What makes you happy?
Happiness is rather elusive for many people, if not for most people in our society. This is a remarkable statement about the world we’ve created, which offers unprecedented access to food, shelter, health, entertainment, convenience, mobility, wealth, safety, security, and so on. With all this going for us, it should be easy to be happy, right? After all, we already have so much, and do so much, don’t we?
Where is happiness?
Happiness is a state of mental and emotional well-being, of satisfaction and contentment with life, and the easy ability to enjoy whatever circumstances arise. It is intangible, priceless, and there are many, many impostors of it. Even though the pharmaceutical industry may try to prescribe it, or the entertainment industry may try to sell it, or the government may try to provide it, happiness, genuine, true and lasting happiness is something that comes as a result of an inner process, a transference of one’s awareness from expectation to appreciation. A maturation of the understanding of one’s relationship to the self, to other people, and to the world at large.
For those who really know it well, happiness is both the purpose of life, and the secret to a good and meaningful life.
Learning how to be happy in this life is of sincere practical value because happiness affects attitude, positively influencing everything we do, having a powerful effect on those we interact with, and making adversity and calamity easy to overcome. We live in unusually perilous and complicated times, and so the skill of being happy is of particular use in mitigating the fear and uncertainty that accompany this, and for becoming the type of person that can help others along in this adversity.
Happiness doesn’t depend on any external conditions, it is governed by our mental attitude. – Dale Carnegie
So, just how is happiness ‘caught?’
Turns out it’s rather simple. Gratitude produces happiness. The mindful act of being thankful for someone or for some appreciated quality of life, if even for just the beating of your own heart, is the most powerful technique we have for re-connecting with happiness.
This isn’t some new age way of falsely convincing yourself that negativity doesn’t exist in this dastardly world, but rather this is a useful tool, a skill, and a sign of mental discipline and fortitude. It is a means of developing the personal qualities that can lead us out of this darkness.
Gratitude is a mental and emotional exercise. As an intentional act, it is as simple as purposefully thinking about and considering the things that one has or has experienced that make life better, like a conscious mental roll call of whatever good things one can find to appreciate. When included in meditation, expressing gratitude and consideration for life deepens the experience and one’s connection to the harmonious and loving currents moving through ourselves and our world. As an outward expression of thanks to another being, gratitude lifts up others.
When practiced as a daily supplement to life, gratitude brings enduring happiness, much more readily and effortlessly than any of the other salves that we consume to conceal our dismal condition. It is a much easier and practical approach than reading books about happiness or becoming a disciple of religion, philosophy or some school of thought that promises happiness, and gratitude certainly yields results more swiftly than pursuing rigid self-discipline or asceticism in order to be happy.
One who conquers himself is greater than another who conquers a thousand times a thousand on the battlefield. — Buddha
Those who can master themselves and the habits of mind and emotion are in deficit today, and sadly our culture has emasculated gratitude … yet here we are, in need of happiness still yet.
As evidence of the effect of gratitude, take a look at this inspiring video, noting how the intentional expression of gratitude brings color warmth and brightness to the faces and voices of the people in this candid experiment: