How to increase and maintain Happiness
Can Happiness be a Habit?
Between the wanting and the getting – Is the living.
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Health and happiness are the two things that most people will tell you that
they desire the most. Ask a parent what they want most for their child and
they will almost always say, “I really don’t care, as long as they are
healthy and happy.” Sometimes, people say that they want love, success
and wealth, but when asked why, they think for a moment and then say
because these things would make them happy.
Often, people desire health above all else, but only when they feel that it
is threatened. People rarely think about health when they are young, fit
and pain or disease free.
The single most sought after life experience is happiness.
If you made a list of the things that you wished for to improve your life,
then added notes alongside each item, detailing the amount of time and
effort you were putting into each one, you would probably be greatly
surprised at the lack of logic and or commitment that you are applying to
increasing or maintaining your happiness.
You may have happiness as the thing you most desire, but your notes
may reveal that you spend 50 hours a week at your career, 10 hours
housekeeping and 20 hours watching television. Next to the word
happiness you may find 10 minutes or, more likely, no time at all.
Have you ever even stopped to think about what it is that makes you
happy. Has it ever dawned on you to actively pursue happiness. Most of
us simply consider happiness to be a random act that catches us
fleetingly and disappears all too soon.
Happiness has fascinated me my entire life. I constantly seek it and play
with it. I’m getting better at prolonging it and faster at recognizing it.
Honestly, sometimes I just sit and focus on happiness until, ‘I bring it on’.
It takes a little concentration, sometimes memory and sometimes
imagination. Practice and focus have resulted in my ability to simply
decide to be happy and I remind myself to do this often. I used to wait
and be surprised and delighted when something caused me to be happy,
until I realized that I could actually attain happiness regardless of any
event or situation.
When happiness comes accidentally it entices us to be in the moment.
Most of us are mentally in a perpetual state of being in the past or future
most of the time. In happiness, we pull our attention into the present
moment to fully experience this great feeling. I mention this, as I know
that the most essential requirement for happiness is to practice, ‘Living in
the present moment’.
Many years ago, I passed a book shop and saw the title of a book that I
thought was brilliant. I don’t remember much about the book, but I often
think of the title, as it reminds me how easy it is to be caught up in
mundane things and be completely oblivious to the events in our lives.
The title was: The Geranium on the Windowsill Just Died and the
Teacher Kept Right on Talking. (Albert Collum and Gerard Filly)
We may miss so much of our lives simply because we are not paying
attention or we are not really present.
Happiness is a present moment experience
A couple of my other favourite quotes illustrating this point are:
Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. (John Lennon)
This is not a dress rehearsal. This is your life.
These days will one day become the good old days.
Between the wanting and the getting – Is the living.
We all wait for happy events to come and find us or we sometimes
actively seek out things that we believe will bring us happiness. Winning
money, buying a big-ticket item, getting married, having a child, a
holiday, a promotion or finding a new lover are usually considered to be
happy events. Many of us spend a great amount of time, effort and
money actively pursuing these things.
Unfortunately these things come with a ‘Happiness Expiry Date’.
Ironically, we often find our happiness list reverses on us at a later date.
We then hear, “I’ll be happy when my divorce comes through, when I
retire, when the kids leave home.” The car you once dreamed about
owning is now just a costly mode of transport. Your bride has become
your witch, and your home is cluttered with things you long forgot you
Happiness is not about Having - Happiness is about Being
We have all heard it before, but we must constantly remind ourselves
that happiness comes from within.
This reminds me of a story I once heard which struck a cord with me.
Back in the days of old, there was a widow who worked as the town’s
seamstress. She made only a meagre living from her sewing which was
her only source of income. Each day, the widow sat on her front porch.
As the townsfolk passed by they would often stop and chat as she sewed.
One afternoon, the widow was seen on her hands and knees crawling
across the front lawn. A local man rushed up and asked in a concerned
voice, “Why are you on your hands and knees?”
The widow explained that she had lost her only needle and without the
needle she would be unable to work. The man decided to get down with
her and help her to look for the needle. After a few minutes, he realized
that it was late in the day and soon there would not be enough light to
see. He hurried away to find other people to come and help with the
The widow was well liked and respected in the village and soon there was
a large group of people joining in the search. As the sun was about to
set, the concerned man asked the widow, “Can you just stop for a
moment and think back to where you last had the needle?”
“Sure,” said the widow “I was sitting inside, at the kitchen table, sewing a
fine piece of cloth.”
“Inside?” asked the man.
“Yes, inside!” she repeated.
Not meaning to offend, but being completely flabbergasted, the man
exclaimed, “Are you completely mad, woman?”
She looked at him quizzically and he went on, “If you last had the needle
inside the house, then why were you searching for it outside on the
lawn?” and he added, “Why have all of the town’s people searching
outside for what you lost inside?”
The widow took a moment to answer and then stated in a gentle voice,
“Sir, I have sat on my porch for many years. In those years I have
engaged in many conversations with most of the townsfolk. I too, have
wondered the same thing, Why is it that you all come to me, looking
outside of yourselves, for what you have lost inside?”
Happiness is internally generated - not externally manufactured
Happiness is not a tonic with a recipe. I cannot give you a list of things to
do to guarantee your happiness. Some people seem to never be happy,
no matter what. Yet other people are just filled with joy for the simplest
reasons. Most of the time, I am happy for no particular reason at all other
than the fact that I choose to be.
There are two basic principles that I do consider to be imperative:
Actively pursue, maintain, expand and share your happiness.
Minimize, eliminate and repel unhappiness.
