Have you ever asked yourself this question? What makes me happy?
If so, what does make you happy?
So many of us never really sit down, and spend serious time thinking about this.
Oh yes, I agree: we may think about it for a few minutes – or the odd half-hour – reeling off lists of all the things we would buy and do, if we won the lottery. But how often have you spent an hour or two, just contemplating your own internal happiness?
I don’t mean when you’re having a bad day, and are moaning about all the lack of things you have in life. The path of misery: full of lack, unfairness or just plain unlucky things or events, that dictate your life.
Because thinking about happiness, for many of us, usually means thinking about the lack of it in our lives. Be honest now; what kind of possessions, or life style do you often think about, that you don’t have? Recognize any of these . . . ?
- The big house you don’t own
- The perfect job you haven’t got
- The perfect partner you haven’t found yet
- The fancy car you can’t afford
- Those gorgeous pair of shoes that are over your budget
- The wealth you don’t have
- The fame you haven’t yet aspired to
- The perfect good looks you wish you had
- The lack of power you exert
- No longer being young
- Not having enough money
- Not having achieved what you wanted in life
- Not being able to have what you want
- Not having control over events in your life
- Not having control of other people and their actions
Yes there are thousands of things we want, that we either don’t have, or can’t have, or will never have in our lives. So I ask you.
Why concentrate on lack? Will that make you happy?
No, of course it won’t, it’s just the opposite, you feel miserable because you don’t have these things.
Material things can only bring short bursts of pleasure; don’t mix this up with happiness
A few months ago I heard someone ask these two powerful questions:
* If you won the lottery today would this make you happy?
* If in that same night your child died would you still be happy?
When our happiness is totally dependent on external forces, material wealth or other people, then we will never be able to control our own happiness.
I’m not saying that we should cut ourselves off from the world. I’m just saying that, to hand over full control of your emotions to other people or events, is not the way to find internal happiness.
I speak from my own experience: as a child, much of my happiness was tied up with some of the above. My self worth, confidence, self-love and material happiness were dependent on – and tied up with – my parents: their behavior, love or lack of it, and how they felt about me. Material highs, when given a toy; or fleeting happiness, when being praised for doing something correct.
The down side of this were the very real lows: periods of misery, sadness and pain, when these were taken away. Real self loathing, lack of self worth, and the feeling of never being good enough. I understand only too well the need to find internal happiness, self love, self esteem and self worth.
It wasn’t until I was 15 – after spending over three months in hospital, recovering from my injuries after a suicide attempt – that I learnt to find real happiness. I learned to…
Focus on whatever you can be grateful for in your life
I discovered this worked for me while lying in that hospital bed. One of the other patients, an older lady who was having a hip replacement used to talk to me. A wonderful wise Grandma of 3. She was the catalyst that changed the way I looked at myself. She told me I was of value, that all of us are of value. That we all have lots to give, and to be grateful for.
During those 3 months in hospital I learnt to be grateful: for being alive, for periods when the pain subsided, for when the hospital food tasted good, for the tenderness of the nurses, for the humor of the other patients, for the respite I had from my Mother, when I was able to move my leg, when I could use the toilet instead of the bed pan.
The more I focused on what I could be grateful for, the easier I found it to be grateful. That led to me feeling happier about myself and my life.
It won’t change external things, but it does change the way you look at your life – which can change your perception, and experience, of life for the better.
Because for me, true happiness is a feeling or emotion that makes you feel good inside. It’s an attitude of mind. So, focussing on everyday things with a positive attitude, and learning to feel gratitude for all the good things around you, helps you to learn to feel good and, in turn, be happier. Looking at things in a positive way can help you develop a healthier mindset.
Did this mean that my life was better after I returned home; that events in my life were now under my control? No of course not. Feeling grateful and feeling good about yourself and life does not bring about a miraculous happy ever after fairy tale ending.
But it does give you more control over your own happiness, and how you can control your own emotions. That’s what leads to your inner happiness.
Happiness is a state of mind that can be developed
Happiness is a state of mind; it’s often dependent on how we perceive the world. Why? Because this affects how we react to situations, as well as how we act in general. It affects our behavior and the way we feel about life, and other people. We cannot stop what the world throws at us, but we can control how we think and feel about it.
No one can control our thoughts and feelings, unless we allow them to. So, take control over your happiness, and learn how to find it deep within yourself. Change your mindset, and day by day you will discover an inner peace.
You can also use your faith, if you’re a believer, to help you on this journey. However, whether you’re a believer or not, take serious time out. Time to really think about all the happy moments in your life. While you ponder on these, imagine how life could be – if you learnt to be happy, about all the little insignificant things in life.
The feeling of the gentle warmth of sunlight on your face. The beauty of the sea, glistening in a froth, as the waves meet the shore. The golden autumn leaves dancing around the pavement. The sound of the cold winter wind, blowing outside the window, while you’re snuggly warm inside. The pleasure of quenching your thirst, with a long cool drink, on a hot summer day.
Learn the habit of gratitude – for all the small things in life, that we often take for granted
Start to notice the joy that focussing on these can bring.
When you focus on being grateful for as many things as you can, you often discover many more pleasures in life. Inner happiness and self love flow together: they grow your spirit; they are necessary to your well being. So it’s well worth the time to develop a happier mindset.
Keep doing this every day. Then, in a month or two, you’ll find that it becomes a daily habit, that you hardly have to think about. Then ask yourself what makes you happy. You will find that you have much more to draw upon. You will feel much better about life and about yourself.
You will start to think how you can make others happy. What you can do for others, that makes you feel good. Being happy is a journey: it keeps growing inside you, it helps you to become the person you want to be. It allows you the freedom to grow because, no matter what happens, no matter what other people do or say, you are the one who determines how you think and feel.
The true power of inner happiness
The true power of inner happiness is that you can decide to be happy or not. If someone hurts me, I may feel pain, I may be angry, I may get upset; but I can draw on my internal self for strength, to overcome those feelings, and get over the hurt, anger and sorrow. We all can – if we develop a more positive, useful mindset.
The mindset of inner happiness brings you the joyful knowledge of having plenty, a deeper sense of pleasure in what you already have, the warm feeling of fulfillment when you help others to feel happier about themselves.
So, get to work: ask yourself what you can be happy about, what you can be grateful for, and what you can do for others. Take control of your own inner happiness by developing it in yourself.
Susan J McCann