Updated: Oct 12, 2020
Everyone wants to be happy. Whatever that means because really there is no straightforward definition of what being happy is. When someone asks us “are you happy?”, what exactly is being asked? Or when someone asks you, what do you say? Is happiness the same thing as being content? How long does happiness last? What's more important? Happiness or meaning? Should we strive to have it at all?
According to Epicurus, an individual who is not satisfied with a little, is satisfied with nothing. Jane Austen once said “A large income is the best recipe for happiness”. According to Bhagavad Gita, mental peace is a prerequisite to true happiness.So which one is it? How about you? What do you say? Okay, I realize it's not that deep for most people. Perhaps it's as simple as, either we feel happy or we don't. Why complicate it? Well, that's no fun so I decided to have a deeper look at it.
You've probably heard that happiness is not found, it is created.I believe happiness is a skill that we all can work on. The problem is that we just don’t do it. I accept that converting knowledge into action is a task, even the experts fail to do.I feel our mind is the most important muscle in our body. So, I decided to learn more about “Gym for Mind” and took up the one week challenge. Here’s what happened...
How to plant the three seeds of happiness ?
The first seed that you can plant is to be a trustworthy person. If we want to live in a world of more trust in a community, have a group of friends you trust, it is going to have to start with you. It starts from a very elementary stage, that is simply doing what you say and saying what you do. The root of trust is as simple as this.
So, how does showing trust or being trustworthy bring happiness? When I am with people whom I trust, I am not distressed, more relaxed which brings me joy and makes me happy. This is not just a mere observation but an actual fact backed by the statistics.
The second seed is freedom to be you. It also starts with trust, which is trusting yourself to be you. No matter what your talent is, it is important you value it. This gives you an extraordinary base to choose the life that corresponds to who you are. We should educate ourselves that no matter what your role is, it is still important to society.
When you are free to choose what you want to do in life without other people judging you, which majorly include parents, they very often project their own ambitions on their children. Many of us seek comfort in not having to make such difficult choices and avoid conflicts with them. This makes us feel restricted, anxious, burdened,etc.
So, what do we do? Find that dream, plant that seed,we can make sure that next time when we see someone fighting the battle of being free to choose their life, we do not judge, instead we support and encourage them.
The last seed is about finding purpose. This is closely related to the second seed that is doing something that you're passionate about. Planting the seeds of your dreams gives you a feeling of purpose. This makes us feel content in life. Goals are how happiness happens. Lack of purpose comes from two things, it can come from not doing what you like in life but it can also come from not feeling a part of anything, being a sort of victim to your own existence.
The point is if you don't plant any seeds, you are sure that nothing will happen. It doesn't actually matter how long it takes for your seed to grow, what matters is that you've come closer to becoming you. This alone will add significant happiness to your life.
The Factor Five
I believe happiness is not uninterrupted moments of pleasure or accumulation of many things. It is the true, bonafide, authentic happiness which unleashes your god given talents to positively influence this world.
Why is it that we miss happiness even after getting into our desired college, getting the good grades, we get the car, we get the spouse, these once in a lifetime opportunities,etc? According to research, happiness is found before success. In reality, we have been taught the backwards of this formula.
Experts say relationships have the deepest and richest impact on our level of happiness more so than any other factors combined. So, I am going to tell you from what I learned about the five key people that you need in your life in order to connect and catch happiness. Those five people need to be your cheerleader, a mentor, a coach, a friend and a peer.
Even one cheerleader can change the trajectory of your entire life. When you fail to believe in yourself, they believe in you, they root for you.
The next person you need to connect with is a mentor. They are someone who will be in your life, their primary goal is to point you in the right direction. They are someone who is willing to share the information and also someone with the capacity to point in a direction that you want to go.
A coach is meant to make you a little uncomfortable so that you can maximize your potential and make things happen. They also make us realize that the position we want in this team of what we call “life” won’t profit us or might not make us happy. Once we yield to the perspective of our coach, we understand which position makes our game stronger and stronger steel.
