What exactly is authentic happiness?
hap·py (hp)adj. hap·pi·er, hap·pi·est
A year after I moved to America, I started a business venture as a 'health and nutrition' coach, an adventure that put me in front of a kaleidoscope of Americans that I interacted with on a daily basis.
It turns out that Americans are awfully unhappy. Especially compared to the so-called "third world" country I had just emigrated from.
I enjoyed the rehearsed smile and the fickle “I’m here for you any time you need me” promises as much as the next village girl. But for non-westerners, the superficial act gets old pretty fast.
As I worked with more and more Americans, I discovered the lengths they will go to cover or sooth their wretched unhappiness, self-medicating with all manner of food, shopping, toys, drugs, more drugs, legal drugs, illegal drugs, plastic surgery, celebrity worship, and more.
To this day, most Americans I meet are surprisingly unhappy. But this isn't an indictment of westerners: most non-westerners become just as unhappy after spending a few years here.
And because "westernization" is spreading across the world like wildfire, so is this malaise of frenetic unhappiness.
I don't know what the root cause is. Maybe it's the American preoccupation with "success," whatever that means.
Maybe we used our overflowing wallets to buy distance and solitude, and now we're chronically disconnected.
Whatever the case, I'm saddened as I witness so many otherwise smart, sane people who seem unable to grasp this elusive happiness. Some have given up completely. It's not unusual to hear an irritable retort: "What makes you think I want to be happy"? Say what?
This is a disease, and that's a prime symptom.
When something seems chronically out of reach or unfamiliar, society develops myths and cliches that act as a kind of antibody against the idea.
The antibodies are perpetuated from generation to generation. Some cultural antibodies you may know are that money is evil or worthless (perpetuated among the poor, for whom money is chronically out of reach), or that all women who enjoy healthy amounts of sex are whores (perpetuated among hateful wimps for whom soul deep love is chronically out of reach).
There are many cultural antibodies against happiness in America, because to an unhappy person who knows and has witnessed nothing but unhappiness, happiness feels bitter.
As an outsider who's "gone native," I feel like I'm in a particularly good position to point out the top myths—those cultural antibodies against happiness—that so many unconsciously harbor.
You think being happy is wrong. I know you don't think you think that, but take time to observe people around you.
Where I grew up, there are antibodies against money and sex. No one will talk openly about how much money they make, and it is literally taboo to talk about sex.
In the West, no one talks openly about their happiness. The belief is operated as if you being happy takes away from another person's happiness.
Besides, when you're around miserable people all day, it's kind of "wrong" of you to feel so happy isn't it?
To prove this is true to yourself, do a little experiment. After your normal superficial greeting, make it a point to ask a couple of people how they really are, and mean it.
If people aren't miserable, and they also have no antibody against happiness, then we would expect their answer to not change. Whatever they told you the first time will be what they repeat.
I can guarantee you the answers you will get will be along the line of "I'm hanging in there" or " I could be better" or even this amusing one, "life sucks." That's because almost almost everyone has allowed misery to overtake them, like I said before.
Occasionally though, you will come across the brave soul that will admit to feeling happy, or being ecstatic. I've a friend who likes to have fun with this concept.
Whenever someone asks him the polite question, how are you?, he likes to shock them by declaring in the most upbeat voice, "I AM fantastic!!" People are always struck, and often clearly offended.
Why didn't the happy person just tell you how happy they were when you asked the first time? They didn't want to "burden" you with their happiness.
They didn't want to take away from any happiness you might have. It's because they believe, deep down in a place they can't articulate, that happiness is wrong.
I'll be the first to tell you that we live in a world that can present everything from minor annoyances to incredibly gut-wrenching upheavals.
I am aware, from personal experience, that if you cannot pay your electric bill because you have a negative bank balance, the easier choice is to feel gloomy and low in spirits, instead of upbeat and optimistic.
After all, you are supposed to be unhappy when bad things happen to you, aren't you? Just like you were taught as you were growing up.
You saw the adults around you do exactly that, and you invariably locked it in your subconscious that this was how people respond to challenging circumstances.
The first place to look into therefore would be, what am I believing about happiness? Are my beliefs about happiness serving me or those around me?
"Success is not to be pursued, it is to be attracted by the person that you become" Jim Rohn.
In the same sense that Rohn talks about success, happiness is not to be pursued. It is simply attracted by the person that you become.
So what kind of person do you have to become to attract happiness?
Contrary to that Will Smith movie (that I loved and cried watching—The Pursuit of Happyness), you will be chasing happiness for a long time if you embody a mindset that your goal is to pursue happiness.
That would mean happiness iselusive or out of reach—that it's external. But it's not.
In order to stop the chase for happiness you must first realize that happiness is already within you. Just like sadness, anger or apathy are already within you, and you just find it easier to default to those states, happiness is completely within you.
If you do not believe that happiness is within, then you are going to continue chasing it, and the faster you move, the faster it moves away from you.
One of the simplest ways to feel happiness within is to start meditating regularly. I don't know why it works, neither do I care very much. I just know that it does.
Simply set aside an amount of time each day to quiet your mind, and be silent. It won't happen overnight, but over time you will realize a sense of calm, joy, and peace of mind that will both amaze you and fill you with incredible gratitude.
Have you ever noticed that the people that have a habit of repeating the above myth are either broke or unhappy? Or both?
It's a stupid cliche at best, and an apathetic 'lack and limitation' programming at worst.
Mastering the art of happiness is, more often than not going to happen independent of the amount of money you have.
Confusing financial abundance with spiritual abundance (i.e. an abundance of joy within) is the reason so many people claim to still end up empty inside after achieving their "pursuit of happiness."
On the other hand, believing that "money does not buy happiness" while you wish you had more money to make your life easier is a good way to createunhappiness within.
It's stupid to think that money would buy the actual state of happiness, but most people who are grounded in their financial abundance aren't stupid anyway.
Having financial abundance gives a person the choice to enhance the quality of their lives, to enjoy products and services of their choice, and to contribute the same to those less fortunate.
It's beautiful, and it does not take away from the ability to be happy, any more than not having money does.
If you're one of those people who have never really gotten a good grip on happiness, I can see how it can be easy to believe that there is a secret to happiness. Some missing piece of information that would change everything for you.
Perhaps the only secret to happiness worth noting (that unhappy people will find hard to believe) is that happiness can easily be your default state.
If happiness is external, and you've never known it, you wouldn't want it. You couldn't even know what it is. The only way you know it is because it already exists within you.
Sure, sometimes we let ourselves to spiral into deep dark places, because of whatever various challenging life circumstances.
During much of 2009-2010, I went through some ridiculously trying times financially and in my intimate relationship.
At times I found myself tempted to play the poor me card. But thankfully I had the benefit of a strong belief that I could not dig myself out of that hole by continuing to wallow in more misery.
I knew that I would be better off if I bring myself back to a general state of happiness.
Your mindset, more than anything else, determines how easily you can reclaim your happiness.
Do you believe it's difficult to feel happy?
Do you believe that happiness is a hooey phooey new agey concept that makes you sick?
If you truly do not want to be happy, then I have no argument with you :)
On the other hand, If you do desire happiness and wonder why it's been so elusive, you can simply shift your mindset to one where you believe happiness is your birthright. What do you have to lose? Happiness? ;)
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