It’s true. We hear it constantly– look within, not outside. Happiness is not something to find. It’s already here. We just need to change our perspective. But how?
With Consistent Effort, Happiness is Possible
Shawn Achor gives scientific advice about happiness and how we can achieve it in his book The Happiness Advantage. He states that after mediating for just 21 days, the brain actually changes and becomes “disengaged” from problems because you are not basing your happiness on what’s outside of yourself. He says it is very hard to separate ourselves from thinking happiness is derived from the external world, but with consistent effort, the secret to happiness is easy.
We have more power over our mind than we realize.
I actually keep little index cards propped up around my house reminding me to practice and apply effort, because I forget. My mind wants to keep looking for it elsewhere. How puzzling this is from an intellectual level, because if I know this is the case, why do I still do it? The reason– I don’t really believe it. This fact has not truly touched my heart. These little reminders give me confidence because with dedicated effort, someday happiness will spontaneously come from inside.
But that glass of Shiraz is calling my name!
Let’s use the analogy of a glass of wine: Is that glass of red wine whispering sweet nothings on a Saturday night? The wine is not inherently bad from its own side, it’s just not a real cause of happiness. About all we get are some warm and fuzzies, but that’s it and then we get sleepy and wonder– was it worth it?
The glass of wine metaphor is a good example here because it begs the question, which is actually an obvious one. This little moment of pleasure has a beginning and an end and when that external happiness is experienced, it eventually leads to pain– The pain of being tired, or maybe tipsy, and perhaps a headache in the morning from too much. Fill in the ____________.
In Buddhism, this is referred to as “changing suffering” because for the moment you’re taking away your discomfort in one area and replacing it temporarily with something that feels good. Another example is when you’re hungry. Your blood sugar drops– it’s time for lunch, you’re feeling grumpy. You eat something– ah, that’s better = you’ve “changed” your suffering. Eat too much and that pleasure turns back into pain! Get it?
For further reading on the subject of happiness, there’s lots to choose from. Here are a few books that I highly recommend:
- The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor
- The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin
- What the Most Successful People do Before Breakfast, by Laura Vanderkam