If you were to survey people from across the globe, I have a hunch that most people’s end-goal in life is simply to be happy. Ah yes, that elusive thing- happiness, a place of bliss untouched by worry. If achieving happiness were so easy then we’d all be floating on cloud 9, but it seems that mental health awareness has reached a pinnacle now more than ever. So how do we become calm and carefree?
Happiness is not something you can get by doing any one thing. There’s no supplement or class or workout or food or mantra that will break your bad habits and bring peace of mind. It’s an accumulation of consistent, daily choices that create the contentment that we seek. So often as people, we desire to change. We usually possess the self-awareness to know what we need to change, but it’s implementing the execution where we fall short. And here lies the happiness caveat: doing the things that build a healthy well-being, reduce anxiety, bring balance and clarity (things that ultimately lead to happiness) actually really suck doing!
Finding happiness is about getting real with yourself and getting over yourself. It’s about learning to not indulge your ego and impulses but, instead, create a larger meaning for your choices. To paraphrase the Dalai Lama, happiness requires discipline; a strengthening of a weakness in the mind. “Choosing happiness” is essentially choosing better for yourself every single day.
Choices that create lasting happiness are things like eating foods that help your body function optimally or waking up a little earlier. It’s avoiding wasted scrolling on your phone. It’s walking in fresh air when you don’t feel like moving. It’s putting yourself in bed instead of becoming numb to Netflix. It’s honoring your therapy appointments. It’s diligently counteracting negative thoughts with positive ones and reminding yourself that you are stronger than the present moment. It’s reaching out to people, fostering relationships, and having a human connection.
All of these things sound obvious, but most of the time, in the moment, we don’t want to do these things. Cultivating happiness requires you to become the authority of yourself by learning to parent that lazy, whiny ego and forgoing immediate comfort to reap the benefits of long term peace. Taking accountability for the quality of your life is something only you can do.
We’ve reached a point as a society where the pace of daily life has never been more frenzied, so it’s no wonder that our inability to keep up with the incessant demands can show up as panic attacks, burn-out, and an intangible sense of unfulfillment. So much of the way we live (glued to technology) is unnatural to our human nature. We have to untangle from these conventional thought patterns and return to our roots, which are actually pretty simplistic.
It’s not going to be easy. Changing your habits is a process of re-wiring the brain, and working out the mind is much like working out the body. You might grunt and sweat and shake and burn and feel sore, but you’re doing it for a higher purpose. You want to live a life that reflects the best version of yourself. As a yoga/meditation teacher, I’m a walking bag of inspirational quotes. One phrase I’ve always enjoyed is, “you get good at what you do.”
Your behavior creates habits and patterns of thought. You go on autopilot and feel stuck, like life is happening to you with little control. The wonderful thing is realizing that the choice to divert and forge a different path is entirely in your power. Living a full life requires your active participation, and where you focus your time strengthens that thing. Do you want to strengthen qualities of apathy or pessimism or procrastination? Or do you want intuition and grit to flourish?
So much of happiness involves delayed gratification. Whether you’re trying to improve your sleep hygiene, make exercise a habit, broaden your social circle, or eat for better energy and focus, the right answer is oftentimes the hard answer. It takes a just do it mentality. Remaining patient in the process, persistent in your behavior, and kind to yourself- no matter what happens- are key tools on the road to unwavering happiness.
To spin off of that, “unwavering happiness” doesn’t even exist. Life is fluid and messy, and expecting to be happy all the time is unrealistic. Remember that instant pleasure doesn’t usually lead to sustained satisfaction. Experiencing discomfort creates the perspective needed to appreciate when things are well. Becoming flexible in your perception of what true happiness looks like can help you relax and live fully present in each moment, good or bad.
~Erin Hackbarth, LulaFit Fitness Instructor
The Art of Happiness, by Howard Cutler and the Dalai Lama
Deliciously Ella podcasts
-How our Brains Control our Happiness
-Lessons in Happiness from Around the World
-Happiness is a Choice