Happiness or unhappiness is usually a habit. There are certain things
which always bring me joy, and there are others that I have learned to
repel, as I have learned and paid attention to what works for me and what
doesn’t. You will need to create your own awareness and decide what
commitment you are willing to make to tilt the balance.
The most important aspect of happiness is to choose which thoughts you
will entertain and which you will dismiss.
Your mind, body and spirit are connected. If one is out of balance the
others will be affected. Keeping your body healthy will greatly improve
your mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.
Sunshine! It is now official - sunshine not only has physical health
benefits, but also greatly affects our moods. Spend just ten minutes a
day outside and have sunshine on your skin. It is also recommended that
you take your sunglasses off and allow light into your eyes.
Other things that I know to bring me happiness:
Meditation allows me to feel a gentle, quiet, centred kind of happiness.
Music can sometimes lift me to a height that is almost blissful.
Love, I have felt so much love at times that I thought my body had
I feel a rush of joy when I see my son.
When I smell freshly bathed babies or freshly mown lawn.
I love sunshine on my skin when the weather has been cold and cool
breezes when the weather is hot.
I love the smell and feel of the ocean.
Dancing or energetic movement.
Concerts, movies or theatre.
Sitting in parks or gardens.
Driving fast with loud music playing.
Open fires and drinking wine with great people.
Comedy, especially if it is clever as well as funny.
Spending time with people I love.
Physical and emotional attraction and chemistry.
Thrill seeking – like parachute jumps or rapid rafting.
This is only a small list of things that I find bring me happiness. Many
things can bring me happiness. It’s good to be aware of your list, as there
are some days when you really do need to reach out and grab
something. The secret though, is to practice being happy without
Eliminate what you hate
This is going to sound a little obvious, but it’s amazing when you get
down to it just how much grief you may be hanging onto without ever
giving it any serious thought at all. How much of your time, emotion and
energy do you waste on maintaining things that make you unhappy?
Some people spend their entire working life in jobs that are almost soul-
destroying. Many people stay in relationships that are physically,
mentally and emotionally draining. We may have friends, colleagues,
neighbours or relatives that simply, ‘drive us crazy’ and yet we maintain
them. Some people hold on to addictions or habits that time and again
bring about the same destructive outcome, yet they still go around and
around repeating the cycle over and over. If you are serious about
increasing your happiness level, then you must first define what makes
you unhappy and take action to eliminate it.
Being unhappy robs us of our health by depleting our energy
Love and happiness are the highest and lightest forms of energy. This
higher, lighter form of energy is self-generating. Unhappiness robs us of
energy. If left unchecked it will lead to depression and tiredness. Your
energy level is a great way to measure your happiness or your stress
level. It also gives you an accurate indication of your overall health.
Happiness and love will fill you with energy. A good supply of energy will
bring you more joy.
For me, the highest state of happiness is the state of being in love. The
early, heady days of falling in love with someone allows us to experience
an almost spiritual state of radiance. The world becomes lighter and
brighter, I feel connected to everyone and everything. I am invincible and
I feel like I know all of the secrets of the universe. My body becomes
electric and I sense a vibration within me that contains the pulse of the
Depression, on the other hand, has us living in shadows. It is like there is
a greyness, thickness or heaviness in the air. Everything and everyone is
irritating. The weight within our bodies has us longing to sleep or retreat.
Depression takes away our clarity of thought, motivation and sense of
I am making this comparison here to explain how happiness is an energy
form. We can’t just fall in love and maintain that sense of euphoria
indefinitely. We can monitor and manipulate our energy, and we can use
our energy as an indicator of what we need to embrace and what we
need to eliminate.
I once knew a lady who had an ongoing destructive relationship with her
sister-in-law. This sister-in-law belittled, criticized and sabotaged the lady
for many years. The more outrageous the sister-in-law behaved, the
more accommodating and generous the lady tried to be. When I first met
her, she explained that she had suffered anxiety attacks, long periods of
depression, was taking medication and seeing a therapist to try and turn
this relationship around.
I asked her why she didn’t just tell the woman to, “Nick off,” and never
spend time with her again.
She answered that she, “Couldn’t be confrontational.” she felt that she,
“Owed it to her brother to be friends with his wife,” and she thought that,
“She would be unable to be - not nice.”
She also mentioned that the sister-in-law had been a good friend once
and had really supported her many years ago when she needed help.
She also believed she owed the sister-in-law, even though that debt had
been paid back a hundred times over.
I explained to her how prolonged stress inhibits the immune system and
has been linked to many diseases as well as depression. She said, “Yes,
I know that.”
I asked her, “If someone came to you and said, ‘I’ll be your friend if you
allow me to rob you of your joy for ten years, create depression and
anxiety in your life and perhaps even bring on a life threatening disease’
would you accept this arrangement as a worthwhile friendship?”
This may sound ludicrous, but we all do it to some degree. We back
down, step away and swallow our anger, rather than face things head on
and say “Enough!”
We must let go of things that cause us grief as soon as we see that we
are unable to change the situation.
Someone recently sent me this parable which is a great example of
holding on to what hurts us:
An old man is sitting on his front verandah with his old dog fidgeting
nearby. Every now and again, the dog whimpers or lets out a sharp yelp.
A passer-by stops and stands quietly, watching, as the old man seems to
ignore the dog. Finally he says to the old man, “What’s wrong with your
The old man looks at the dog and then back at the passer-by and
replies, “He is sitting on a nail.”
“Why doesn’t he move?” the passer-by enquires.
“It mustn’t be hurting enough - yet!” answered the old man.
If it brings your Grief – Make it Brief.
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Copyright Sonya Green 2006
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