Happiness is an inside job. This is no big surprise. But learning how to keep looking inside for happiness takes practice. I believe it’s human nature to keep looking outside of ourselves to feel validated, approved of and even happier until we have the “ah-ha” that no one can give us happiness. Sometimes we come to this insight through traveling around the globe to have a terrible trip, or marrying someone we thought was perfect but well…never made us any happier.
And all along we had this happiness inside of us just wanting to be released. So to help you release your natural happiness easier, I am sharing two lists: First, I share the 3 Things to Stop Today. These are 3 things that if you do them, you’ll be feeling blue (so avoid them please!). Second, I share the 3 Things to Start Today. These are 3 things that will help you feel happier today, and move you toward a lasting sense of happiness.
Stop These 3 Things
1. Filling in the blank____________. In my book, Growing Happy Kids, I explained how so many of us get caught filling in the blank. I’ll be happy when (________). How did you fill in the blank? I know that I have to catch myself when I do it too. When I have millions of dollars, I live in sunny California or some other thing that I put in that blank. The truth is that I am happy right now as life is unfolding and savoring that process is powerful.
2. Comparing You to Someone Else. Everyone has a unique and divine design of their life that is unfolding perfectly (even if it doesn’t look that way). So please stop comparing yourself to others because this is a cause of unhappiness. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, says “To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.”
3. Complaining. By complaining about things, you only draw more things to complain about into your life. I am not saying there aren’t things to complain about….but by focusing on them, and giving them energy this becomes a cause of unhappiness. (The same energy could be used to focus on the things going right, for example).
Start These 3 Things
1. Gratitude. Starting a gratitude practice is hugely helpful. I suggested to one family I work with they begin a “Family Gratitude Journal” where mom, dad and little Joey were responsible daily for writing 1 thing they felt really, really, really grateful for. It was this little practice that helped them begin seeing more and more all the good in their life – and of course, they become happier too.
2. Meditation. Beginning a practice of calming the mind is essential to happiness. It is here where you can go beyond the mind, and experience real peace. I realize that you may not know where to start so I suggest Sharon Salzberg’s book, Real Happiness. It is excellent and also has a CD to get you started on how to meditate whether you begin with a walking meditation or something more traditional.
3. Get a Happiness Teacher. In my book, Growing Happy Kids, I explained that everyone needs a happiness teacher (adults and kids!). Just like learning how to drive we would never just throw our teenager the keys without teaching them where the pedals, buttons, mirror and everything else is located. Happiness is the same thing. Every adult needs to learn the causes of happiness and do them — as well as the causes of unhappiness, and avoid them! It’s not more complicated than that. I promise.
Maureen Healy is a spiritual teacher, author, speaker and healer. Her latest book, Growing Happy Kids: How to Foster Inner Confidence, Success and Happiness, is available wherever books are sold (HCI Books, 2012). More info: www.growinghappykids.com and @mdhealy