Everyone wants to be happy. Or do they? The History of Happiness by Peter N. Stearns informs us that being happy was not always a primary or even a respected goal. In Puritanical times, it was believed God favored melancholy, long-suffering individuals. According to Professor Stearns, “a significant shift occurred in Western culture around 250 years ago.”
Nowhere did that shift take root deeper than in the United States. The pursuit of happiness is embedded in our constitution. And we pursue it with great diligence. Google happiness and you will get 352,000,000 results. More websites, articles and videos than you can look at in a lifetime. Titles include…
Secrets of True Happiness
How to Be Happy
Happiness Is a Choice
Keys to a Happy Life
Judaism Teaches One How to be Happy
Do you want true happiness?
Peace and happiness now
The Science of Happiness
Such an abundance of happy information indicates…
Many people are not happy.
Nothing delivered the optimal amount of happiness.
We’re seeking but not finding.
If, in spite of our best efforts, we are not happy, we need to ask ourselves…
Are we going about the pursuit of happiness in the wrong way?
If we confuse happiness with pleasure, the answer is yes. Pleasure comes from transitory sensory experiences. The constant pursuit of pleasure does not create happiness and can lead us further from it.
Happiness is inner peace, a deep-seated sense of harmony and contentment. It does not depend on external circumstances or experiences.
While there are many excellent, helpful sites with valuable knowledge and advice to share, happiness is not something that can be attained in and of itself. It doesn’t come wrapped in a neat little package and, once we open the right door, it will be ours to have and to hold forever.
Happiness is a by-product, the result of who we are, how we live and think, act and react. As the great American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne explained…
Happiness in this world, when it comes, comes incidentally. Make it the object of pursuit, and it leads us a wild-goose chase, and is never attained. Follow some other object, and very possibly we may find that we have caught happiness without dreaming of it.
What would such objects be? Purpose, meaning, selflessness, forgiveness, integrity. Live with these qualities and no matter what your circumstances are, you will be happy.
Happiness is not a momentary thrill, a passing high. To be truly happy is to have an unwavering sense of inner peace and contentment that can only come from experiencing the natural ups and downs of life. Through pain, we discover our strength. Through sorrow, we learn compassion. Through fear, we find courage.
THE BIG MISTAKE: believing unhappiness is caused by and can be resolved by something outside ourselves.
If only I had ___________________
If only (my partner, child, boss) would _____________________
When you list reasons you are not happy, you probably focus on external factors like I am not happy because I am in debt. But that is not the real reason. Go deeper. What does the external circumstance indicate? What is the thinking behind it? Our thoughts and feelings are the reason we are happy or unhappy, secure or insecure.
THE CORRECTION: Seek the REAL reasons you are not happy and work on changing those.
Fill in the blank: I am not happy because ____________________.
EXTERNAL CIRCUMSTANCE REAL REASON
I am in debt I feel insufficient, afraid
I don’t have a partner I feel lonely, unwanted
I am not successful I am not smart/worthy
I am not attractive I am not lovable
I am sick I am weak, frightened
Thoughts are at the root of feelings. They cannot be erased by changing our bodies or external circumstances. They don’t dissolve under quick fix happiness bandaids. We need to root out the blocks to our happiness and work on changing them. We need to look at our negative thoughts and self-defeating beliefs and heal them with forgiveness, love and light. We need to build our character and develop integrity so that we won’t feel weak and unworthy.
From Healing Feelings: Even in the harshest of conditions, we rule the domain of our mind. Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl wrote a brilliant, moving account of his years as a prisoner in Nazi death camps in the book, “Man’s Search For Meaning.” He observed that those who survived found some purpose, reason to live, within that most horrific of experiences. When we give suffering meaning, it can empower instead of weaken us, drive us forward instead of backward.
As long as we seek happiness, we will never find it. But it will be ours if remove the blocks to it and meet life’s challenges, build our character and live our lives with honesty, compassion, gratitude and generosity.