What is it that truly makes us happy?
Living is, by its nature, a very dependant experience. For most of us, a happy life is dependant on a great number of things. A good life depends on the people in it, the job we have, the wealth we have, the education we get, the car we can buy, the clothes we can wear, the health we have and the home we live in. Most of us would agree that whether our lives are good or successful depends heavily on these things and more. Though is it? Is a happy life dependant on any of these things at all?
I would argue that, actually, a happy life depends solely on one thing, ourselves. You, me, us and more precisely our minds, mental state and perspective. This can be argued in two ways, one simple and the other perhaps more difficult to comprehend.
The simpler way to look at this sole responsibility for our happiness is to recognize that we are in charge of all of those dependant aspects I listed earlier. The people in our lives, the job we have, our wealth, education, health and home are all within our control. Not to the extent that we can just snap our fingers and choose each one but certainly to the extent that through a positive mind state, belief, action and hard work, we can create, morph and mould each one of those circumstances to our will and our choosing. The fact that we have that ability makes us completely responsible for our own happiness and our own lives. Taking responsibility for our lives in this way might seem like a heavy weight to carry but it’s actually the complete opposite, it feels incredibly empowering and freeing. Reclaiming my responsibility for my own life made me realise that I can do anything, be anything and take this journey wherever I want it to go. I accepted that I am to blame for my circumstances, me and no one else. That knowledge actually reassured me and means I worry far less about the future, because I know it is safe in my hands and if I’m not happy with my life then I have the powerful ability to, simply, do something about it.
So, less worry, more freedom and a sense of self-power, why wouldn’t we want to take responsibility for our own happiness?
The second and maybe more elusive argument to be made is that we can be happy and lead happy lives without most of the things listed above and create our own happiness from within. This might seem a tad far fetched to some, or perhaps unrealistic, unrelatable and unachievable. The only people who appear able to achieve this kind of lasting inner happiness, tend to be people whose lifestyle is too extreme, demanding or undesirable for many. Buddhist Monks for example, who practice hours of meditation each day, live in secluded environments and dedicate their whole lives to the teachings of Buddha. Though this inner happiness is not exclusive to those who are so devout, we can all experience at the very least, a portion of it. I have done just that, many times in small doses.
I have experienced this through a shift in my perspective. So many of us tend to see, believe and experience our lives through tinted glasses, through the kind of lens that is dark, gloomy, ugly and negative. We do not see things the way they are, instead, putting our own warped perspective on them or missing them entirely. This warped perspective is born from Living In Our Heads and if you want to learn more about that, check out that post. Though, once that warped perspective is let go and released from the mind, we can often see beauty where before we were ignorant and we can often feel joy in the smallest things.
Appreciation is a great way to cultivate this joy and change our perspective. For me personally, since I have cleared away my warped perspective of being, I see the beauty in my surroundings and feel joy in my heart. I give thanks for that beauty and feel more joy. I recognise and appreciate the kindness, beauty and support of my partner, that recognition gives me joy and I give thanks in return, which only amplifies the feeling. These are just two examples of how a change in perspective can create real and true joy in us. And this feeling and process require very little, often nothing but ourselves. Anyone, no matter what they have can take in and appreciate the beauty of our planet, if only they would take a moment to look.
There is a simple quote from The Book of Joy (Which I would 100% recommend reading) that says ‘joy cultivates happiness’. These little moments of joy, these shifts in perspective might be fleeting but they build upon one another to create true and lasting happiness. Our happiness is our responsibility and we can go about cultivating it right now by taking action, making changes and seeing life for the beautiful being it truly is.
As said previously I would highly recommend reading The Book of Joy, it’s a real feel-good read that may just brighten up our perspective of life. I’d also recommend The Little Book of Happiness, a small, simple yet powerful book for creating happiness. Both books are available to buy on Amazon through the highlighted links.
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If you want to read more on the topic of being happy, check out our post, Hard Work & Happiness.