November 15, 2016

The Happiness Mindset

Happiness — believe it or not — is a learned skill. It’s not something immediately innate at birth. Children learn to smile through experience. And they do so before even knowing what it is or what it represents. Yet, we don’t seem to cultivate it with that in mind. As youth, our first educators might not even really understand it. Because being happy isn’t something that is commonly taught. Though most of us certainly try.

To be honest, I started writing this post in attempts to re-educate myself. These past few weeks of my personal life have been extremely stressful. With my intense teaching/coaching schedule; with the disappointing election; and with the seemingly endless quest for financial stability, I’ve been feeling down in the dumps. So I did what I always do and made time to write about it. That’s all I know how to do. I started researching this to help me find my sense of smile again. 

I hope you might find some useful takeaways too.

As a starting point, I went back to one of the first things I remember helping me discover happiness as a young person: music. Growing up a beach kid, stuck on the east coast of New Jersey, I’d found positive influence in what many of my college friends referred to as “beach music” — better known as reggae-rock. Think Sublime or Rebelution. Beside the questionable vices that stem from this particular genre, there are some really good underlying messages that should be a staple for the human condition. One of the most commonly expressed is positivity. 

The first practice I focused on was utilizing copious amounts of positive language. I’ve found this to help my subconscious with processing things in a better sense of light. There is a band from the islands of Hawaii, The Green, who have a really catchy song called “Power in the Words” in which this concept is clearly expressed. Again, I realize that reggae might not be everyone’s cup of tea; but the song’s notion is one that everyone should attempt to understand. The message is simple: if you speak positive words in abundance, and truly believe those words, then your life will become abundantly positive.

Happiness behaves the same way.
“Your life right now is a result of your dominant thoughts and your daily actions.” — Robin Sharma, author of The Leader Who Had No Title
Being happy is a mindset. It is not a destination or reward. There is no finish line you cross to discover or achieve it. It is a lens. It is the way you perceive your daily universe.

You must be mindful of this. If you want to be happy, you have to accept it. Otherwise, you succumb to the overwhelming anxiety that comes with trying to achieve high-level success (which is a whole ‘nother monster). It is overcast up there. Darkness looms in places you’d least expect to find it. It waits around corners and crevices and can potentially cause heavy damage if you aren’t careful.

Frustration and stress are part of life. So is sadness. We mustn’t teach ourselves to avoid these types of emotions. Rather, we must shape our mindsets to accept them, and then let them pass. Because they are going to happen. Recognize the negative feelings and let them go. Meditate. Breathe. Repeat. [NOTE: This only works if you believe it does. *see above “Power in the Words” paragraph.]
“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” — Yoda
Fear is a self-realization. You create it yourself. Like happiness. You set up your own limitations and it is one of the toughest challenges you will face. See your fears and face them. The words you use lead to your future self.

Remember that perspective is everything. It is your universe. Choose to see these and move on. Growth only occurs outside of your comfort zone.
“[F]or to be grieved and displeased with anything that happens in the world, is direct apostasy from the nature of the universe.” — Marcus Aurelius, from Meditations
It’s important to truly notice the moments when you ARE happy. When you start seeing these times for what they are and how they were incepted, you’ll realize you’ve had it in you all along. (You will.) But it doesn’t just “come to you” like a dream or a surprise. You’ve got to believe. You’ve got to tell yourself it will happen. You’ve got to find the love within you. You’ve got to speak good words in abundance.

“Love isn’t something you purchase.” — Radical Something, from the song “Paradise In You
You can’t buy it. You have to create it. That’s Happiness 101.
“Human beings are wired to care and give and it’s probably our best route to happiness.” — Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology at UC Berkley
Happiness is part of the matter that is entwined with the universe. It’s in every moment and every being the same way that love is. The same way that sadness and despair can be too. All of it exists always. It’s on YOU to interpret the moments accordingly. Our psychological mindsets are capable of growth, but you have to convince them to grow.
“Psychology has also created problems where once there were none by exposing the flaws in our intuitive understanding of ourselves.” — Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling On Happiness.
Love is something you’re born with. It isn’t until society and psychology strips you of it, that you’re left struggling to create your own happiness without really knowing how. Do you see the problem? Until we educate them otherwise, children don’t quite know how to harness their love and happiness. It’s not easy, as I’ve certainly learned now rounding my 30’s, still hunting for some of the tougher staples of human existence.
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” — Dalai Lama
Some people unfortunately travel into and through adulthood without fully learning this. Little by little, they lose it over political dinner conversation (cue the 2016 election noise) or various internet banter (thanks, Facebook). They lose it at school, at work, and at home if they’re so unfortunate. They’re bombarded by endless darkness.

But observe them (especially children) on the weekends, see their perspectives in the summer when the weather’s warm. People are the epitome of happiness when they allow themselves to be. Are you allowing yourself to be happy?

“Every man’s happiness depends from himself, but behold thy life is almost at an end, whiles affording thyself no respect, thou dost make thy happiness to consist in the souls, and conceits of other men.” — Marcus Aurelius, from Meditations
So when you realize that you are happy, make an effort to take mental note. Why? What brought you to it? Sometimes it’s short-lived, other times it’s extended. Observe and reflect. Describe it with positive lexicon. Breath carefully and focus. Grow.

