This post has been sitting untouched in my drafts for a while now. A while back I thought I knew how to write it, but then never got around to it. Now, opening this page again, it amuses me that I am the one to write this. Surely, there’s someone more qualified.. and by more qualified, I mean happier. Let’s dive in.
When people ask me what I want to be, I say happy. I say I’ve been looking for happiness my entire life. In reality, happiness is the most elusive thing human beings have ever sought to find. I believe in it only because, just as with true love, I’ve felt it before and will again. This, the pursuit of true fulfilment, is lifelong.
Eckhart Tolle once said, “Don’t seek happiness. If you seek it, you won’t find it, because seeking is the antithesis of happiness. Happiness is ever elusive, but freedom from unhappiness is attainable now, by facing what is rather than making up stories about it.”
When I think about happiness, I often forget that it is a non linear state of being. I can be happy most of the time but not always. That is the normal. Some of you may know this and others of you may not, but I was diagnosed last year with severe depression. While I do a lot better nowadays and can appreciate how far I’ve come, it’s still discouraging when I have harder days.
The human experience is ever changing and as much as it can feel like upheaval, it is necessary for growth and moving past stages we are no longer in. As I begin to reflect on what constituted my happiness in times past and what it looks like for me now, I think of how my many wants and needs have grown simultaneously more complex and yet simpler. What is important to me is all I see and everything else falls away or is in the process of doing so.
My brother was in one of his more inquisitive moods yesterday and asked me why being happy matters when you could rich or successful instead. After all, aren’t they the same thing? I’ve come to realise that money, power and influence are mere measures of what you can do, but they do not make you. True power lies in the pure satisfaction we can experience just from being and this is because it is unconditional. Conditional happiness relies on other people, pursuit, achievements or material objects- what these have in common is that they can be lost, taken away or surrendered. There is no shortcut when it comes to doing the inner work. Cutting corners can only ever mean cheating yourself.
Research in the field of positive psychology defines a “happy person” as someone who experiences frequent positive emotions such as joy, interest and pride as well as infrequent but not entirely absent negative emotions such as sadness, anxiety or anger. It is also said to relate to appreciation for life and moments of pleasure. The truth is that happy people are normal people, just like us. They go through a spectrum of emotions and at one time or another will have times they don’t do so well. The human mind is ingenious; a powerhouse. We can train it to work to our advantage and become mentally resilient. Happy people know that they can overcome or work through what stands in their way because they’ve let go of the defeatist mindset many of us hang onto. In doing so, they are free.
To know what happiness is what must know what it is not. Research also suggests that an even keeled-mood is more psychologically health than a mood with staggering highs and some lows. It’s a simple law of life.. and gravity! What goes up must come down. Another point to consider is this- when asked about what gives their lives meaning, most people don’t mention happiness directly but instead speak of things they believe have that affect on them. A job they enjoy, so it doesn’t feel like work. The partner that’s finally come along after years of waiting and wishing.
The journey to happiness- a destination you’ll always be on your way to. Some times it’ll feel like you’ve arrived and other times you’ll wonder if you’re on the right plane or even have a ticket. That’s life.