Trying to Find the Key to True Happiness? This Will Help You.Luke Coutinho
The world celebrated Happiness Happens Day early this week. And it got us thinking about one of the most common queries that we receive from our YouCare community. Right from kids, teenagers, working adults to even the elderly, we always get asked this.
How can I be happy? How can I achieve true happiness?
We, as human beings, are always in this pursuit of happiness. Trying to hold onto things, relationships, moments, and events in our lives that made us feel like we were on cloud nine. One possibly can’t be happy all the time. But there are a few invaluable life learnings that our end-of-life patients have taught us. Today we want to share some of these gems of wisdom with you.
A commonality that we have found in our conversations with most of our end-of-life patients is that they love talking about their memories. About their childhood and mostly the fun memories they made during their lifetime with their children and family. When asked why they love spending time around kids, they say it is because a child’s innocent and naive nature reminds them of the children they were before puberty stole that carefree life away. They speak to us about the love they had and the love they lost. They recollect the hobbies and activities they enjoy engaging in. They also reminisce about things they always wanted to do but couldn’t.
Before you think about what all this rambling is about, we will get to the point.
We are yet to find a single dying person who worries about their weight problems, their appearance, the designations they held, how much money they made, or the parties they attended or missed being on the RSVP lists. For those of us who are very much alive, these material things may seem of great value now. And probably, it is improper to compare ourselves to someone on their deathbed. But the point that we are trying to make is basing our self-worth and happiness on material things is vain.
One of the most striking things that these patients tell us when asked where their true happiness came from is this.
“We created our happiness from everything that life gave us. Yes, there were bad times. But we also had a choice. To either face it and protect our happiness in the face of adversity or let it drown us completely.”
Isn’t that just beautiful? When life gives you lemons, even if you can’t make the perfect lemonade, you can still try to make something resembling it. Most religions also point to the fact that happiness is a state within us. We can have the best of everything around us, but when we lack a sense of purpose and compare ourselves constantly to others, we are filled with negative emotions. Nothing can satiate us if we refuse to count our little blessings.
Do you want to learn how to chase happiness? Observe a child’s behavior closely. A child can be angry or sad one moment and bounce back completely from those emotions. That is how resilient children are. They are not attached to anything that happens. As adults, we constantly start attaching ourselves and our self-worth and happiness to everything around us.
This reminds us of how the Hedonic Treadmill theory tried to explain the tendency of humans to feel a decreased sense of happiness despite a change in fortune or achievement of major goals. The study revealed that our material wealth only contributes to less than 10 percent of our overall happiness.
You can have all the money, power, and designations. But if you do not go to bed feeling good about yourself, regardless of how much wealth you accumulate, none of it matters. Many of us think money can buy us happiness or that shallow relationships do so. But the truth is — many of us don’t know how to feel good about ourselves. And this probably means we need to re-evaluate the way we are living. To understand this, we need to explore the modus operandi of the biggest thief of happiness.
What is the biggest thief of happiness?
It is COMPARISON.
Believe it or not, your thoughts and emotions are associated with further deterioration of any health condition. Almost every emotion has a connection with some part of the human body. For example, we see people with anger and rage having problems with their heart and their liver. We see people filled with bitterness and resentment having problems with their gallbladder. Chronic stress flares eczema, and anxiety can increase the itchiness of the skin.
Similarly, the one commonality between those struggling to remain happy and maintain optimal health is their constant habit of comparison. Comparison with others can push you on a downward spiral because it is the biggest thief of joy. And doom-scrolling through social media can be one of the biggest causes of this. We look at heavily filtered picture-perfect lives, exotic vacations and start comparing our lives to them. We begin projecting our blame, failures, anger, and bitterness on others. But we fail to see the possible hidden reality behind them.
What we need is to become accountable. If you admire a billionaire, stop the green monster of envy before it creeps up. Get inspired instead. Comparison and learning are different. Start charting your action plan to reach your goals. Because if all you are doing is comparing yourself to them, you are just wasting your finite time.
Understand that –
● You are a unique individual. There are NO two yous. You could be a homemaker comparing herself to a businesswoman flying across the world for conventions. But perhaps there is a successful businesswoman who envies you for your dedication to your family. The time and love you give your children that she wishes she could have a piece of too. You have devoted your life to building a home and a family. That’s amazing. Don’t forget that.
● When you look at the latest fad diets, follow them, and don’t get the same results as the chiseled-bodied celebrities you see, know that you are built differently. The needs of your body will never be the same as anybody else’.
● When you spend time comparing yourself to others, your self-esteem continues to drop. Every second you waste comparing, you lose your own time to evolve.
● Comparison also causes residual feelings of resentment and bitterness to eat into you like rust. It can cause you to age rapidly because you are stressed and hard on yourself all the time.
