How To Be Happy?

Happiness Is A Choice



How To Be Happy? There are 2 types of happiness. There is the happiness that we feel in response to an external event or circumstance. An obvious example of this would be our reaction to winning the lottery!

Then there is the happiness that is cultivated internally. This is the energy that arises as a conscious choice rather than the more ephemeral reaction to a piece of good news.

In this article we are going to focus on happiness as a choice.




How To Be Happy - And How Things Are

We all struggle and strive to attain health, wealth and personal happiness. Yet these three big areas: our health, our wealth and our relationships are where we all get hung out to dry – sooner or later.

It is as though there is an inbuilt design flaw that ensures that we all suffer at some point - one way or another.

In the Buddhist perspective, "seeing things as they are" (Sanskrit yatha-bhutam darshanam) basically means to see that all human experience is stamped by three characteristics:

* Impermanence (anitya)

* No-self (anatman)

* Suffering (duhkha)

This is how things are.

As we become aware of these characteristics our point of focus shifts away from the content of our experiences and toward our response to them.

At time of writing in the middle of the Covid-19 lockdown this is a very pertinent point!

However, as Thich Nhat Hanh writes in “Being Peace”:

“…life is filled with suffering, but it is also filled with many wonders, like the blue sky, the sunshine, the eyes of a baby.

To suffer is not enough. We must also be in touch with the wonders of life. They are within us and all around us, everywhere, any time."


Zen teacher Alan Senauke offers the following advice for keeping your Joyful Mind when fear and suffering threaten it:

“Joy is an active principle, not a swamp of passivity. No one can steal it…

We have choices even though they are often hard to see.”




How To Be Happy - Choose To Be Happy

In the bible (Philippians 4:4 NKJV), the psalmist writes:


”This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it”

He doesn’t say “yesterday was a good day so let’s give thanks for that” or “tomorrow will be a good day so I’ll scrape through today and hang on for tomorrow”

He says today... now... this present moment... we choose to give thanks for this day.

When we complain it is often self-focused – about our current experiences and what I want or don’t want.

Happiness is a choice and it comes to those who look beyond themselves to something greater than their own immediate personal happiness based on their circumstances.

The apostle Paul was frequently imprisoned and on one occasion when he was incarcerated with no prospect of release he wrote:

”Rejoice in the Lord always…always be joyful…”

His joy was grounded in his focus and was not a reflection of his circumstances.




How To Be Happy – A View From The End

In 2015, the award-winning journalist John Leland (on assignment from “The New York Times”) spent time with number of older people with the initial expectation of learning about how they cope with the effects of aging in terms of physical and mental health and overall quality of life.

However what he found was quite extraordinary, despite their circumstances these people lived positive and joyful lives. He captured and expressed his experiences in Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old:

”Older people consistently reported just as many positive emotions as the younger participants, but had fewer negative ones. They also had more mixed emotions, meaning that they didn’t let frustration or anxiety keep them from saying they were happy.

Consciously or unconsciously, they were making the choice to be happy even when there were reasons to feel otherwise…

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, the researchers found that the emotional processing center of older people’s brains, the amygdala, fired more actively when they looked at positive images than negative ones; younger brains reacted to both equally.

In this, older brains resemble the brains of people who meditate.”


Leland offers a compelling explanation from the psychologist Laura L. Carstensen, founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity:

”Her hypothesis, which she gave the wonky name ‘socioemotional selectivity,’ is that older people, knowing they face a limited time in front of them, focus their energies on things that give them pleasure in the moment, whereas young people, with long horizons, seek out new experiences or knowledge that may or may not pay off down the line.

Our default position is that we’d be “happy if only” every bad thing went away. Whereas, these old people accepted that there are always challenges in life and they choose to be “happy in spite of.”




How To Be Happy - The Cognitive Approach

In A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy William B. Irvine shares the wisdom of Stoic philosophy and reveals how its insights and advice are refreshingly relevant to now.

