Do you know how to be happy consistently - everyday? Is there a magical formula for that?
I think there is such a magic formula. I also think that being happy everyday - in every moment is possible. There are two reasons, however why this magic formula is not that apparent:
First, because we all find it extremely difficult to apply the magic formula and second, because the magic formula is something we absolutely don’t want to believe because it goes against many of our common beliefs.
How to be happy? Learn to enjoy the difficult times. Photo by ohskylab.
Now that sounds interesting, isn’t it? I mean, at least - I said there is a magic formula! Let’s get it out fast so that all of us can get this magic happiness pill…
Here’s a condensed version of the magic formula:
Now that sounds really simple. It sounds like a repeat of what you might have heard many times, “Be open to learning, everything happens for our own good, bla bla bla…”
Yet, I believe that this is the single most effective formula for happiness.
That it is extremely difficult to apply in real life is another issue altogether. Imagine losing a loved one and thinking, “This experience has happened so that I can learn detachment from outcomes. Isn’t it wonderful to have learnt this?” Or, imagine going through a painful breakup and thinking, “Isn’t it nice that I learnt to be assertive about my desires because of this failed relationship?”
And yet - the truth is that you cannot directly control circumstances. You just can’t. And it is these circumstances that are the cause of almost all of human unhappiness. And it is truly accepting that these circumstances are there to teach you something and embracing the lesson - that is the simplest way to happiness.
Someone wise once said, “Accept people and situations as they are. That is the path to happiness.” The question is -how can you accept circumstances like losing a job, a relationship or even being stuck in unhappiness? You can - when you also truly accept that these circumstances are occurring to help you learn what you truly need to learn.
Let’s understand this in greater detail…
One of the biggest 'how to be happy' impediments is our NO to life. Photo: nathangibbs
If I told you, that you resist what life offers you most of the time, would you believe me? Well, the truth is - all of us resist what is - everyday.
Picture a scenario. Your boss blames you for the way you’ve been working these days. You try to justify and say this is not so. Or you don’t say much to him - but you justify how you’ve been, to yourself. When you come out - you talk about how mean the boss is to your co-workers. You feel unhappy.
Another scenario. You feel your partner is not fulfilling your needs in your relationship. You blame him or her and argue with him or her. You feel unhappy.
Yet another scenario. You try hard to increase your income levels, but things just don’t seem to be working for you. You always keep failing. You think: “I wish things would go the way I want them to go…I wish I could be happy.”
All of these situations involve resistance - and a non-acceptance of the lesson life is trying to teach you. Through all these situations, you are being taught a lesson that will help you radically rock your life - and that is the reason why these situations are occurring in your life. (I know that sounds weird, but please stay with me for a while ;-) )
The blaming boss might be an indicator of many things. Maybe you are very submissive as a person and life is wanting to teach you to “respect your desires” and quit this job. Maybe, your job is fine - but you actually do need to make that improvement your boss is talking about. Or maybe, you believe deep within that you are not good enough - and life is hurling insults at you through your boss - so that you finally STOP your self-loathing and start respecting yourself more.
Only you can figure out exactly what your lesson here is if you are open to learning what life wants you to learn.
Your arguments with your partner might indicate your lack of assertiveness. They might also indicate that you are not taking responsibility of your life - and are blaming someone else for your problems. Or they may indicate ten other things. Again - only you know - and the sooner you embrace your lesson - the easier it will be for you to be happy.
Your money issues may indicate more lessons you need to learn. You may not be fearless enough. Or self-disciplined enough. Or maybe you are not putting in the effort to understand how money works. Until you learn your lesson - money will elude you.
What’s the essence of all these lines? It is this:
Let me talk about how this understanding increased my own level of general happiness. (A confession at this point: While I am NOT perfectly blissful all the time - and I am definitely sad at times, my overall happiness levels have risen radically over the past few years).
Years ago, I used to be very unhappy. I was a very shy kid in college at that time. Everyone seemed to be criticizing me. I used to be afraid of what other people thought of me to the point of delirium. I used to remain stuck in my room all day - and I interacted with 3-4 people at best, during my day. I was unhappy, consistently.
One fine day, after hours of frustration and sadness, I asked myself - “How can I be happy? What is stopping me from being happy?”
I realized - that it was simply my fear of what others would think about me that was making me unhappy. Most people have a mild version of this fear - I just had an extreme version that kept me from interacting with almost anyone I didn’t know very well.
