Happiness is something that has always been talked about. Finding it seems to be everyone's life goal, and many of us make one simple mistake. We look for happiness outside ourselves. Happiness may come from the outside world, but it has many limitations if it does. One of them is that we can't "control" that type of happiness. It slips through our fingers before we know it, and very often we are left with disappointment and regrets that maybe we did something wrong to lose it.
Ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said: "Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power". Having achieved this power, we are capable not only to find happiness, or should I rather say to finally be able to see it, but also keep it. Happiness that is cultivated from within depends on us, and on us only. It doesn't depend on external factors. It's unconditional.
Hot to find it? In this post I will share with you how I practice being happy daily, even if things don't go my way. I am not perfect at it, but the more I practice, the more skillful I become.
Gratitude is one of the best ways to cultivate happiness. When we are grateful for the things that we already have in our lives, it keeps us from focusing on what we don't have. Gratitude is a conscious act, it's a choice that we make every day. Many of us think they have nothing to be grateful for, and certainly there can be terrible situations when it's nearly impossible to be grateful, but oftentimes we as humans complain about small things that bother us. We focus on the negative aspects of our current situation, instead of trying to change our way of thinking. It's possible, but it's easier not to even try.
I like the quote by Eckhart Tolle about gratitude: "Acknowledging the good that you already have is the foundation for all abundance". One of the best ways to make gratitude a habit is to regularly write down everything you are grateful for. I also sometimes use "thank you" as my mantra during my meditation time. If you pray, it can be a perfect time to express gratitude to God or to universe.
Love is something people need not only to be happy but even to simply live. Yes, I have said it. Love is more than just a beautiful word. It represents deep connection between us and other beings. It gives us purpose; it enriches us not only on mental but also on physical level. Of course, I am talking about the "right" kind of love, that is different from obsession and dependency.
We need other people to be able to explore ourselves. We need to explore and love ourselves to be able to love others. For some of us love can be something hard to cultivate. Many people in today's world have different values from our nature, therefore for others it's difficult to find someone to connect with. When I said other beings, I did it with intention. If we take care of animals, we cultivate love as well. Human connection would probably be more powerful, but some of us can't have that for some reason, so we find it in our pets. I think it should be a living being though. Love for work is important, but you will see it my next point.
To cultivate love I try to be more understanding and caring towards people in my life. I must make a conscious effort (again) to listen and be present when I am talking to someone I care about. Love is a skill, it's not always a feeling. It can be practiced regularly. The more you practice it, the better you become at it. Same applies to self-love.
One of the most important aspects of happiness for me is acceptance. I think about it every time I am in pain or anxious, or even depressed. Acceptance isn't truly possible without gratitude and love (self-love). It's not about giving up, it's about abandoning resistance. When we resist whatever comes into our lives that we have no control over, it causes mental and physical distress. Acceptance is key to freedom from that distress.
I practice acceptance by practicing gratitude, focusing on small things that I have or that I can do, and meditating. Meditation requires focus and letting go of the control as well as breathing through discomfort. Yoga can also help.
Doing what I love without expectation
I completely understand that it's not always possible to love what you do for a living. Even though we get many messages about how we should find a job that we enjoy, it can be hard, and nearly impossible sometimes. But it's important to find something that you can enjoy doing even if it doesn't bring money, and to do it regularly. It's work in progress for me as well. Many things that I do enjoy still take an effort, like writing for this blog for example, coloring and journaling. However, I find myself the happiest when I am able to create. I think cooking is creating as well, I love cooking.
The most important thing is not to expect anything in return from doing what you enjoy. Lao Tzu said: "Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity". Need for approval and instant gratification can easily define our society. It's not always bad, but it may keep us from doing what we love. When we start thinking about what others will think about our work, we lose ourselves. True happiness comes when we can detach from our creation, and let it be as is, without our own judgement. It's hard to achieve without reminding ourselves every day that we are not what we do.
I honestly believe that happiness doesn't mean perfect life. It simply means that there is a meaning in our lives, the meaning we assign to whatever we do. It can be as simple or as complicated as you choose it to be, but gratitude, love and acceptance bring us closer to finding the meaning.