If you think about it, we should be the happiest species on the planet!
We have so much more available to us than any previous generation. We have stuff that saves us time and effort, (like washing machines and cars), stuff to endlessly entertain us, (like movies, PlayStation, and shopping malls), and more information available to us, about any possible subject, at our fingertips, than at any other time in history.
Much of this ‘stuff’ is even marketed to us with the belief that when we purchase or consume it, we will become happy!
So, why is it that the number of people on anti-depressants, tranquilizers, and drugs, continues to rise?
Have you considered that maybe it’s our perceptions of happiness, and what brings us happiness, that may be wrong?
So….. what could be wrong with the way we are pursuing happiness?
“One happiness scatters a thousand sorrows” – Chinese proverb
Is There A Secret To Happiness?
The secret to YOUR happiness is finding WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY! Happiness is subjective and therefore is different for every one of us. Therefore, our lives should not be wasted pursuing stuff that does not align with our personal goals and dreams. So, if you spend time thinking about what makes you happy, and then incorporate these things into a large part of your daily lives , you are sure to live a happy life…. (it’s not really a secret to learn that we should pursue our own goals and dreams instead of those that others expect of us!)
What are we taught about how to live a happy life?
There have always been happy people and unhappy people, and people who are happy some of the time but not all the time. This will never change, as will the fact that most people, when asked, would be very willing to be happy for ‘more’ of the time each day.
Modern society has conditioned us to tie happiness to factors that are external to ourselves. By this, I mean that we make our level of happiness dependent on other people’s opinions, accumulating the ‘right stuff’, our achievements, and having lots of money!
Unfortunately, none of these things can bring about deep meaningful satisfaction with life or lasting happiness. This is because we cannot control what other people are thinking, fashion dictates that we always have to upgrade our ‘stuff’ for it to be acceptable, and even if we achieve our goals we will just create more goals to pursue. The cycle is endless and just keeps repeating.
What about the money?
It is, more often than not, considered by those without vast sums of spare cash lying around that having lots of money is the best antidote to people’s unhappiness. However, the world contains a significant amount of wealthy people that are also not happy. And many of those who have spent their time and energy amassing fortunes have gone to their graves saying that they wish they spent more time with friends and family and less time working for money. So clearly, the amount of money we can accumulate is not tied directly to our level of happiness and satisfaction with our lives.
So, there must be some other factors that contribute significantly to our level of happiness and satisfaction with life at any given time.
“Happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasures that occur every day, than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom to a man in the course of his life.” – Benjamin Franklin
Consumerism tells us that the more we have, the happier we will be!
We have so much more available to us than any previous generation. And based on the consumerism model that is continually paraded before us (at every opportunity) as to the way to lasting happiness, we should all be eternally happy for the rest of our lives!
- More opportunities for work, leisure, and travel,
- Much more information on things, places, history, our bodies, and brains,
- More gadgets link us to even more information and opportunities to share what’s important to us,
- More technologies to keep us in contact with our loved ones, friends, and people we have never even met,
- Many more toys with which to express ourselves,
- More money than has ever been available before in any time in recorded history,
- More opportunities to travel and explore similar, different, and remote regions of the world and now even space. (This list could go on and on, but you get the idea by now.)
Our houses are full of stuff to make our lives easier and more comfortable. We have kitchens, bedrooms, closets, games rooms, wardrobes, garages, lofts, and basements full of stuff for our entertainment, pleasure, and learning that any previous generation could not begin to comprehend, and 80% of the current world’s population would be envious of. So much of this stuff was purchased with the express intent to increase of ‘level of happiness.’
So, how is it that, even though we have all of this stuff and more, we are still, as a population, feeling generally unfulfilled and left searching for ‘more’ of this allusive happiness!
Having stuff is great, but only if we are not relying on it to make us happy!
On the surface, it sounds like we should be overflowing with happiness, but underlying many of the positive aspects that living in this unique time provides us with are also some not so great consequences:
- More stress-related diseases,
- A greater number of suicides,
- More debt than ever before
- More rules, regulations, restrictions,
- Higher incarceration rates
- Higher divorce rates
- More people are in therapy than ever before, just to name a few!
So, why is our consumerism model of thinking not bringing the intended effects of making everyone happy?
Marketers are constantly telling us that we will be happy if we buy their products. So we make a purchase, and when product/experience X doesn’t fulfill this promise, we hurriedly move onto product Y in the hope of finding fulfillment and satisfaction. When this doesn’t live up to the hype of the marketers, or the initial feelings of satisfaction wear off, we move onto product/experience Z, etc.
Many of us manage to become trapped in a cycle of doing stuff and getting stuff that we hope will fulfill us and lead to a life ‘happily ever after’ because we are constantly being told that this is the way to happiness.
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Why am I not as happy as I want to be?
