The formula for happiness is simple, right? Do things that make you happy, avoid negative thoughts and stress, and voila! Happiness appears like a beam from within and shines all around.
But that’s not at all how it happens. You know and I know it doesn’t work like that. And today, on the International Day of Happiness, the world is talking about how it does. How people, like you and me, can create more happiness in the world around us. And it starts with you.
Happiness works much like love, in mysterious ways. However, science and psychology tell us that brain chemistry alters emotion. But in order to activate those chemicals, we have to talk about habits first.
There is a formula to happiness, and it lies in changing thought patterns. Your patterns—what you do and think and say every day—determine how happy you are. It’s got nothing to do with what’s around you, but everything to do with how your brain works—that inner voice. Happiness is not within your grasp because it is, quite literally, within you.
Happiness: Arrivals & Departures
Happiness does not happen overnight. Duh, you know that, right? You don’t strike a yoga pose or two, meditate for a month or a year, write mantras on post-it notes all over your home, and poof, happiness arrives and is knocking on your front door. There is no doorbell-ringing happiness. Happiness is silence; it is stillness. But it’s hard to be so quiet and motionless with the world whirling around us and inside of us.
We live in the real world where the unexpected is probable and real things happen. Things like extra stressful workdays, fights with our partners, misunderstandings with friends and family, bad thoughts, negative body image days, everything goes wrong days, insomniac nights, self-doubt, worry and the like. It’s all a part of life. And for many of us, it’s the part that messes with our ability to find blissful states.
I have lived in a world much like that one. But of all those sensations, it was worry that pushed me over the edge. Am I doing this right? When will I? How can I? What if?
The truth is, I was forever in states of disarray—balancing on balls that no longer wanted to support me, balancing on a scale that said I was too fat, balancing on a line that wanted to see me fall. And I didn’t realize life presented transitions to teach me about me, to assist in the evolution of self.
The prospect of seeing the blessing in a mistake didn’t occur to me; I continued to make them and break them and beat them down and fight them and run away from them until I was too tired to run anymore and had to sit down. And at the end of the day, I blamed myself. I was disappointed in myself, and on some days, I even hated myself.
The truth is I tried to keep myself too busy to notice those feelings. The negative stuff got under-the-rug or in-the-closet treatment; I trudged forward despite and in spite of. The busier I was, the less likely I was to notice that happiness didn’t dwell inside me, but rather it was something I thought could be bought or constructed.
I kept myself busy because I was unhappy, and I was unhappy because I was too busy to notice.
Time Will Tell
Busy is the life that most of us are all about. We are obsessed with time. Every second is accounted for; every moment is a chance to do something, anything. Don’t stop moving and don’t slow down. Just keep going, keep pushing, harder, faster. Time’s a-ticking.
But because we’re so busy being busy, we don’t have time for much of what we love or like, and we rarely, if ever, have time for self-care.
We fall in and out of habits so quickly because we don’t always dedicate time to self—to things that are worthy, that foster happiness, things that burgeon happiness into a forest of self-love. Why can’t we stick to those positive habits that are tough at first, but ultimately have life-changing and life-affirming results? Why are we likely to stick to habits that make us feel like crap rather than the ones that lead to happiness?
This sounds like self-sabotage. But it also sounds like impatience.
Patience Is a Virtue
However, the enigma isn’t so enigmatic—we are a society full of instant everything. If whatever we desire doesn’t happen immediately, we don’t want it. Or maybe we want it, but we don’t want to wait for it, put in the effort, enjoy the process to reap the benefits. We want it now, dammit. We want it now! We. Want. It. Now.
Look at how we live, from the convenience of food, entertainment and quick-fix promises sold with the intention of giving you a flatter stomach, a wrinkle-free face, more room in your closet, flawless eyebrows and slimmer thighs. Without any effort, we have everything our hearts want and desire, and then some. Most of the stuff, we don’t even want. Look around your home, look at your life. Is it the life your dreams are made of? Or is it one that was sold to you?
Take the time to observe what’s around you. Is it what makes you happy? If not, how can you change it? If it doesn’t serve a purpose or make you feel all the feels, get rid of it. You do not have time for filling up space around you while your interior stays empty. Fill the inside, have experiences, feel.
Take the time to consider your activities. Do you do things that bring you joy? If not, why not? And why do you dedicate time to things that make you miserable? Integrity matters here.
Take the time to be still. Ask yourself some serious questions about what you want out of life and who you want to be. If you don’t look within, happiness will only be a mirage, a production of cinematographic proportions. Be mindful of what it is you long for and be honest about it. Reflection must be included in the process, period—there’s no way around it.
The Sound of Happiness
When I slowed down, things changed. I asked myself hard questions, and I let time give me the answers.
I didn’t pressure myself, not like I used to anyway. I sat still and listened to myself breathe and listened to others breathe and listened to the universe breathing, as if in unison with us all. Because that is what the universe does, it breathes with us and it gives us breath.
When I sat still, I could hear what I needed to hear. I started to really notice things. I became a non-robot. I became human again.
When I sat still, I could hear what I needed to hear. I started to really notice things. I became a non-robot. I became human again. And I was both afraid and amused. I finally realized that this was living.
Are you willing to be still, too? To be mindful? Are you willing to face the silence and hear happiness whisper all sorts of secrets in your ear? Be ready, or get ready, because those secrets can help you maintain your true self and push your levels of happiness higher than you ever thought possible.
Trust me, you want to sit still. You want to be quiet. Because when you slow down and sit still and listen, you can begin to feel happiness.
Related: 4 Ways to Plan Your Happiness