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How To Be Happy – Be Grateful!
Happiness Is A Choice
How to be happy? There are 2 types of happiness. There is happiness that we feel in response to an external event or circumstance. An obvious example of this would be our reaction to winning the lottery!
Then there is the happiness that is cultivated inside. This is the energy that appears as a conscious choice rather than the most ephemeral reaction to a piece of good news.
In this article we will focus on happiness as a choice.
How to be happy – with how things are
We all struggle and strive for health, wealth and personal happiness. But these three big areas: our health, our wealth and our relationships are where we all get hung up on – sooner or later.
It’s as if there is an inbuilt design flaw that ensures that we all suffer at one point – one way or another.
From the Buddhist perspective, “see things as they are” (Sanskrit yatha-bhutam darshanam) basically means that all human experience is marked by three characteristics:
* Impermanence (anitya)
* No self (anatman)
* Suffering (duhkha)
That’s how things are.
As we become aware of these characteristics, our focus shifts away from the content of our experiences and toward our response to them.
At the time of writing in the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown this is a very important point!
However, as Thich Nhat Hanh writes in “Peace”:
“… life is full of suffering, but it is also full of many beautiful things, like the blue sky, the sun, the eyes of a baby.
Suffering is not enough. We must also be in touch with the wonders of life. They are inside us and all around us, everywhere, anytime.”
Zen teacher Alan Senauke offers these tips for maintaining your joyful spirit when fear and suffering threaten it:
“Joy is an active principle, not a swamp of passivity. No one can steal it… We have choices even if they are often hard to see.”
How to be happy – choose to be happy
In the Bible (Philippians 4:4 NKJV), the psalmist writes: “This is the day that the Lord has made, we will be happy, we will celebrate it.”
He did not say “Yesterday was a good day so let’s be thankful for that” or “Tomorrow will be a good day so I will scratch today and save for tomorrow”
It says today…now…this present moment…we choose to give thanks for this day.
When we complain it is often self-focused – on our current experiences and what I want or don’t want.
Happiness is a choice and it happens to those who look beyond themselves to something greater than their own immediate personal happiness based on their circumstances.
Often the apostle Paul was in prison and once when they were in prison without being able to release him, he wrote: “Always rejoice in the Lord…always rejoice…”
His joy lay in his focus and was not a reflection of his circumstances.
How to be happy – a view from the end
In 2015, award-winning journalist John Leland (on assignment at “The New York Times”) spent time with a number of elderly people with the initial hope of learning about how they cope with the effects of aging in terms of physical health. and mental. and quality of life in general.
However, what he found was amazing, despite the circumstances, these people lived positive and joyful lives. He took and expressed his experience in Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old:
“Older people still reported the same amount of positive emotions as younger participants, but they had fewer negative emotions. They also had more mixed emotions, meaning they didn’t let frustration or anxiety stop them from saying they were happy.
Consciously or unconsciously, they would choose to be happy even when there was reason to feel otherwise…
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, researchers found that the center of emotional processing in the brain of older people, the amygdala, fired more actively when looking at positive images than negative ones; smaller brains reacted to both equally.
In this, older brains resemble meditative brains.”
Leland offers a compelling explanation from psychologist Laura L. Carstensen, founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity:
“His hypothesis, which he gave the wonk name ‘selective socioemotional,’ is that the elderly, knowing that they face a limited time ahead of them, focus their energy on things that give them pleasure at the moment, while the young, long-term horizons, looking for new experiences or knowledge that may or may not pay off down the line.
Our default position is that we should be “happy if only” all bad things go away. Considering that, these adults have accepted that there are still challenges in their lives and choose to be “happy despite.”
How to be happy – the cognitive approach
In A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy William B. Irvine shares the wisdom of Stoic philosophy and reveals how its ideas and advice are relevant and worthwhile today.
In summary, here are the 3 key points:
1. “What’s the worst that could happen?” – This is what the Stoics refer to as “premeditation” – which means that there is a lot of value in thinking carefully, with awareness of the worst that could happen. In most situations, your thought process will show your anxiety about these situations out of proportion or exaggerated.
2. “Its way to do it” – Irvine refers to Seneca, who says that when we are angry we should take measures to “turn all indications (of anger) into their opposites.” We should force ourselves to relax our faces, soften our voices, and slow our walking pace. If we do this, our internal state will soon resemble our external state, and our anger, says Seneca, will disappear.
3. “Make it a treat“- The Stoics understood that denying yourself something makes you appreciate what you would take for granted, and they regularly undertook rigorous exercises in self-denial and over long periods of time.
We left the best and most powerful key how to be happy last.
Practicing gratitude really makes us happy.
Not only does gratitude make us happy, there is a lot of research that shows that there are many physical, emotional and spiritual benefits that we can enjoy from this practice.
To make a start on how to be happy, all that is needed is a change in perspective.
You can feel it now if you choose.
“Happiness doesn’t just happen to us. We have to choose happiness and keep choosing it every day.” (Henri Nouwen)
Read more about: How to be happy
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