In summary, here are 3 key takeaways:

1. “What’s The Worst That Could Happen?” - This is what the Stoics refer to as “the premeditation” – which means that there’s a lot of value in thinking through carefully, and consciously about the worst that could happen. In most situations your thought process will show that your anxiety about those situations are out of proportion or exaggerated

2. “Fake It To Make It” - Irvine refers to Seneca, who says that when we are angry we should take steps to “turn all (anger’s) indications into their opposites.” We should force ourselves to relax our face, soften our voice, and slow our pace of walking. If we do this, our internal state will soon come to resemble our external state, and our anger, says Seneca, will have dissipated.

3. “Make It A Treat” - The Stoics understood that denying yourself something makes you appreciate what you would otherwise take for granted, and they regularly undertook quite stringent exercises in self-denial and over long periods of time.

Here are 5 Stoic Strategies To Create Happiness





How To be Happy - Be Grateful!

We have left the best and most powerful key to how to be happy to last.


Be grateful!

The practice of gratitude really does make us happy.

Not only does gratitude make us happy there is considerable research that shows that there are many physical, emotional and spiritual benefits that we can enjoy from this practice.

As with most tools and resources featured on this site gratitude is a practice.

To make a start on how to be happy, all that is needed is a change in perspective.

You can feel it right now if you choose to.

Free Download: One Page Summary Sheet With Action Points & Resources






"Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day." (Henri Nouwen)




Return to: Renewing Your Mind



Zen-Tools.Net



English Chinese (Traditional) Russian French German Italian Spanish Vietnamese


LATEST ARTICLES

  1. Your Relationship With Failure Is Critical To Your Success

    Just Because You Have A Spectacular Failure Doesn’t Mean The Game Is Over. The thought that you could fail can really slow you down. But the problem is not the failure, the problem is your relationshi…

    Read More

  2. Lost, Stuck & Going Round In Circles?

    Are You Lost In Transition? To be in an alien North African city, late in the evening, in the dark, completely lost in transition from the main market square back to the obscure location of our Riad…

    Read More

  3. Seeing Is Believing Or Is It?

    Do You Believe What You See Or Do You See What You Believe? Like the characters in "The Matrix" we are fooled by the illusion that what we see is how things really are. Why? Because this is the mind's…

    Read More

  4. What Difference Did You Make?

    What Impact Will You Leave In The Lives Of Others? If you knew you were going to die tonight and you were given a few minutes to reflect before that happened, what would you say was the meaning of yo…

    Read More

  5. Compassion Is Selfish And You Need It

    If You Want Others To Be Happy, Practice Compassion. If You Want To Be Happy, Practice Compassion. Compassion is derived from the Latin words "com pati" meaning to suffer with. It has been defined as…

    Read More

  6. The Placebo Effect - 2 Key Takeaways

    The Power Of Expectation Of An Outcome Regardless Of The Lack Of Any Substance To That Expectation. Traditionally, the placebo effect occurs when false, or dummy, treatments of inert substances [that…

    Read More

  7. The Red Pill

    This Is What Will Happen After You Take It. "This is your last chance," rebel leader Morpheus tells Neo, holding a coloured pill in each hand. “You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in y…

    Read More

  8. Transformational Life Hacks

    This Has To Be One Of The Best Ways For Living The Best Life You Can Possibly Live. An online search on life hacks will invariably provide you with multiple links to ways of increasing your productivi…

    Read More

  9. This Too Shall Pass

    The Blessing And The Curse Of Impermanence. There is a story of a king who sought wisdom. Eventually he heard of a man living in a remote part of the kingdom who had a reputation for great wisdom. The…

    Read More

  10. The Stories We Tell Ourselves

    The Stories That We Tell Ourselves Are A Matter Of Choice. The stories we tell ourselves form the backcloth and the tapestry of our lives. These narratives shape and define our sense of self and how a…

    Read More

  11. Who Do You Trust?

    Trust Is A Choice And It Creates Your Reality. Nothing in life is permanent and nothing lasts forever. Every relationship ends in tears. Somebody leaves or somebody dies. This is how things are. This…

    Read More

  12. How Positive Asymmetry Can Transform Your Life

    Finding This Hidden Value Is The Key To A Huge Upside. Most of us spend our lives working to linear rules where there is an equal relationship between effort and result. Work hard you get a result. Wo…

