Becoming the Author of Our Own Happiness
It seems like our happiness always lies just over the next hill; life just isn’t what we thought it would be. Mick Jagger once lamented, “I can’t get no satisfaction.”
We look for a new relationship, a better job, or something to buy or eat that will fill the void. Often, we get what we want only to realize that that wasn’t quite it, so we move on to the next thing, and then the next thing, and none of it is entirely satisfactory. Why is there always a gap between the way things are and the way we think they should be?
When we’re not getting our needs and wants satisfied, we’re often simultaneously faced with the opposite dilemma; we seem to be getting too much of what we don’t want: confusion, anxiety, anger, physical pain, or emotional pain. We “know” we would be happy if that painful stuff would just go away, but it won’t.
Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness says, “We are Velcro for threats (the bad stuff) and Teflon for the good stuff.” His solution is to look for the good; to reprogram our minds to recognize and savor the many beautiful moments in life, no matter how simple or subtle. In other words, to reprogram our brain for good.
This is where mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness is not a way to fix our problems, change the world, or even repair our own defects. Instead, it is a way to change our perspective. Through mindfulness, we begin to develop a new relationship with this crazy, delightful, sad, and poignant life.
Here’s a definition of mindfulness that I just love from James Baraz, founding teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in California.
“Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).”
Here are 5 mindful things we can do to rewrite our perspective and become the authors of our own happiness:
Be mindful of the way you connect with family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors. When you are with another person at home, work, school, or in the community: listen, speak from your heart, and be fully present to the warmth and beauty of human relationships. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.
2. Give Your Body What It Needs
Our bodies were designed to move, and they get cranky when they don’t. Discover a physical activity that gives you joy; one that suits your level of mobility and fitness. Play a game, go for a walk, garden, dance, or do yoga. Thoroughly savor the experience while you are doing it, and take a moment afterward to notice how you feel.
3. Be Curious
The world is full of beautiful and amazing things. Notice the changing seasons, a butterfly resting on a flower outside your window, the colors of the food at the market, the taste of a fresh fall apple, the way the sun shines on your friend’s face, or the smell of that first cup of coffee.
Savor the moment, whether you are on a train, eating lunch, or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling; discover what matters most to you.
4. Learn New Things
Human beings love novelty! Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course. Take on a different responsibility at work. Fix a bike. Learn to play an instrument or how to cook your favorite food. Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving. Learning new things will not only make you more confident, they’re also fun to do!
Do something nice for a friend or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Look out into the world, as well as into your own being. Noticing that you and your happiness are linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and will create connections with the people around you.
Try one or all of these things, and you’ll learn to become the author of your own happiness. And remember—we’re here to support you!