by Brittany Young
Everywhere you look, there are stories promoting yoga, meditation, and self-care to eliminate negative thoughts and stress and lead you to happiness. There are movies, books, and international movements all designed to provide the answers on how to find happiness. Even the United Nations has declared March 20, 2013 as the first-ever International Day of Happiness. But this emotion common to human nature isn’t so much a trend as it is a primary goal for people all over the world. Whether they want a change in career, an increase in personal investment to family and friends, or to take a leap of faith to travel more, individuals around the globe seek this feeling and are willing to do what it takes to get there.
As we partake in these extreme efforts to discover our personal happiness, questions naturally arise: Is happiness innate or this emotion something that can be found? How do we get there? And once we are there, how do we preserve it? I do not claim to have the answers, but here are some things that have helped me in my pursuit of happiness.
At the roots of happiness comes mindfulness. Simply being aware of our situations can be eye opening. Specifically, in our increasingly competitive society, we may fall victim to criticism and judgment, both of which carry negative emotion and may inhibit happiness. Simply take notice of what you judge and ask yourself why you judge it. Is this judgment toward other individuals or toward yourself? Awareness alone about ourselves, people, and situations is critical to our climb in happiness. Being mindful of our thoughts allows us to accept current situations.
Feelings and emotions come on naturally, and in stressful situations they may be hard to ignore. A basic example of this would be if you accidentally burn your tongue while sipping your morning coffee. You probably aren’t going to be very happy after that. That little fuzzy feeling on your tongue can be upsetting when it inhibits your ability to taste the buttery croissant and sweet blueberries to follow. Rather than get upset, consider it a reminder for the next time you find yourself in the same situation. Today, your taste buds may be altered, but is it worth the emotion? Most likely your own stressful situation causing you negative feelings is going to be bigger than a burnt tongue, but the bottom line is that you have control over how you react. Do you want to feed negative energy and self judgment for a simple accident? Acceptance and patience with a situation, thought, or feeling empowers you to make the choice!
Shifting our perspective in order to see how a current problem or situation is not as big of a deal as we think is helpful as well. In the context of life, and in the grand scheme of things, how does your present situation fit in? If you have stress or negativity surrounding this situation, is it worth it? If it is worth the stress of negative emotions, this is totally acceptable. Simply being aware and putting whatever it is you are going through in perspective may help you realize how you may or may not be acquiring the happiness you deserve.
PURSUIT OF OUR PASSIONS
Once we are aware of what drives us and makes us happy, the pursuit of our passions comes in. Perhaps you love sports. Get involved at a local gym, running club, cycling team, or attend a weekly yoga class. If your heart feels melodious when you dance, sing, or play an instrument, take a music class or hit that piano. Love family, friends, or travel? Identify your passion and pursue it. Do not waste your time on things that do not make you happy or move you towards your ultimate goal—life is too short.
Happiness. The beauty of acquiring this emotion is that every person is different. There is no right or wrong way to create it, and there is no exact science behind how each individual attains it. It truly is his or her prerogative. By practicing mindfulness and acceptance, shifting our perspective, and pursuing our passions, we learn how to preserve our own happiness. Circumstances constantly change, and monitoring our thoughts and actions moment to moment may help us maximize those positive feelings. However, I think the true secret to preserving happiness is: once you’ve found it, share it with everyone around you.