If you’re like most of us, you’re seeking real happiness. We all have moments of temporary happiness – like when something nice happens to us, or we get that thing we’ve been wanting, or we succeed in a venture. But what about real, lasting happiness that is not dependent on external factors?
What IS real happiness anyway?
Defining happiness is not easy. It’s personal, and if we’re asked, it’s hard to express it. We can say, “I’m happy” or “I’m not happy” but how does one measure or speak of happiness?
Psychologist Ed Diener, author of Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth, describes “subjective well-being” (happiness) as a combination of life satisfaction and on a day-to-day basis, having more positive emotions than negative emotions.
Researcher Martin Seligman, author of Authentic Happiness, defines happiness in terms of its components:
- Pleasure: the good feelings
- Engagement: being engaged in life – having stability (usually referring to financial), good friends, loving family, hobbies and interests
- Meaning: our sense of purpose, and using our talents and strengths to fulfill our purpose
Happiness can be momentary or it can be long-term, as in “I’ve lived a happy life.” It may surprise you – or not – that a happy life has nothing to do with the terrible day you had yesterday or the fear you feel today. It’s an overall baseline happiness. In general, if you’re a happy person, the good outweighs the bad.
Happiness is not feeling great all the time. Feeling good is a byproduct of engagement and meaning.
Happiness is not wealth or success. These can be temporary. It’s the rare person whose lifestyle and stress level doesn’t rise along with their income and success. The only exception to the “money doesn’t buy happiness” rule is when you spend that money on experiences with other people.
Happiness is not the absence of pain; although we often mask pain with alcohol, sex, drugs, entertainment, escaping on exotic vacations and extreme sports. But are we “happy” in the absence of pain? Not necessarily. Sometimes, we’re not in pain but we’re bored, unfulfilled, complacent… those aren’t happiness!
Happiness is not something to seek or strive for. It just IS. Or, isn’t. Your choice.
“If you correct your mind, the rest of your life will fall into place.” – Lao Tzu
If you correct your mind, happiness will follow.
So how can you “correct your mind” so that happiness will follow?
Meditate. Meditation physically changes the brain. A Massachusetts General Hospital study looked at the brain scans of 16 people before and after they participated in an 8-week course in mindfulness meditation. After the course, the regions of the brain associated with compassion and self-awareness grew in size and activity and the parts associated with stress shrank and exhibited less activity.
To avoid becoming less happy as you get older – to avoid becoming more rigid, fearful, repetitive negative thought patterns – meditate.
I know, I know, it sounds like meditation is the answer to happiness, right? Well, it may not be the answer, but it is most definitely the doorway and an indispensable tool.
Best of all, meditation feels good. The bliss that you get in a state of very deep meditation is unlike any happiness that we can achieve in the physical experience on Earth. What better way to start the day? Start the day off meditating and you start the day off happy. The rest of your day will flow beautifully.
Your inner bliss can be nurtured and encouraged. It’s about getting in touch with a simple inner pleasure of doing something you love, enjoying the moments, keeping your sense of wonder and curiosity, and realizing that you don’t need external sources to make you happy.
You make you happy.
Whatever your situation, you can change it. Inside you, you can reinterpret. Shift your perspective. Meditation will help you do this… every day, to greater and greater happiness.