We all know the importance of having one good friend, who knows your truest heart’s desire. Your peer is the one who helps you out in those formal social situations because imagine how much we couldn’t do if we didn’t have them in our life.
Many people get confused between the two, take for an example, if your work is a catastrophe and you discuss it with your friend, all they can think of is whether this job is making you happy or not? Because as a friend, they are limited in being able to understand what we are experiencing. While having a peer enables us to keep our head in the game and not quit. They are someone with whom we lick our wounds and move on.
Most of us can’t catch happiness because we are not connected to the right people who inspire us to go after what we truly want and get it. If you want to move from good to great, you must be connected to your Factor Five!
The unstoppable power of resilience
We know adversity does not discriminate. If you are alive, you are going to have to or you already had to deal with tough times. Resilience is not a fixed trait, it’s also not elusive that some people have and some people don’t. In reality, it requires very ordinary processes and just the willingness to give them a go.
I think we all have moments in life, where our life path splits and the journey we thought we were going down takes some terrible direction that we never anticipated and we certainly didn’t want it to happen. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you think there’s no way I am coming back from this, I urge you to lean into these two strategies which I chose to imply on myself and it worked quite well.
The first strategy is to accept that suffering is part of life, it does not mean that we welcome it in, we do not want to be delusional. Just when the tough times come, we should remind ourselves that suffering is a part of every human existence and knowing this stops you from feeling discriminated against. It also makes us realize that this is our life now, so either we sink or we swim.
The second strategy is to choose carefully where you select your attention. The decision to choose realistically appraising situations and typically managing to focus on the things that we can change and and somehow accept the things we cannot change. This is a vital learnable skill for resilience. We’re hardwired to notice threats and weaknesses, negative emotions stick to us like velcro, whereas positive emotions and experiences seem to bounce off like teflon. This is the reason why our stress response is most of the times dialed up.
Resilient people don’t diminish the negative but they also have worked out a way of tuning in to the good. Don’t lose what you have to what you lost. In your new brave world, try to find things that you are grateful for.
Keep a gratitude journal
Why is that we fail to have gratitude or why we feel keeping a journal for gratitude is useless? I think making a mental note of the things we are grateful for in life is not as good as writing it down in a journal, we often underestimate the impact of practicing gratitude. Sometimes, we surround ourselves with people who complain or we are those people who complain and we end up seeing only the challenges and negative aspects of our life.
When you see possibilities what you create more is opportunities, it’s just the matter of focus and what you focus on, it amplifies. That’s why having a space for gratitude is important and for me it was keeping a gratitude journal. These are some ideas which I follow and I hope you connect with them too.
I recommend keeping a gratitude journal either once a day or once a week. I did it everyday, mostly 15 minutes before going to sleep. This was also a great substitute for a phone screen. Doing it before sleep helps you sleep better. It allows you to offload your thoughts and sleep with positive thoughts you’ve banked and wake up next day with positive affirmations in your mind.
Write five things that you are grateful for that day or that week. The interesting thing about gratitude is that it should be specific and genuine. Unless, you don’t genuinely connect to that one thing you feel grateful for then don’t write it down. The more specific you are the better because this will train your mind into noticing these subtle things which made you feel happy or grateful.
Here’s a little sample of what Oprah first wrote in her gratitude journal
Now I didn’t go into the challenge thinking I was going to come out on the other end feeling like a much happier version of myself. But I went into this with an open mind, curious to know how I would feel being in a state of mind where I devoted my part of the day to instill habits which I mentioned earlier. And quite frankly, it felt good. This has brought me a sense of calm, peace and almost happiness. During these exercises, any stress or problem I have dealt with has suddenly felt much smaller.
However, those positive emotions didn’t last for very long once I was done practicing for that day. Also, by no means I mean that those mind exercises were flawless, which is normal because taking out time to practice being a happy person is not a norm for most people.
So, would I recommend these exercises? Absolutely. I am also very curious to know as to what the long term effects could be for me, after a month or two. I will keep you updated on this platform. I would also love to hear from you and learn more about your experiences and outcomes from these exercises. Please share in the comments, let’s chat!!