So what really is authentic happiness? How do you define it?
I’m not sure there is a clear recipe that would make everyone happy. We are all different. What makes one person happy is of no interest to another.
When we are very young it may be we mix authentic happiness with outward signs of success. Designer clothing, new cars, big houses. That is quite normal, really. We wish to build our life into the best it can be, and reach a level of security we could be content with.
If we continue reaching for authentic happiness this way, it doesn’t take too many years before the emotional level it gives us begins to feel shallow.
Authentic Happiness and Money
I heard of
a minister of a church who had been invited to a private devotional event. The
participants were all rich, well-to-do businessmen and women. A friend took
part on the occasion and he said later that the minister looked at the faces in
front of him and shook his head.
“Why do you all look so unhappy, busy and discontent?” he asked, “You of all people who have all the material things a person could wish for? Big houses, fancy cars, so much money that an ordinary person can’t even dream of owning that much during their lifetime?
And yet, there you sit, checking the time from your Rolexes, writing in your smartphones, with the corners of your mouths pointing down. Not one of you looks like you have achieved authentic happiness. Not one of you has the time to feel happy. And yet you thought achieving all this material- wealth would make you joyful and content and give you authentic happiness. Well has it?
Would you be ready to listen to some other methods of finding authentic happiness? If not, go and hug your fancy cars and see what kind of happiness they bring you.”
Pretty straightforward talk, something these affluent people were perhaps not expecting to hear.
And yet these were words of deep wisdom. Authentic happiness is not material – it is immaterial.
You need to turn from the outside world to your inner world to search for that authentic happiness.
And you need to understand that authentic happiness is not a constant. You need to find it again and again, and you cannot do that without learning to know yourself. Without learning to listen to your emotions.
We are often so used to our negative mindset we don’t even see it. And if you self-talk and way of observig the world is negative and suspicious, it is no wonder authentic happiness eludes us.
How to turn that mindset and steer towards happiness? That real, deep authentic happiness?
One of the easiest ways to begin is to take a little notebook. I prefer a real bound notebook, and writing by hand. Writing with a pen seems to engrave the experiences better into our memory. So what to do with this notebook? Easy. Every day write, by hand, one thing that made you happy today. You, not others, only you.
It can be one word, or if you wish to remember the thing better later, write a few sentences. At first this may feel like pretending, and that’s ok. Your old mindset does not understand why you would write happy things. But keep at it for a month and then see what you came up with.
Read your little happiness journal every once in a while, and many things you would otherwise have forgotten will rise back to your memory. Happy things, meaningful only to you. This way you teach your subconscious to recognize those small, often very fleeting moments that bring you joy, and chew on them for a while. It really doesn’t take many seconds to lift your spirits, if you concentrate on a happy memory.
The second tip on reaching authentic happiness is to smile. Yes – that odd movement where the corners of your mouth actually turn upwards. Try it.
When alone, smile, keep smiling, and pay attention to how you feel. I’m sure you feel a little movement in your mind for the better. That is behaving “as if”. Pretend to be in a good mood by faking it with your body’s movements, and your mind gets the hint.
But remember – if you have been gloomy for a long time, overdoing it is counter-effective. So just a small smile at first. When you manage that on your own, then practice it with the people you meet. Oh wonder! Suddenly you begin to get smiles back – customer servants begin to like you and serve you better. People like laughing, and readily join the joy of other people if possible.
And if they are not in contact with their own inner joy, your smile may remind them of their own negativity, and they may try to pull you back down to their level. If you notice this happening, leave their company as soon as you can. Your old negative habits are easily pulled to the fore, so avoiding negative friends may be just the thing you need to do.
Also: do you really need to watch every single newscast on TV? For the most part they concentrate on catastrophes and threatening news. Yes, it is good to know what is happening in the world, but do you really need to watch the news many times a day? Do you find yourself drawn to the catastrophe news?
Notice if you are emotionally involved in all that negativity. Pretty easy to get sucked into that negative vortex, isn't it?
So how about a little news break. Check the news headlines on the net – or watch just one newscast per day – and preferably not just before you go to bed. The subconscious tends to chew on what it has last seen in your dreams which affects your sleep. (Which you should get enough of. So close those electronic devices an hour before your bedtime, and try what it feels like to discuss with your significant other for a change.)
And yet another little hint in achieving authentic happiness: the body affects the mind. A lot.
If you feel a bit cranky and uncomfortable all the time, perhaps that is because your body is not in alignment. Do you exercise? If you are not of sporty kind, don’t get scared at the question.
You don’t need to run a marathon, or spend all your evenings in a gym. But you do need to move. Try working standing up, if you have an adjustable table. (I could have used one when I wrote my first book – 180.000 words by the computer tends to give you a Quasimodo-kind of posture…)
If you need to print papers at work, could you fetch each print separately from the copy machine? How about the stairs? Leave your car at a little distance when you go shopping so you get some extra steps. And an activity bracelet is addictive, I tell you…
Walk when you can, and maybe find a regular way to exercise that brings you joy. It could be a dance lesson. Or yoga. Or – the gym. Which is addictive too once you get over the idea that everyone is staring at you. They usually aren’t, because they are more worried that someone is staring at them. At the gym I visit people are actually very polite to the more amply formed people and encourage them to continue on their journey to more fitness. And this does not mean you need to look like a skinned rabbit. You can be a bit round, just keep your joints and muscles working.
And whatever you do, try to find little things along your day that bring you joy, those moments of authentic happiness. This way you learn to become kinder towards yourself, and little by little life begins to be more positive. You may not experience exteme “highs”, but more like peaceful little moments of contentment at first. And one day these will bring the feeling of authentic happiness in their wake.
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