Have you thought about what it would take to make you happy? I think about it a lot, and I’ve learned that the things I THINK will make me happy don’t deliver. (The picture above may seem out of place – but read on.)
I’ve been losing the same 15 pounds every year since I was in college, and once the pounds are gone, I’m not a scoch happier. Some other desire pops up, and off I go in pursuit of that little piece of happiness – new sofa, new car, new hairdo (you fill in the blank for yourself). For a fleeting moment, they make us happy, but not for long.
This morning while doing my grueling four-mile hike (training for the marathon you know, in hopes it will make be happy I guess) I had an epiphany. Suddenly, for no reason, I was overcome by a mind-blowing, soul-expanding feeling of happiness. I began smiling like a ninny.
Did you know that when Jefferson wrote that “pursuit of happiness” phrase into the constitution, it had a whole different meaning? In those days pursuit didn’t mean “chasing” happiness like it does today – it meant “practicing” happiness.
There’s a book out titled “Happy for No Reason” by the lady that wrote Chicken Soup for the Soul. I don’t plan to buy it because I have so many self help books, it’s embarrassing – especially when I see how little good they’ve done. I have an old edition of Architectural Digest I carry with me on airplanes – I use it to hide the self-help book I’m reading at the moment.
In Happy For No Reason, the author Marci Shimoff claims our degrees of happiness are roughly 50 percent determined by genetics and 50 percent learned. She describes two myths that people have about happiness:
1. The Myth of More. Having more means you will be happier. Not true. Some of the wealthiest people are the most unhappy. You can have enormous success, a seemingly ideal life, lots of money and still feel lonely, alone, and miserable. In the book What Happy People Know, authors Dan Baker and Cameron Stauth tell one story of a wildly successful and wealthy man who seemed to have the life many people dream about, who was on the brink of suicide because he was in so much pain and unhappiness. It’s isn’t how MUCH you have that determines your level of happiness.
2. The Myth of “I’ll Be Happy When”. You’ve either heard this statement of said it yourself. I’ll be happy when I lose weight, have more money, find my soul mate, write my book…. you can come up with a slew of things that you think are the solution to solving your unhappiness situation. How many times have you achieved some of the things you thought would “make you happy” only to find brief periods of gratification or disappointment because your happiness expectations fell short.
How often do you associate something that happens to you as the source of your happiness? Something externally occurs in your life and your response is a feeling of happiness. Sure, that’s a normal response to creating and receiving good things into your life. The truth is that happiness is an inside job; a state of mind and being that is independent of anyone of anything outside of YOU. Cultivating a heightened state of happiness can be life-changing. Imagine what your life would be like if you began each day looking through the eyes of happiness and possibility!
That’s why knowing that 50% of what affects your happiness is a habit can be great news. Some very simple exercises done consistently can begin to permanently change your happiness level set point.
How to begin raising your happiness level?
1. Practicing daily gratitude
2. Shifting limiting beliefs and negative self-talk
3. Surrounding yourself with a great community of support
4. Daily spiritual practices to commune with your heart and soul
5. Being of service to helping others
6. Self-care and nourishment
You can begin to shift habits in as little as 5-10 minutes a day as long as you are consistent. Marci shared a story of a man who overcame some very difficult hardships in his life. Every day he chose a theme, which could be anything – grass, water, a smile…. and during the course of the day whenever he saw or experienced that theme showing up, it was a reminder for him to feel gratitude for his life – a signal to stop, take a breath, come back to the present and into the space of appreciation for the gifts and blessings in his life. In the span of 20 years, he said he hadn’t repeated one theme yet.
I love that idea. My image for the day is Lindt’s Dark chocolate with red chilies. Yes! If you haven’t tried this, you can pick up a large bar at Wal-Mart for $1.99. It will make you happy. There is a an unopened bar on my center island as I write. I promised myself I won’t have my daily allowance until all my to-dos are finished.
You probably suspected that I’m pretty simple – there’s the proof. My happiness – at least for today – comes at a price less than $2 bucks.