How to stop this vicious cycle?
You need to add meaning to your life and choose your unique path. These steps could help.
● Make a list of all your positive traits and achievements. This simple step can help you increase your self-esteem and subtly shift focus from what you don’t have to what you do. You may not be rich at the moment, but you have true love that’s rare to find. You may not have the beach body of your dreams, but you do know how to have fun with your close circle of true friends. Acknowledge it, make it count.
● Rewire out your mindset and work with your beliefs. The grass is always greener on the other side. How about you nurture your own garden patch to get there?
● Have a crystal clear vision of your goals. You may wish for your future to be different. But you can still work with what your life is right now. Accept that first and march forward. Build your dreams and life purpose. Don’t know where to start? Try this challenge.
Remember, your only comparison is you. You are your benchmark. The questions you need to ask yourself are: Am I better than yesterday? Am I happy with who I am? Reflect on this.
If you are struggling to tackle a nagging need for comparison and validation, practice social media hygiene. Here are some tips:
1. Limit spending excess time on social media by intentional use. Identify what you want to do when you log on to a particular social media app? What do you want to check? Do you want to put up a post? Answer a few questions? Like your friend’s posts? Be intentional about it. This will automatically reduce your scrolling time.
2. Yes, social media is and will always be full of opinions. But that doesn’t mean you need to blindly adopt what you see. Just because it worked for someone else doesn’t mean it will work for you. Have a mind of your own. Take what serves you, leave what doesn’t.
3. Remember that the world of social media is virtual. Not everything you see is real. Don’t fall for seemingly real facades of perfect lives. A lot of material things and exotic vacations flaunted on social media could be on loan, sponsored, or gifts that may not be earned. Stay in touch with reality to prevent getting sucked into a false spiral.
How can you chase true contentment?
Here are some tips to consider.
1. Make memories with your loved ones
When you make memories, you have something you can think about and replay when you are low or sad. These will bring that warm feeling of happiness back into your heart. You can immediately move from a state of sadness to happiness.
2. Maintain your health
You can have everything in the world. But if you do not enjoy good health, you cannot enjoy the comfort of a soft bed, good food, or even travel. So, prioritize your health.
3. Give back
Try to give back to society in any way you can. We’re not just talking about writing cheques but also volunteering your time and effort, talent, and skills to people. You cannot imagine the contentment it can bring to someone who doesn’t have anything at all.
4. Find your spiritual path
As adults and children, we are constantly under pressure to conform to rules, to have the same opinions. When you have your value system in place, it grounds you and helps you make sense of your life. We need to be in the pursuit of finding our spiritual path and identifying the values that build us.
5. Find a hobby
No matter how busy you are, doing what you love matters. Even if it is 30 minutes a day, engage in your hobbies. Find your me-time, indulge, and cherish it.
Want to feel good about yourself in under three minutes? I have also designed a simple exercise to help you be grateful for the present moment. It’s called BRG.
It stands for Be, Receive, and Give Thanks.
Practicing gratitude in times of distress can be difficult because our minds have been hard-wired to think about things that are not going well compared to those that are. BRG is a simple three-minute practice that can help you practice gratitude effectively. Do this two to three times a day.
● B stands to be. Learn to just ‘be’. In a world where you are constantly trying to fit in, changing one mask after another, you need to take a minute out of your schedule and be you. Don’t do anything. Just sit back and be one with yourself. Take a couple of deep breaths to recenter yourself, if it helps.
● R stands for Receive. From the moment you wake up, go over the little things you have received. It could be a cup of perfectly brewed chai or a hug from your loved one. Every little thing you receive counts.
● G stands for Giving thanks. Once you have acknowledged everything you have received, offer gratitude. Give thanks straight from your heart.
As we get through life chasing complex things that we are adamant will make us happy, BRG allows you to count the little, simple, and inexpensive blessings we take for granted.
You could be in the middle of a treatment, PET scan, or exam. But this little practice will help you wash away fear from your mind. It will make you realize that there is always scope to give thanks. Don’t wait for the bigger things to make you feel good. Remember, the big picture is made up of smaller pictures. We need to subtly shift this focus to what is going well for us. We say this because the true essence of life is to feel good.
There is nothing wrong with having wealth and material things. But just don’t get lost in them or let them define you. Because when we reach the end of our finite time, the only things that will matter will be the relationships and joys we shared, the difference we made, and the lives we touched.
When you stop focusing on things that don’t matter or hold you back, your inner state of happiness increases. That’s the change we need today. Our every action revolves around three aspects — peace, happiness, and love. We need to find the path that leads us to them and enables us to live our true lives.
Here’s wishing you good health and abundant happiness, always.
– Luke Coutinho.
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