The pursuit of happiness
WHEN you think about happiness, what comes to mind? Do you envision yourself having a huge house with a pool, fancy car, designer wardrobe filled with the latest fashion, a loving husband or wife and two beautiful children — a boy and a girl — as well as a fur kid to complete the picture?
Maybe your vision of happiness is finding a soul mate who you can share your life with. Perhaps that picture in your mind shows you in the arms of your sweetheart vacationing in some exotic land, wining and dining in the best restaurants and having the time of your life?
The concept of happiness is big business. Everyone seems to want to bottle happiness and sell it. Just take brand names, for example. They are forever trying to sell you all kinds of products, which they promise will make you look and feel better so you can feel happier. Those advertisements on that dream house, dream car or dream vacation are there to tug at your heartstrings so that you’ll be propelled to buy something because you believe that happiness can be bought.
It cannot be denied that purchases can bring momentary joy, whether it’s to celebrate our achievements, hard work or just for an ego boost so we can feel good about ourselves. But how long will that joy really last?
In a recent research by Philippe Verduyn and Saskia Lavrijsen from the University of
Leuven in Belgium, 233 students were asked to recollect recent emotional episodes and report their duration.
Out of a set of 27 emotions, sadness was recorded to last the longest, whereas shame, surprise, fear, disgust, boredom, being touched, irritated or feeling relief were over much faster.
On average, it took 120 hours to stop feeling sad and just 30 minutes to get over feelings of disgust and shame. Hatred lasted for 60 hours, followed by joy for 35 hours. So if happiness lasts for only a number of hours, the prospect of chasing after a big future vision of happiness makes it even more disheartening.
Happiness is usually tied to an external and distant future that often involves going after a dream or goals that if, and when achieved, will make us feel happy. It can come in the form of being in a great relationship, one that brings much happiness. But when that relationship ends, the sense of happiness is ripped out of our heart, never to appear again.
On hindsight, happiness needs to be perceived differently from a form to a feeling that can be generated now and not just in the future. It should be within us rather than requiring someone else to give it to us.
Here are some tips to help you make that shift.
PRACTISE MAKES PROGRESS
1. BEING CONTENT
One of my Shamanic teachers taught me to replace that chase for happiness with contentment. I didn’t know what to make of it then; however, after reflecting and practicising feeling contented with the little things in life, it all became clear. Contentment is a feeling of being satisfied with your life.
Not to be mistaken for feeling second-best, contentment is being at ease with oneself and one’s accomplishments and not looking to make it better nor not putting ourselves down to maintain a check on our ego. It’s about being in the present (time) and feeling fulfilled with whatever life has to offer now.
2. WORKING ON YOUR PASSION
When we can shift our focus on finding and growing our passion instead of focusing on what will make us happy, our life changes. So find out what you are passionate about. It can be simple things that bring great satisfaction when you do it. Painting, taking care of fur babies, telling jokes to cheer friends up or being a listening ear for others... when we enjoy doing something that sparks us and makes us feel alive, we will feel contented and happiness will, in turn, become part of everyday life.
3. GIVING BACK TO THE COMMUNITY There is so much wonder that can happen to you when you refrain from merely focusing on yourself and your issues and instead, train your energy on doing good deeds for those less fortunate than yourself. These experiences can be humbling and teach us to be grateful for what we have. So whenever you’re feeling blue or maybe out of sorts, why not pick a charity that resonates with you and donate your time, money and do some good. Making someone else happy really can make us feel good and warm inside.