How is that search for happiness going?
If you are anything like me you might describe it as ongoing; it is a constant search for something that is going to make us feel better. We spend so much time grabbing onto something we want next, the ever present desires that we think will lift our spirits, even if just temporarily.
When I turned 40 everything in my life changed overnight. I was suddenly single, fed up and at an all-time low. Just getting through each day had become a huge challenge. I was glad to get back into bed so I could relax. But even that didn’t happen; my mind would continue racing and didn’t have any desire to let me sleep.
I thought to myself, I just want to be happy. Is it really too much to ask? Give me a break, just that one little step up that will give me the opportunity to be happy. Even if it was just temporary – at the time I would have taken anything.
I’d spent most of my life searching for this elusive happiness while being sure so many others already had it. Why not me? I knew rich people that were unhappy, poor people that who appeared happy, and there was no correlation between what people had and how happy they were.
Why is it so fucking difficult? Yes, I swore, because it is so damn frustrating, this constant searching for happiness.
So where is it?
Happiness is right here, right now. You are unlikely to believe me until you can experience it for yourself, but happiness never comes and goes – it’s our desires and wants that come and go. Equally so our dislikes, worries and fears come and go too.
So how do we tap into this current happiness?
- Accept the present moment for what it is. Can you change it? Can you change anything about this present moment? Of course not, once it’s here there is nothing anybody can do to change ‘right now’. So learning to accept that we cannot change this present moment will reduce the angst of wanting it to be different.
- Realise everything is temporary. Whether it is a feeling, a strong emotion, or some situation out of your control there is one guarantee: it will pass. Nothing is permanent, so even the worst times in our lives will move on and leave us with their lessons and gifts, allowing us to be stronger in the future. Equally, great times will pass and leave us with wonderful memories and experiences that we can relive and share in the future.
- Find comfort in knowing everything will work out. We all know some things will go well or get better, and other things will go badly or get worse. But everything does work out. Change is guaranteed, and after accepting the present moment is what it is, we then need to find comfort in understanding that change is okay.
Understanding this mentally is the easy part. Doing it is a little harder! Embodying and experiencing, slowing down and living in the moment, this is where the happiness exists. Once we embody it and remember to become aware, we have access to it any time we like. The availability of this happiness is always there. What is temporary however, is our awareness and our slowing down to actually experience it.
Let’s flip happiness upside down.
A better way to explain this concept would be to point out the habitual ways we each react to things. It’s almost always negative, isn’t it?
What does it feel to try and change the present moment into what you want it to be?
How does it feel to fear the worst will happen?
How does it feel to think this moment will never pass?
In my experience, these feelings are uncomfortable and quite the opposite of happiness. But with our conscious minds we can choose not to have these negative, unhappy, worry-filled feelings. Granted, the choice is not always clear, and putting it into practice is not always easy – we are programmed for protection and survival, which leads us into habits of seeing the negative side of things and worrying about what might come next. But we can choose not to dwell on these habitual negative feelings, and instead of stress and worry, we can practice acceptance of the present and enthusiasm for the future.
When we consciously work on our thought patterns we cultivate a new habit of acceptance and compassion, and experience calmness in our thoughts and minds.
We can then stop searching for happiness and realise it’s right there – and it has always been right there.