When we understand that marketing is just a way of influencing us into buying a product/service from a company so that they can make a profit, we can begin to understand why they choose messages to manipulate our emotions to get us to purchase from them. We are far more likely to buy a product (that we often don’t need) if we see it being used by healthy, happy people than if they just showed us the product and told us that they want to sell it so the company manager can buy a second or third-holiday property.
Unfortunately for us, the reality is often very different from the marketing we are constantly exposed to, and instead of making us happy, the endless items that are presented to us for many hours each and every day which is supposed to make us happy can actually have the opposite effect. This leads to many of us living lives that are far from happy or only infused with brief moments of happiness as the products don’t deliver the advertised benefits.
We treat ourselves as machines and keep doing things that we think will bring us happiness, like buying the ‘next greatest and latest item’. To do this we need to continually work to make money to pay for these products and experiences. These things are all external to us (outside of our skin), and herein lies the problem!
“Comparison with myself brings improvement, comparison with others bring discontent” – Betty Jemmy Chung
So, what’s the solution? How can I begin to live a happier life?
The reason why fastening our happiness to money, events, stuff, or people, external to ourselves can never bring lasting happiness is that we are not able to have 100% control of these things.
The only thing in our lives that we have any real control of, if we choose to exercise it, is what we are thinking! And it is our thinking that leads to our feelings. This means that happiness, like all of our feelings/emotions, is a result of the thoughts that we are currently having, and our thoughts are totally under our control! But that is only if we choose to exercise control over what we are thinking.
Real and lasting happiness, satisfaction, and joy are internal feelings, and as such, can only be experienced when we give ourselves permission to be happy, to be satisfied, and permission to be at peace with ourselves and the circumstances that make up our lives.
“Happiness is the secret to all beauty. There is no beauty without happiness.” – Christian Dior
Why should I be happy?
Not only will being happy greatly enhance your personal life experience but it will also benefit the wider environment that you surround yourself with, including the people, animals, and nature within your sphere of influence.
Therefore, your personal happiness should be at the top of your list of ‘things to achieve.’
Some benefits of being happy include:
- Happy people tend to live longer
- People who are happy are generally much healthier than unhappy people as research shows that their immune systems are stronger
- Happy people are less stressed due to lower blood pressure and the increased release of beneficial hormones
- Their hearts are healthier due to a more relaxed heartbeat and lower blood pressure
- Happy people are more productive at work and therefore tend to make more money.
- Happy people are more likely to get married and have more fulfilling marriages. They also tend to have more friends.
- Being happy tends to make people naturally more generous.
- Happy people tend to be more creative and spontaneous.
- When we are happy, we tend to have a lifestyle that is characterized by eating better and exercising more, the benefits of which add to further happiness.
- Happy people enjoy more of their life by taking note of and appreciating the ‘small’ moments that are going on each and every day.
- And most importantly, happiness is contagious and has the effect of making other people happy.
“Success is not the key to happiness, happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” – Albert Schweitzer
Things you can do now to create more happiness in your life
- Stop thinking about the past and the future and bring your attention to this moment
- Stop worrying about what other people think about you
- Express gratitude for all the things you currently have in your life
- Stop comparing yourself to others
- Focus on one thing at a time so that you can appreciate what you are doing instead of being pulled in many directions at once.
- Immerse yourself in nature, either the mountains, forest, beach, or a garden will refresh your energy levels.
- Eat healthier foods that are naturally rich in the vitamins and minerals that we need to sustain our bodies. Lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds are a great place to start.
- Do some aerobic exercise to increase the blood flow and flush toxins out of our bodies.
- Getting a good night’s sleep is very important. If you constantly wake up tired, you are unlikely to be a happy and helpful person
- Learn to meditate! Meditation has many health benefits and will also keep you in the present moment and allow you to become aware of your thought process. You will come to recognize the repetitive thoughts that run through your mind that may be preventing you from attaining happiness.
“Do not set aside your happiness. Do not wait to be happy in the future. The best time to be happy is always now.” – Roy T. Bennett
To be happy is a choice you can make right now
And what thoughts come to your mind when I tell you that it’s ok to make your personal happiness a priority in your life?
Are you willing to put some time aside and begin to cultivate feelings of happiness for yourself?
Or are you just going to accept the way things have always been and continue on as you have been for the previous few years?
Realize that YOUR HAPPINESS is a choice and the amount of happiness you experience is up to you! Once you embrace this concept, it is up to you to determine how often you are happy and what level of happiness you achieve.
“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim, and end of human existence.” – Aristotle
Your journey to a happier life can start right now!
What thoughts are you going to have now, which DO translate into the way you are feeling?
If I was you, I would be choosing thoughts that make me happy. Why not?????
Consciously choosing thoughts is being mindful and living in the present moment. Being present is the only place we can experience happiness, and by choosing happy thoughts often, we will program happiness into our physic, so that it becomes our normal state of being.
The choice is always yours. What will you choose?
Shared with love and respect in the hope of making the world a happier place, one soul at a time.