Can you create happiness?
Similar to anger and sadness, happiness is an emotion we experience. If you think about it, you’ll notice that anger arises in you in different situations but those situations meet a similar set of criteria.
Happiness is no different. The things that make you happy have some common characteristics that you can recognise and recreate over and over in order to experience happiness. Happy people tend to have habits the regular practice of which engenders situations and results that make them feel cheerful.
But everyone says don't chase happiness.
What's that about?
There’s a difference between chasing and actively working for it. If it's acceptable to work for success then why shouldn’t you work for your happiness?
It’s a mindset that needs to change because happiness lies at the core of everything we do. We may slog to pay the bills but once the bills have been paid or often even before they've been paid, our heart begins to seek more out of life. Why is 'what makes us happy' the last question we ask ourselves?
It is possible to create happiness like you create your own success.
Happiness is made up of physical, emotional and mental components (see diagram below). If we suffer either physically or emotionally or mentally, we can keep going but when we begin to suffer in more than one way, life becomes a struggle. Thus, we need to nourish not just our body but also heart and mind to live a happy life.
Let's talk about each:
THE PHYSICAL ASPECT OF HAPPINESS
Oceans Birds Movies
Creation of a human being
We can experience the joys of eating, appreciate music, read books, watch movies and art in its many forms, create human life, take in the beauty of nature, smell flowers, feel the calming energy of the ocean and the touch of your partner, we can breathe and experience life because we possess the human body.
Our body is the home we live in. Every health problem, from the smallest to the biggest, affects the way we feel. A healthy body is indispensable to happiness because it’s hard to be happy in an unhealthy one.
Adequate sleep, a balanced diet and regular exercise. Need I say more?
THE EMOTIONAL ASPECT OF HAPPINESS
We primarily find joy/emotional nourishment through: OUR RELATIONSHIPS + WORK
(i) RELATIONSHIP WITH SELF: is the defining and the most important relationship of our life. Self-care isn’t just about resting on the weekend or going on a much-needed holiday but also about taking the time to understand what makes us happy, what are our needs and wants and whether we are fulfilling them.
It is about doing the many things we need to sustain ourselves in the long-term.
I like me, wait I love me!
(ii) RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHERS: Since man is a social being, our closest relationships affect our state of mind significantly.
Quality triumphs quantity. A few meaningful relationships where mutual trust and love (in any one of its varied forms) is present are enough and more worthy than many that we know deep down don’t matter.
It's beautiful to fall in love but even more so to be loved.
(iii) RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD / THE UNIVERSE: It is a relationship that can fill our hearts with love and contentment when cultivated the right way. It is a choice to keep it or not. I suggest you do because it’ll open up a part of your heart and mind that other people, success or knowledge cannot.
Is anyone out there?
(iv) WORK: We spend 50% if not more of our waking hours at work. How is it possible to be happy if we can’t find value/meaning/purpose in our work? Yes, we've got to pay bills and thus, march ourselves to work day in and day out but it is hard to deny that working purely for money or career advancement leaves us mentally and emotionally exhausted.
Your work has to provide for you, not only $$$s but also a purpose. It should make you feel valued and worthy.
Don't just follow what you've seen everyone else do. Think for yourself. Make better choices, after all it’s your life and happiness at stake.
THE MENTAL ASPECT OF HAPPINESS
Our mind is the headquarters of our body and the place where both information and our emotions are processed so that we can make big and small life decisions. Mental health is incredibly important, even more now because a mental health crisis is beginning to look a lot more real than we thought it to be previously.
Our mind thinks in terms of time: past, present and future so we need to learn to deal better with its thoughts about all three.
(a) PAST: Since the past cannot be changed, to carry its baggage around with you is a bad decision. If you once had a beautiful life and spend today yearning for it, it is just as bad a decision.
Life is and can only be lived in the PRESENT.
You can’t reshape the past but you can reshape how you see it.
Choose the method that suits you to reach a place of acceptance and gratitude. How you choose to see your past shapes the story you believe of your own life, which in turn affects the choices you make today. Life is part chance, part choice. You can’t control the former but at least make the best of the latter.
No event is good or bad, it is how we choose to see it that gives it a positive or negative adjective. Your perspective changes your life.
(b) PRESENT: Time is our most precious and undervalued resource. Ask yourself a simple question: Is whatever I am doing in the now worth my energy and time? If I had only a week more left to live, would I still be doing this?
Joy can ONLY be created in the present.
If you could only change your approach towards your present and change nothing else, I would say do it because this one change outweighs every other.
Take responsibility for your life in the NOW because no one else can or will. Spend your life doing things that help you grow, that bring you happiness (not just fleeting pleasure), health, meaning, and purpose. We must pay our bills but life isn’t just meant to pay bills. Rise above that thought process and ask yourself, what more can I do with my life?
The key to your life is in your hands and you are driving it. Stop blaming people/circumstances /whatever else you tend to blame, and take control TODAY.
(c) FUTURE: Unless you’re planning for your future, there’s little reason to think about it. Planning is preparing but most of us spend time building castles we don’t have the willingness to work hard enough for.
Be mindful about the time and energy you spend hoping for happiness in the future. Hope is a beautiful thing but it must be supported by a lot else to hold up.
Fear/ anxiety/stress about the future can only be dealt with in one way: engage your mind in something productive. An engaged mind is a happy mind.
There's only so much you can control. Beyond a point, we've got to trust the universe to do what's best for us. It always does even if we stay unconvinced about its decisions.
Don’t let anxiety about the future rob you of your present.
Bring your attention to the present and use it there, it’s where it can impact both the moment now and the ones to come. Mindfulness is a skill that takes time to develop but if you sincerely try, you absolutely can.
Happiness is a journey and it doesn’t matter where you stand today. Treat it as the starting point and BEGIN. Identify what keeps you from feeling happy and work on it. Then go create happiness everyday. Good luck! :)
If you're looking for some light-hearted reading or bite-sized stories on happiness, find them here.