    Read More

  13. 5 Tips For Developing A Growth Mindset

    How To Be There When Preparation Meets Opportunity. The growth mindset holds the core belief that your intelligence and personality is something you can develop and that you can expand and grow. The p…

    Read More

  14. Lost For Words? Experience Truth

    If you can't think of the right thing to say, say nothing. The concepts we employ, the categorizations we apply and the words we choose and use to articulate a direct experience put us in a double bi…

    Read More

  15. Belief - A Terrible Tyrant Or An Empowering Servant

    To Believe Or Not To Believe - That Is The Question. Nothing has inflicted more suffering on humanity than its beliefs and dogmas. The religious and cultural beliefs that sanction and allow or impose…

    Read More

  16. How To Avoid Herd Mentality

    How To Stay Far From The Madding Crowd. Herd mentality describes how we make decisions based on what everyone else is thinking and doing. It is also known as a mob or crowd mentality. We follow the he…

    Read More

  17. Are You Trying To Teach A Cat To Bark?

    We Suffer Every Time We Believe A Thought That Argues With What Is. When your mind is perfectly clear, what is, is what you want. If you want reality to be different than it is, you might as well try…

    Read More

  18. The Value Of Slack

    Slack Is The Capacity To Effect Change And The Resource To Deal With The Unexpected. Many organizations are obsessed with efficiency and try to ensure that every resource is fully utilized to its full…

    Read More

  19. 6 Tips To Help You Stop Trying Too Hard

    Less and less do you need to force things, until you arrive at non-action. We are brought up to believe that we get what we want in life as a result of what we do, by the actions that we take, that ha…

    Read More

  20. Your Point Of Focus

    Is It Helping You Or Hindering You? Your point of focus is the central point of your attention. Your point of focus is a binary choice and the result of that choice is critical to your happiness, your…

    Read More

  21. Your Secret For Success

    To accomplish any success in life, you must identify accurately what it is that you hunger for, thirst for and long for. The purpose of this article is to look at the foundation of the secret for succ…

    Read More

  22. Can You Stop Thinking?

    Discover The Joy Of A Quiet Mind Can you stop thinking? According to Zen Buddhist priest Shunmyo Masuno the art of not thinking about anything is not easy to achieve. Even practising monks find it dif…

    Read More

  23. How To Build Self Confidence

    What Is Holding You Back From Pursuing Your Dreams? Your self confidence is based on ability. Your self confidence is all about your level of trust, faith and belief in your abilities [your power] and…

    Read More

  24. How To Overcome Fear And Perform Powerfully

    Learning how to overcome fear and perform powerfully is a skill that we all need to acquire as fear of failure affects most of us at some point in our lives. Whilst it is natural to feel a level of fe…

    Read More

  25. Dance Into The Light And Stop Chasing Your Tail

    You are creating hell on earth when you are too subsumed within your underlying and deeply embedded negative energetic states. To counter your dissatisfactions and misery you initially go unconscious…

    Read More

  26. Change Your Language To Change How You Feel

    How you mentally characterize a situation has a profound impact on how you respond to it emotionally. There is a direct causal link between how you think about a situation, the words you use to articu…

    Read More

  27. How To Live In A Participatory Universe

    What good is a universe without somebody around to look at it? What Conclusions Can We Draw About Living In A Participatory Universe? The inescapable conclusion is that the world and the universe (wit…

    Read More

  28. 4 Keys To Working With The Energy Of Life

    The journey home to the energy of life does not consist in arriving at a new destination it is a coming home to one’s self. [1] How are you feeling, what is your dominant emotion right now? [2] Where…

    Read More

  29. How To Deal With The Challenges Of Playing The Long Game

    You have to be willing to suffer today in order to reap enormous rewards tomorrow. The long game is so hard to play because it involves taking a series of very small steps, that people rarely see, per…

    Read More

  30. If You Don't Take Care Of You, Who Will?

    How To Build Self Esteem In my early life and until my early twenties I suffered from a deep inferiority complex and low self esteem. Forty years later and, said in sincerity and with humility, I have…

    Read More





The Balanced Life



The Balanced Toolkit



3 Keys Solutions


Get new posts by email:



Support This Site