“We hold these truth to be self evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”The Declaration of Independence – Thomas Jefferson
It is taken as a basic assumption of truth that all people want to be happy. Buddhism teaches us that all beings wish to be happy and free from suffering. The desire for happiness is a fundamental point of commonality that we share with each other. Even those who we feel we can’t relate to or who take actions we strongly oppose have within them a desire to be happy and free from suffering. We all have that desire to be happy, it’s a part of who we are as humans but how many of us have actually taken the time to truly understand what happiness really means to us?
What do you really want in this life?
I have found that I need to periodically check in with myself on what really makes me happy. Especially in this modern social media world, it can be so easy to compare your life with some else’s highlight reel and send yourself into an spiral of comparing and unhappiness. If you lose touch with what really makes you happy, the grass starts to look greener everywhere you look. To quote Hamilton: “If you stand for nothing, Burr, what‘ll you fall for?” When you are no longer grounded on what brings you joy and happiness, it’s easier to think that everyone is living the life you want.
For some people, it’s easy to remember what makes them happy; they know what they want even when things may not always go their way. For others – and I’m in this category – connecting to what makes us happy can be lifetime practice. I have found that I need to make a routine of reminding myself of what I truly value and what really brings happiness to my life.
I have found that it’s important for me to keep a daily journal where I can write down the good things that happen day by day. I also have a log in One Note called my “feel good file” where I keep screenshots or notes of things that made me happy day by day. Having these journals and logs helps me reconnect with my own sense of joy and happiness in my life, enough on tough days.
So, what is happiness to me? I find happiness in the little things: the music I enjoy, joking with friends, the sound of the rain on a grey spring day. I know that I feel better both mentally and physically when I’m able to get up and move my body a bit throughout the day. Staying still and stagnant brings on a mental fog for me.
While I might sometimes think that I want the million subscribers or the feature article, what really makes me happy is knowing that I’ve connected with another person and helped them in some way.
I’ve learned that I need to embrace and own my joy. I can’t depend on external circumstances to “make” me happy: happiness is a choice I get to make everyday, despite the hard situation I may be going through. My joy is my joy and doesn’t need to answer to others or meet their standards. My favorite television show is Avatar: The Last Airbender. I really don’t care if others think it’s a show for kids, it makes me happy when I watch it and it means a lot to me. This is your life, don’t let the judgment of others color your happiness.
I think one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned as an adult is that happiness really is a choice that we can make even during the hardest of times. Sometimes, it can feel impossible to find happiness and sometimes your brain chemistry does actively work against you and that’s when support interventions may be required. But, once I saw and accepted that my happiness is my responsibility, I found myself willing to take the important steps required to get help when I needed it. Life isn’t always easy, happiness may not simply come on its own, you may need to work for it and even fight for it at times. We only live once, I don’t want to live my life bogged down by stress, anxiety and negativity.
So what does happiness look like for you?
What brings joy to your life?
What can you do to actively bring more happiness into your life?
Until next time: find your joy! Connect with it, embrace it and own it!
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