March 20th 2013 –
International Day of Happiness a UN initiative that is finally attempting to look further than GDP as an indication of progress. On this day lets contemplate how we can increase the happiness in our life….
‘What do you consider to be more or less basic factors making for happiness in the human mind?’
Carl Jung was asked in 1960, he replied.
Good physical and mental health.
Good personal and intimate relationships, such as those of marriage, the family, and friendships.
The faculty for perceiving beauty in art and nature.
Reasonable standards of living and satisfactory work.
A philosophic or religious point of view capable of coping successfully with the vicissitudes of life.
The first 4 are widely accepted and practiced but its the final point we are looking at today.
It’s not enough to think: ‘today I am choosing happiness.’ Its a nice thought – but how?!
Our current society is preoccupied with material development so naturally when we are looking at happiness there seems to be a distinct & necessary relationship with our experience and our material world (job, relationship, reputation, bank balance etc).
If we look at our intention carefully its fair to say that every action throughout the day and night is motivated by the wish to be happy and avoid suffering. Nobody wakes up in the morning and wishes for unhappiness to descend upon them.
When investigating happiness its helpful to look at what makes us unhappy as it’s this experience which is holding back our experience of happiness.
During the day we may experience various levels of unhappiness. From going outside and experience the cold weather, to our car not starting, or our work colleague being rude to us. Perhaps we have some bad news or we are sick. These experiences can bring a bad feeling inside which leads to an experience of unhappiness. Sometimes we can carry an experience of unhappiness around with us in the form of tiredness and negativity.
Superficial levels of unhappiness can simply be dispelled by a good hearty meal and a chat with a friend or doing a little physical exercise to take our mind off the thoughts. Other levels need a more skillful approach.
Our mind is very powerful and has the potential to produce happiness and unhappiness depending on our approach.
A powerful method for dispelling negativity is patient acceptance.
Patience and equanimity gives insight into recognizing the condition of human life. Naturally as a result of being human we experience challenges and difficulties, its par for the course. Our reluctance to accept this gives rise to internal suffering and problems.
A lack of acceptance results in us blaming the circumstance for our bad feeling. This being the opposite experience of happiness, thus giving rise to conflict within our mind. When we have this internal experience its unpleasant and we want to be free of it.
Jung also added in his interview:
‘All factors which are generally assumed to make for happiness can, under certain circumstances, produce the contrary. No matter how ideal your situation may be, it does not necessarily guarantee happiness.’
This points us to the view that circumstances depend on the quality of the mind that is viewing them. Its how we view a situation more than the situation itself that is responsible for whether we are happy or not. This one point is well worthwhile contemplating and mulling over.
Whether we like it or not during our human life we experience suffering. We get ill, sick and die without choice. There is nothing we can do to stop this. One approach in trying to be happy is to be in denial – not to think about any of these unpleasant things and just focusing on the nice things.
The happiness psychology available today tends to shy away from the darker sides of human life as a result giving an unrealistic view of our world. It’s interesting to see that depression levels are higher now that they have ever been yet there is more and more information on how to be happy.
Is it really that difficult?
Do we really need to read book after book to discover the secret?
India thinkers and Greek philosophers talked about acceptance. However much we try to convince our self that we are permanent and going to live forever we are all going to die. Many of us will not achieve our goals and dreams. Some will become sick. We will loose people who are close to us and possible spend our final years alone.
If you bring up the sufferings and failures that await us in human life people can quip ‘oh don’t be so morbid – live in the present and enjoy.’
This view is actually one of denial.
The Ostrich approach – everything will be alright, don’t worry about it.
This outlook is sometimes mistaken as positive thinking – but actually acts as a basis for our suffering when we run into unexpected trouble.
Thinking about suffering, worldly failure, relationship break-ups, sickness doesn’t necessarily have to make us unhappy or bring our mood down.
It can actually stabilize and strengthen our mind. When these difficulties come there is no surprise or shock. They are inevitable. There is no rush to be quickly free from the pain. When we experience problems we often hastily try to solve it rather than first just accepting. The process of mentally accepting suffering means that there is a stability of mind. This can run through our experience as we are experiencing the challenge. This approach to happiness means we are able to be at peace and experience mental freedom much more than a person who is relying upon things to go well.
What do we need to be happy?
People liking us, money coming in regularly, a healthy body, a secure relationship, good food.
These factors seem necessary for us to be happy; but why do we allow them to be?
Happiness is an inside job.
It depends upon our mind – not the circumstances around us.
If we can stabilize and strengthen our mind then we will be in a more dynamic position to experience happiness.
We naturally buy into the worldly dream, well why not? Everybody else is.
What is success?
What is failure?
Rudyard Kipling said:
“If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same.”
What does it mean to be a loser or a winner. Do these experiences have to make us unhappy?
Whose setting the standard and? do we believe the hype surrounding the material world?
What do we need to be happy?
Our mind has the ability to think and reason. We can think our way to happiness. This requires skill, focus and concentrate and a willingness to re-educate our mind in believing that the world outside of us is responsible for our well-being. Our friends, family, partners, politicians, colleagues, celebrities, sports personalities – these people are secondary causes for our experience of well-being. If we have our mind in order, strong and peaceful then we have the conditions within us for peace.
One popular approach is to try smiling more, looking on the bright side of life, helping others, taking a good diet and cutting down on alcohol. Try not arguing with people so much. Fair enough, but what happens when we become sick or we encounter another challenging circumstance?
Where does the ability to respond with peace and positivity come from?
It’s not enough to simply repeat words, positive affirmations or mantras there needs to be an understanding that it’s a natural part of human life to experience challenges. This understanding alone can rub up against the challenge and bring peace into life whilst its taking place. We may not be running around smiling and hugging everybody but it doesn’t mean that we are not happy.
An experience of happiness goes a lot further than people talking about energies & following self-help manuals. We can try to understand our world not through the eyes of the media but through still-reflection. Everything is changing moment by moment and there is infinite potential within our mind if we develop it. Our mind has the power to produce happiness.
The Greek thinker Aristotle stated
‘Happiness is the flourishing of virtue within the soul.’
Interestingly enough this is very similar to the definition of Meditation according to some Buddhists which is the ‘familiarization of virtue within the mind.’
There is no mention of anything physical here, just the cultivation of our inner world.
We don’t need to travel far to find happiness its potential is right under our nose – within our mind.
Internal happiness arises from a peaceful mind.
Not being afraid of unhappiness is also a cause of cultivating happiness – let it come and go like a wave in the ocean. Make every day a celebration of the potential to be happy and at peace.
Think differently about the challenges in our life. Are they problems or simply opportunities to change our mind? Surely it depends on your view.
Watch the world go round – stop, look up at the sky and watch the clouds and the sky – see beyond the limitations of the ego and the thoughts attached to it.
There is no secret to happiness it’s not something that only people in the past experience who had few physical possessions. To be happy the only thing we need to change, alter or tinker with….is our mind.
Good luck and have a happy day 🙂
The UN General Assembly proclaimed March 20th as the International Day of Happiness, a celebration that each year aims to recall that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal.
All 193 UN member states adopted by consensus a resolution that established the new global day to celebrate that happiness and well-being are universal aspirations and goals in life of human beings around the world, something that must now recognize the Member States in their policies.
This article was written by Adam Dacey
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