The tough part is trying to define why you see it in that particular moment. It requires being present. It requires interpretation and expecting change. Again, you have to be knowledgeable enough to accept things for what they are and then truly let them go. Don’t try to control it. Don’t try to apply it elsewhere. Only your perspectives are controllable, not the events and situations themselves.

“Knowledge is power, and the most important reason why our brains insist on simulating the future even when we’d rather be here now, enjoying a goldfish moment, is that our brains want to control the experiences we are about to have.” — Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling On Happiness.
Once you have a base knowledge of the things that make you happy, allow yourself to become fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire. You can’t control them, but you can aim for them. And that takes time. Remember that time affects you in many different ways. It is a dimension in which your body will decay but your soul will flourish. Use that to your advantage.
“[A]nd that there is but a certain limit of time appointed unto thee, which if thou shalt not make use of to calm and allay the many distempers of thy soul, it will pass away and thou with it, and never after return.” — Marcus Aurelius, from Meditations
Thriving is always possible. Always. But you have to try. You have to give it the time and energy to do so. No one else can do that for you. Creating your own happiness starts with how you perceive your existence, your reality, and your relationships with the universe. It is different for every single one of us. But it IS there. It wraps our souls in matter and atoms unlike any you’ve studied in science class.
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” — Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, french author, idealist, and philosopher
You need to realize that this is happening to you whether you want it to or not. Once you understand that — once you truly know that the present around you is there and up for interpretation — then you can start to tweak realities in your favor.

Again, your happiness starts with you. Teaching yourself how to see it is the hardest part. With this lens, you can help others to see it too. Perhaps by — ahem — writing an article, or smiling at a stranger in the grocery store. It takes consistency but will definitely help you to maintain your own. And sometimes, when you find yourself spending too much of that energy to help those around you see this, you end up having to remove them from your reality. It is important to understand and accept this too.
“Exact numbers aren’t needed to realize that we spend too much time with those who poison us with pessimism, sloth, and low expectations of themselves and the world. It is often the case that you have to fire certain friends or retire from particular social circles to have the life you want. This isn’t being mean; it is being practical. Poisonous people do not deserve your time. To think otherwise is masochistic.” — Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek
“Stress, anxiety, and depression are caused when we are living to please others.” — Paulo Coelho
Happiness is a perspective that has the power to shape memories, create smiles, and generate self-discovery. Eliminate the opposing influences and see your truth. Negative people will inhibit your progress, sometimes without even realizing that they’re doing so. Recognize that happiness is a shared experience. Accept it and let it go. Sometimes you can help them to see and other times you have to walk away. 

Surround yourself with positive people. Spread positive energies.

Energies illuminate from your pores the same way that trees produce oxygen. It radiates between beings like soundwaves and particles of universe. Often, someone who glows positive like this becomes the catalyst among their social circle. You might’ve heard the colloquialism, “Smiles are contagious.” They are. It is part of what makes humans so capable of sharing great things. So cut the fat and spread the smile. 

The big takeaways:

Overall, make yourself responsible. Your choices, your decisions, and your actions help determine your future emotions. Use positive language, believe and see the light in everything (whenever you can), and your happiness will develop a sense of recursive gratification. It will self-manifest in places you’d least expect it to. If you don’t do anything about it though, you’ll never grow as a person.

No one can show you how to be happy. You have to discover how for yourself. If your job isn’t making you happy, polish up that resume and find another one. If someone in your life is causing you pain, terminate the relationship. It isn’t up to you to maintain poisonous titles and relationships. You need to take care of yourself and find the responsibility of your own happiness so you can grow.

Mental breakdowns are a result of failing to see yourself in this positive light. They are unavoidable, so don’t feel bad that it happens. I’ve certainly been getting a lot of these lately. Rather, see it as an opportunity. You learn that it hurts. You learn to use caution and eliminate the root of it’s inception. Accept it, adjust your game plan, and move forward. 

This mindfulness needs to start from a young age.

Meditation can help to train your brain to recognize these red flags of cognition. It can be as simple as taking 10 seconds to breathe deeply — in, and out. In, and out. 

Use positive language, tell yourself it is okay. You are still alive. You are breathing. Your perspective creates your reality. You can focus. You can find happiness in the moment. You can make it happen. Trust me, you can. But it takes practice. It takes practice to change your daily vernacular. Just like any other honed skill.
Once you become comfortable with finding this sense in yourself, you can help others’ find their happiness too. Learn from what makes other people happy. It is one of those simple things that can thrive and radiate between people if we just allow it to. Teaching others to see their happiness will help you to see your own. Like writing a long-winded, repetitive, self-practicing article for your blog. 

Happiness is about learning to be yourself. It is a practice in mindfulness. An opportunity to allow yourself to experience self-actualization. It is exceedingly necessary in today’s world. It is the only lens in which you should choose to see the world. Negative things happen in life. That is unavoidable. You cannot change them. You cannot control them. But what you DO have control over is your ability to interpret them and adjust yourself accordingly.

Your preparedness in psychological array will help you to become the person you’ve always wanted to be.

Some further reading:

  1. Every Kind Act Breeds Another” by Payal Gwalani
  2. The Psychology of Your Future Self” by Maria Popova
  3. How to Awaken Joy in Kids” by James Baraz
  4. 3 Tools for Happiness” by Kara
  5. 5 Ways to Train Your Brain for Everyday Happiness” by Srinivas Rao

Originally published at Betterism.

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