Have you ever met one of those people that just ooze happiness? They are amazing company and they often command the attention of everybody in the vicinity. Being around them even makes you feel happier – it’s as if their peace of mind is contagious. What a wonderful gift that they have to give!
Well, believe it or not, happiness is not reserved for an elite few. It is the innate potential of every human being. In this post I want to show you how to become the happiest person you know. It’s really not that hard.
Remember how to enjoy life’s simple pleasures
Cast your mind back to when you were a preschooler. Everything was fascinating. Bugs that crawled along the ground grabbed your attention and made your giggle with glee. The rain that fell from the sky was not a cause for rush or despair – it made you drop what you were doing, throw some gumboots on and rush out to splash in some muddy puddles. And every person that you met was interesting – a new story to connect with, a new friend to be made or a new clubhouse member to battle with.
The happiest people are those that enjoy life’s simple pleasures. They do not long for amazing mansions and fast cars. They do not need a $50 bottle of wine with dinner to feel relaxed. Their happiness’s in life come easy and frequently.
The yogi with no home or money
Take the example of Milarepa, Tibet’s greatest ever yogi. He lived in caves, ate simple foods and wore only a single white cloth. But he was one of the happiest people that ever lived. His thousands of songs are characterized by an amazing love of life and joy for everything that he encounters. He had no money or home but he was happy. He often commented to his students that he didn’t want money or nice things because then he would spend too much time worrying about maintaining and protecting them. Instead he opted for a cave in the mountains, sunshine on his face and wind in his hair.
Now we do not need to sell our homes and retreat into the woods to be as happy as Milarepa. But we do need to start enjoying the simple things in life. It is extremely important to realize that you don’t NEED anything to be happy other than a roof over your head, a meal to eat and a place to sleep. The rest is a bonus. If you want to be the happiest person you know start getting back to life’s simple pleasures.
Get simple, once a week
One way you can do this is allot a few hours of the week to doing something simple. Go for a walk in the forest or hike up a hill just to see the view. Find some natural ways to marvel at the many things in life that are causes for being happy. In the words of my fourth grade art teacher – keep it simple stupid. Here are some ideas:
- walk along the beach with your feet in the water
- go for a bike ride down a hill
- play some sport with a friend or relative
- read a classic book or poem
- meditate on compassion
- cook a simple meal and enjoy it outdoors
- take your dog out to meet some other dogs
- find a clean natural lake to swim in
- build your spouse a gift from hand
Get truly interested in other people’s happiness
One of the first things you will notice about happy people is that they are more interested in your your happiness than they are in their own. They truly want you to be happy and they are truly upset when they are not. Let me tell you a story about this.
A story of the Dalai Lama
Many years ago in India I heard a story about someone who had asked a Buddhist master how to tell if someone was a realized person or not. The person was told that a real master is only concerned with other people’s welfare. And he gave the example of the Dalai Lama. He said that if you watched the Dalai Lama carefully when he traveled around the world you would notice that he looked at every person that came into his line of sight. He never ignored anyone. He would meet with all people – high or low, rich or poor, sick or healthy – and be truly interested in how they were. And he never put his own needs before others, even when he was unwell. Finally the master remarked that this was one of the 21 signs of a truly enlightened person – a Buddha.
The world’s happiest people are truly concerned with the happiness of others. They understand that, in order to be happy yourself, you have to want other people to be happy. It is not enough to seek one’s own happiness, you have to help others. If you want proof of this fact take a look at the next happy person that you meet. Watch how they interact with others. Watch the way they listen to other people’s complaints without needing to share their own. Watch the way they ask genuine questions about the person’s life or health. They spend very little time talking about themselves. Mostly because they aren’t interested.
We should all try to emulate the examples of the Dalai Lama given above. When you meet people in the street smile at them, notice them. When you are introduced to a person at a party try to be interested in their story instead of just wanting to share your own. When you start really becoming interested in the happiness of others you will find that you yourself become a happier person. This is the type of happiness that is infectious.
Don’t let life’s worries blow you around
I truly believe that you learn the most about a person when the chips are down. Everyone is nice and happy and charming when the sun is shining and the birds are chirping. But when the chips are down you see a person’s true character come out. And happy people do extremely well when the chips are down.
Most people get really blown around by life’s worries. Money, mortgages, work, family… it all takes a big toll on them. The stress builds up and up and up until they cannot take anymore. They snap at their family members, get angry with their work colleagues and live their life in an extremely moody and unsettled way. IT is very sad.
Happiness amongst stress
Happy people, on the other hand, do not let life’s worries get them down. They still have the same worries as you and me but they do not allow them to affect their happiness too much. This is a fantastic skill to have in life – the realization that one can still be happy amongst life’s crap.
Think about that for a second: you can be happy amongst life’s stress, sickness and heartache. You can live a very stressful life and still be happy.
The reason this is possible is because happiness comes from within. It does not come from without. I recently gave the example of someone who is having an extremely bad day; even though they might be doing something fun like going to the movies or eating with friends they perceive everything as negative because they are in a bad mood. On the other hand, someone who is happy could be in a bad situation like a traffic jam and feel completely at ease. This shows us that happiness comes from the mind, from within.
How to do it
The key to being happy amongst life stresses is to simply become aware of it. Awareness is the key here. If you become aware of the fact that your mind is getting agitated you will be able to catch it before the emotions become too powerful.
For example, if you are in a traffic jam and you are late for work you might start to notice your mind getting angry at the car in front of you. As you become aware of these thoughts you can apply an antidote like this:
“Getting angry isn’t going to help me move any faster. All it will do is make this situation worse for me. So I am not going to get angry. There is no point.”
Mental antidotes like this use logic to overcome useless emotions. It is a great way to develop happiness because, most of the time, it is illogical not to be happy!
Become an independent soul
The last thing I want to mention is the fact that most happy people are extremely independent individuals. Sure, they love other people and want them to be happy but they do not rely on anyone else to make them happy.
Being alone but not lonely
A few weeks ago I wrote a post called Loneliness vs Aloneness: Lessons from a solitary mountain retreat which talked about how to be alone but not lonely. The post seemed to hit a chord with a few readers – many of them saying that “alone time” was extremely important to them. I think we can take it one step further and say that “alone time” is extremely important for your happiness in general.
The reason for this is simple: when you are left alone you are also left alone with your neurosis. You are forced to deal with all the crap in your head and, after a while, if your are lucky, you come out of that alone time knowing yourself a lot better. You learn how to deal with all the voices in your head and you are no longer afraid to be alone with yourself.
Happy people are not afraid to be alone. In fact, they like it. Happy people are independent people because they do not rely out outsiders to make them feel good. They very rarely need to be entertained or reassured by their friends. Sure, they enjoy themselves when they do go out but they would be just as happy at home with a book.
Standing up for yourself
The other thing you notice about happy people is that they do not often compromise on who they are and what they believe in. If their friends are doing something they don’t agree with they have enough strength to walk away.
This ability to stand up for yourself is a massive part of being independent and it is a massive part of being an adult. When your family or in-laws or workmates are trying to impose their “crap” on your life you are strong enough to stand up for them. It is quite rare to see a truly happy person in a situation they don’t want to be in. But, if they do get into a negative situation they handle themselves honorably and deal with people patiently and with compassion.
Happiness is not something that happens overnight. It is not something that will happen by the end of the month or maybe even the end of the year. It takes work. It takes mental training and discipline. But, if you follow these simple steps and try to be kinder, more friendly and more tolerant you will start to notice happiness creeping in to your life.
Originally posted on December 15, 2008 @ 8:13 am