With countless self-help books and websites dedicated to finding happiness and how important happiness is, how can we achieve happiness? And importantly can it be gained?
Why We Chase Happiness
For many people happiness always seems out of reach. From Daniel Gilbert to Gretchen Rubin we are told that happiness needs to be sought and grasped. With memes and social media updates promoting this seeking of happiness, it becomes an increasingly large part of our everyday thoughts.
Would money make us happier? A different job? A new partner? The list continues on and on, but one thing we need to be sure, that even if we achieve one of these desires, then the happiness we seek, could still be out of reach. As the old saying goes, “the grass is always greener on the other side”, and if we allow this mindset to control our behaviour, then we will find dissatisfaction in everything we do.
Life is an experience that brings a mixture of good and bad circumstances. Yes, we can have positive moments, but we also must understand ‘impermanence’ from Buddhism. The Buddha’s final words were, “Impermanence is inescapable. Everything vanishes.”
Nothing Is Permanent
Impermanence is understood to be a cornerstone of Buddhist teachings and practice. All that exists is impermanent; nothing lasts so nothing can or should be grasped or held onto. If we don’t fully appreciate this simple and profound truth, we suffer. Similarly, the monks experienced this when they descended into misery and despair after the Buddha’s passing. We realise that nothing is permanent, from a state of happiness, a job or indeed life, then we begin to have real peace and understanding, similar to Buddhist monks who remain mindful and calm.
To believe that your life must be one continual experience of nirvana and happiness is to not think realistically. Rather than place the search for happiness in our life, we must also look internally in how we are able to better cope with things that life throws at us.
Happiness comes from within
With inner contentment, or at least emotional agility, we can survive the rollercoaster of life. The source of happiness begins when we discover, then embrace who we are as a person and accept our faults. By spending time undertaking exercises and activities that help us discover who we really are, what we want to achieve and what we want out of our life, we can find peace. When we finally understand our physical, mental, emotional and sometimes spiritual aspects of our life, a sense of purpose and peace is felt. To discover acceptance in these areas gives a sense of completion but if we neglect one or any of these areas, then we can feel a sense of loss or incompleteness. At this point, we can fall into a downward circle trying to fill these ‘holes’ with other, less healthy solutions.
Across this website, we have a number of contemplative practices from meditation, reflection and exercises that can help you discover the areas you are neglecting. The more you embrace and accept your uniqueness and purpose, the more you will find an inner peace that persists.
Change for Contentment
Humans are creatures of comfort, we automatically seek out what feels good at that moment. We often long for comfort, and this comes from what we which we know and that, what is familiar to us. When we think about change, often we feel a confrontation between the comfort we are feeling, and the uneasy feeling of the unknown when we make a change in our life.
The unknown is something that your mind has to resolve, and this very process will feel uncomfortable on many levels. A change presents an issue to our systems that mean until all ‘unknowns’ are removed, you will not find that comfortableness again. Our nervous system works by conditioning and by repetition, we notice and assume patterns that are consistent. This system is there to serve us in helping us be more efficient and to be able to do more, more efficiently.
We learn certain orders and sequences through the repetition in which things happen and we learn to recognize and respond according to these sequences. Every emotion you experience, for instance, is nothing but the result of a sequence of events and reactions triggered by your unconscious awareness that generates and creates the actual feeling which is nothing but a sensation in your nervous system.
Similar to the mindfulness and one of its primary exercises, ‘body scan’, to begin change, you have to become aware of the patterns that appear under the surface of your consciousness. This isn’t a difficult exercise and mindfulness is probably the easiest way of being able to find which parts of you responds or acts subconsciously. By uncovering how your stress, feelings and sensations are interlinked, we can begin the changes that we wish to implement.
To grow as mentally, we have to learn what makes us “uncomfortable”, comfortable or making the “unknown” known. The need to grow and become more as a person is a deep emotional need that all humans instinctively have. Without growth, whether intelligently, emotionally or mentally, you simply won’t be happy. All progress, in all its forms, may feel uncomfortable in the moment, but always is extremely gratifying in the long term – yet this is feeling that we all crave for. Change involves risk, in order to Grow. Risk is the process of stepping from the known to the unknown.
And all change starts with a change of mind.