For some reason, I have found myself consistently happy in recent weeks. Perhaps it is because of all the time I’ve spent exercising (endorphins are waaaay underrated). Perhaps it is because I am using my time more productively (much to be said for accomplishing goals). Perhaps it is because of whom and what I left behind that no longer serves me (even more to be said for letting go of inhibiting forces). Regardless, I have been enjoying consistent and longer periods of happiness.
I cannot deny the presence of lesser desired emotions; everything from anger to sadness to fear and even loneliness. After all, I have not transcended being human but Pharrell’s whimsical song, Happy, best characterizes my current mood. So…Clap along if you know what happiness is to you…Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do.
During the course of my life I have encountered many who just seem naturally happy. One such character is my friend Michael. One night I heard him as he approached the room where other friends were gathered and I uttered the words, “There goes happy ass Michael”. It stuck and he still refers to himself as such.
Eventually I would come to read several books and articles on the subject of happiness from authors such as Martin Seligman, Sonya Lyubomirsky, the Dalai Lama and others. Of the more interesting research findings is that 50% our capacity for happiness, or what researchers define as subjective well-being, is genetically determined. So, if you are unlike Happy Ass Michael and happened to be born into the shallow end of the happiness gene pool, the good news is that you have control over the other 50%. The remaining percentages break down into 10% circumstances and 40% intentional activity.
Equally interesting is that we seem to expend about 90% our time and energy trying to change our circumstances with the expectation of greater happiness. Well, that 90% investment only yields a 10% return. Circumstances refer to things like money, status, material possessions, physical appearance, ranking on the corporate ladder, etc.
We live in an age where money affords us great luxuries yet we are the most highly addicted and highly medicated generation in human history endlessly chasing what is considered next best, newest and improved, bigger, better and faster. That goes for material possessions, partners and even body parts.
While nothing is inherently wrong with creating the best possible circumstances for our lives, it is important to keep things in perspective. Failure to do so leads us to traveling the road to happiness instead of being on the road of happiness.
The remaining 40% of the happiness pie, intentional activity, is the road of happiness. Essentially this entails how we direct our thought process and the behaviors we choose to indulge.
Manifesting anything in one’s life begins with intention. If more happiness is desired begin by setting the intention to be happy. “Ask and you shall receive”, it is written. I say this not from a place of preaching but from experience. Many a way has been made where there was none before through the power of intention.
It is also essential to seek the lessons and gifts in all experiences. Needless suffering does not exist and if we truly seek, we shall find blessing in the form of growth, lessons, wisdom and maybe even purpose.
Think of a particular difficult or painful experience you endured. What do you know now that you may have never known had it not been for that experience? Adopting this view serves to enhance one of the most important elements essential for happiness- gratitude. From this perspective, the proverbial glass is not just half full but perpetually overflowing.
In the realm of behavior, there are several activities that foster more and longer periods of happiness: exercise, healthy diet, proper sleep, a positive and affirming support system, fun and laughter, acts of kindness, being of service, setting and accomplishing goals, living a purpose driven life, spiritual connectedness and spiritual practice and, arguably the most challenging, forgiveness.
I believe the road of happiness also involves doing one’s own work- the efforts to address unresolved issues and heal unhealed wounds. No one escapes this life unscarred and our wounds often point us in the direction of our purpose. Unresolved, they burden and hinder; not only our progress but our joy.
It may be helpful to think of the Chakras, the 7 energy centers that run through the body. Unresolved issues lead to energy blockages and dis-ease. When these issues are resolved and negative energies released, a pathway is opened for the energies of creativity, harmony, love, peace, well-being, joy, happiness and spirit to flow freely into you, through you and as you.
Be mindful that “As you think so shall you be”. Feeling joy starts with thinking joyfully. Remaining joyful requires behaving joyfully. So…hug somebody, hold a door open for somebody, smile, laugh, help someone across the street, listen to positive music, associate with positive people, dance, sing, pray, count your blessings, learn something new, embrace, create.
Search within. You know better than anyone what brings you joy and happiness. Think it! Do it!