ourselves happy.
Think about it – struggles or a tragedy can certainly send us into depression and even a despairing frame of mind; and great success usually gives us feelings of elation. But do either of those states, caused by something that happens outside yourself, ever last forever? Of course not. We spend our lives sort of going from one to another, and everything in between, and most scientists and psychologists agree that we return to a sort of overall “baseline” of happiness. Which begs the question:
If we operate from a certain baseline of happiness, dipping up or down due to external events but always returning to that baseline – then can the baseline be modified? Set to a higher level?
That’s basically what this Happiness Project is all about – and what many philosophies, such as the Buddhist philosophies, and books and research look at. And I personally believe, from my own experience, that implementing certain mindsets and thoughtful patterns can help this dramatically. Most of those who answered my questions on happiness agreed:
“Happiness is your responsibility. Period. And in order to give it to others, you must cultivate it in yourself. I have trained myself to silently remind myself that no one can steal my joy unless I allow it.” ~Kelley
“Sometimes we don’t realize that WE can get in the way of our own happiness. What society deems will make us happy isn’t what life is all about. Happiness comes from within and loving ourselves first, and then we have love to give the world.” ~Janet
“I am much more aware that external things in my life, both the good and the bad, are ephemeral. This helps me appreciate the good things in my life more, because I take them for granted less. Likewise, when bad things come into my life they don’t get me down as much, because I know these things too shall eventually pass.” ~Keith
“I have found it quite easy to stay in a state of happiness since I have focused on being in the moment and taking responsibility for choosing to be happy regardless of what is happening around me. I am always just happy as I choose to be happy. Yes, some things in life are sad or frustrating but they do not make me less happy or unhappy. I just do not allow it. The only person that can make someone happy is that person.” ~Jefre
“I get happiest when it comes to me. I find doing something to make me happy is usually disappointing.” ~Forrest
“Happiness is not some magical equation that one day you will achieve. When I just let good things come to me and take them in, I tend to be much more happy than when I focus too much on whether or not I am happy and what I need to do to change things. On the flip side, when there are times when I’m not feeling happy, if I just allow myself to move through it, I find that I come back to happiness much more easily. Basically, I learned to stop wallowing in my sorrows and as a result, I have fewer of them.” ~Heather
“We have to choose happiness. Every day. Even if life is trying to choose differently for us.” ~Leslie
In the end, we are usually about as happy as we make up our minds to be.