Monday, December 17, 2012

Happiness in the How

My mum has always said, that all she wants for us girls is that we be happy. 

I use to dismiss this as a saccharine sentiment only a mother would say.  And surely, she has higher expectations for us?

But I get it now. 

At the end of the day, it is all about happiness, isn’t it?

And I also have become to understand that you have to learn the how of happiness.  Yes, at one level it is innate but whatever your natural disposition, your natural set-point is, there are steps we can take to enhance it.    

We need to purposefully undertake our own happiness training.

Drawn to the Art of Happiness, which brings together  eastern spiritual traditions and western psychology, the message is clear:  “once the basic needs [food, clothing, shelter] are met, we don’t need more money, we don’t need greater success or fame, we don’t need the perfect body or even the perfect mate – right now, at this moment, we have a mind, which is all the basic equipment we need to achieve complete happiness”.   

This requires us to be disciplined in identifying and rooting out our destructive mental states and replacing them with positive constructive states of mind,  to cultivate our basic human qualities of goodness, kindness, compassion and caring.  

This includes developing our ability to be conscious of what we are doing in the moment.  A fellow Vipassana mediator is fond of reciting the phrase “be happy”.  This isn’t about invalidating what else you may be feeling but serves as a useful reminder, that we have a choice and our happiness is accessible right now, right here. Bringing ourselves into the present by focusing on our breath and opening up to possibilities, we can select our mental and emotional state.   

Developing the ability to do this on a consistent stable basis, for many of us, requires meditation practice. The determination and patience to learn how to still our mind and observe our thoughts and sensations, helps to re-wire our brain and nurture our happiness at a deeper level.

And simply we can frame our daily decisions and choices, with the question “will it bring me happiness?”  Such an approach helps shifts the focus from what we are denying ourselves to what we are seeking  - ultimate happiness.

Over recent years, thanks to the positive psychology movement there has been a proliferation of research into happiness and how to achieve it. Whether it is eastern spiritual traditions or western psychology, it is evident that it involves us training our minds and cultivating habits.   Here are every day experiences from the Happiness Project and here is a fast talking Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, who wrote about how happiness translates to the business world. 
May you be happy.

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