That day, I decided to do something interesting: I decided to face my fears. In fact, I opened a Word document - and decided to face one fear every single day. I felt very uncomfortable doing this but went ahead anyway. Sometimes, I shivered as I interacted with a stranger or talked to a girl. But I kept at it - and within a few weeks (it’s true!) - I became the cultural secretary of my campus, I organized debates and quizzes, I spoke to hundreds of people on stage and well…did some things I would not have dreamt of doing earlier.
And yes - my happiness suddenly increased by 5x . Yup, it really did.
What happened in this situation? What made me so much happier?
When I was sad and frustrated, life was trying to teach me this lesson:
“Face your fears and learn to express yourself freely - even if it feels uncomfortable”.
I was sad because I resisted this lesson very much. I kept blaming people who criticized me. I kept blaming others for thinking ill about me.
But, no sooner did I release my resistance and decide to face my fears head on, that happiness barged in. The moment I decided to express myself despite fear, people suddenly started appreciating me - and everything suddenly seemed to be working out!
Some years ago (and some years after the previous story), I became very sad again.
This time - it seemed like many of my friends were always making huge demands of me. It seemed like everyone around me was taking me for granted - and asking me to help them way beyond my capacity. I would want to write when a friend would call and ask me to help him with x, y, z - without taking no for an answer. I would want to sleep and another friend would make some more demands.
After a while - I started feeling frustrated. “Why do people abuse my goodness?” - I used to think at that time. Why does everyone want to take advantage of me - and why does no one care about MY needs?
Finally, after months and months of this frustration - the truth dawned upon me. Life was teaching me to “learn to say no” and to “be assertive about my truest desires.” This was very scary. How could I say no to someone close to me? (I know - it sounds pretty easy to me now - but it sounded scary then).
And that’s all I did. I started being honest with people close to me. I said to them, “Sorry I am busy at this time.” - if I was busy. I said, “Sorry that is something I will not be able to do” - when that was so. And lo and behold! - happiness rushed in. I suddenly became amazingly happy and it felt like the problems I had perceived never existed. Hmmm…
…And we love comfort. We love staying put - where we are. Unfortunately (or is it fortunately?) - life is not like that. It wants to stretch us. It wants to teach us the deepest truths of existence. Sometimes this means an accident. At other times, it means losing our jobs. At still other times - it means failure again and again.
There is no way - absolutely no way to ensure that everything in my life will be pleasant and joyful in the future. This is not so for absolutely anyone on this earth.
Have you met anyone who said to you, "Only the best things have ever happened to me and I’ve never seen failure, hurt or loss"? You can’t possibly meet such a person because the purpose of life itself is to teach us what we need to learn, and to help us realize the deepest truths of existence.
Learning how to be happy involves enjoying life like a game. Photo: Torley
Imagine playing a game that has a character who needs to overcome different challenges in order to advance to the next level. When you play such a game, you will rarely reach the topmost level very easily. Sometimes, you will be on the verge of reaching another level, and your character will suddenly be injured or he will die. At the other times, you will try your best and still be unable to make it to the next level.
Despite all these challenges, playing games like this is a lot of fun (just take a look at the Android and iPhone App Store!). In fact, computer and mobile games are actually fun because of the challenges. If there was no challenge and your character got to the end of the game in a few minutes, you would hate the game! It wouldn’t be fun at all.
The whole point of this article is to express the fact that life is like such a game.
The challenges we face, the failures, the breakups, the bankruptcies, the frustration - are all meant to be fun. They are meant to teach us something that is very important for us to learn. Eventually, none of those challenges will really matter - because we will die. What will matter is the experience of learning from those challenges. And that is why it is in enjoying these challenges - that the answer to 'how to be happy' lies.
This cat definitely knows some secrets about how to be happy. :-)
The next time circumstances go against you, be sad. Be frustrated. Cry if you want to. However, after expressing your feelings for a while - do ask yourself this very important question: what is life trying to teach me through this situation? What is the lesson I need to learn here? Then - embrace that lesson - learn it whole heartedly.
After all, if tough times are here to teach you something, then is it not natural that the tough times will go away when you are willing to learn what they have to teach?
Treating life like a game or enjoying difficulties and learning your lessons is not easy. It is not easy for anyone - not even for me even though writing this article may make me sound very knowledgable. It is always tough because we naturally tend to resist change. I am writing this article with all honesty - and yet - if my loved ones die in an earthquake tomorrow, will I be happy soon enough? The principles I’ve talked about here will help me accept that change sooner - but it will still be very difficult. But despite this being difficult, it must be done.
Learning what life has to teach you easily, without kicking your feet is difficult, but it is the road to the deepest - most lasting happiness.
Well, all the best to you as yet another day unfolds with its own uncertainities and circumstances.
Yup - embrace it. That’s the only way to be happy.
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