Happiness is a Skill
Most of us think happiness is a goal. It’s written right there in the Constitution: “the pursuit of happiness.” There it is - happiness is considered as something to be pursued. But chasing happiness is a fool’s errand. Anything you chase will run away from you. So it is with happiness.
Happiness is a skill. But choosing to be happy doesn’t mean living in denial of your life’s challenges. It means finding happiness within yourself and from yourself, and therefore not allowing your happiness to become dependent on externalities outside your control. You have to develop this skill like any other: by practicing.
So how can you practice happiness? It might be easy when things are going well - when your wallet’s fat, your belly’s full. But how can you be happy when you’re afraid to lose your job, your spouse, your life? Life is guaranteed to give you setbacks and disappointments, so how can you develop the skill of happiness then?
Here are a few techniques that can help you through those difficult moments so you can choose to maintain happiness instead of descending into despair:
1) Check in with your body.
When experiencing anxiety, fear, or anger, you’re likely to have physical symptoms: A knot in your stomach, heat on your skin, etc.. Here is how to move through these physical symptoms:
Stand with your feet firmly on the ground, shoulder-length apart.
Slightly bend your knees so they’re not locked.
Straighten your spine and square your shoulders back. Let your arms dangle as your neck relaxes.
Slightly tuck your chin toward your throat so that you feel the maximum extension of your spine. You should feel a gentle stretch on the occipital bones at the base of the skull.
Relax your face and with your mouth closed and your tongue pressed against the back of your top front teeth.
Take a few deep breaths through the nose. While you do this, focus all your attention on the center of your forehead. If you like visualizing, picture a light glowing at that same spot between your eyes.
After you’ve taken a few deep breaths, you should feel more centered and calm. Now ask yourself: in this present moment, are you okay? Are you in danger right now? Or is the event upsetting you something that will happen in the future? If you’re okay right now, then take heart: you only have to deal with this present moment.
As for any impending danger, can you do something about it right now? If yes, then do it, but do it mindfully knowing that you are Spirit playing a game with yourself, so nothing can truly be in danger. If you can do nothing right now, then do nothing and choose to be happy in spite of potential future pain.
Bringing yourself into the now will dissipate any perceived problems and show you that in this moment, you’re actually just fine and you need not worry about future moments.
2) Accept both outcomes
But what about when the moment really is that bad? Or what if the stakes really are that high?
When dynamic changes are affecting your life, there’s one more thing you can do: accept both outcomes. Whatever the best positive outcome is, behave as though that’s the present reality. But imagine whatever the orst negative outcome is too, and then tell yourself that for whatever reason you don’t yet understand, even that seemingly negative outcome is going to be the best thing for you in the long run.
You can apply this technique to any problem. I’ll give traffic as an example:
When I’m stuck in traffic and I’m running late for work, panic fills me up. My mind goes wild: if I’m late then I’ll get fired and if I get fired I’ll lose my house and on and on and on. So instead, I started accepting both outcomes. In traffic, I would literally say out loud,
“Hey Universe, I’m stuck in traffic and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it. I’m going to trust & believe that I’ll get to work on time. So I won’t worry or feel unhappy. But I’m also going to trust & believe that even if I don’t get to work on time, even that outcome will be in my best interest - even if I can’t see why right now. So regardless of what happens, I’ll choose to be happy now and have faith that I’ll be fine in the future as I am in this moment.”
Accepting both outcomes is critical for divine synchronicity to unfold for you.
3) Have faith in the flux.
Nothing lasts forever. This truth cuts both ways. When you’re on top, remember that the wheel of fortune will inevitably spin back around. But take comfort in knowing that when you’re down on out, it’s only a matter of time before reality turns back around.
Take heart in the flux. No suffering will last forever. No problem or situation is eternal. Everything changes and becomes something else. Constant change is ultimately why it’s silly to get attached to external outcomes.
Even if you get the house, car and lover, all of those things will inevitably fade.
When you fear impending doom, accept all possible outcomes from good to bad, while acting as though the best is inevitable. And ultimately, when sorrow, grief and death are ravaging your life without mercy, have faith in the simple truth that everything is impermanent, and all things must pass. Embrace the truth that you are flowing in a river that wants what’s best for you and will take you there if you just choose to practice happiness while you’re on the ride. Embrace that and you will be liberated from pegging your emotional stability to the ups & downs of living.
Happiness is a skill. Practice now.