23 Oct How to be Happy in 783 words
Is not getting what you want the key to happiness? It’s a question that sounds counterintuitive to most people, but there is research to suggest that it’s true.
In my work with Reiki and hypnosis, I am regularly confronted with questions about the nature of happiness, life satisfaction, emotions, and more. It seems we’re all looking for a comfortable way to be in this world, to manage our lives, and optimize our outcomes.
The Zen folks will tell you that the secret of the path is that there is no path – we are already here… now. But you and I both know that “the path” is riddled with these types of existential questions and not because we need answers so much as because our all-too human brains are wired for contemplation, investigation, and problem-solving. That often means searching for problems (which is to say creating problems) where there are none in order to serve the modern imperative of our prefrontal cortex. It seems we have an evolutionary bias towards disquiet.
So, if we’re wired to create then perhaps we can manufacture joy, peace, and contentment – instead of problems – to satisfy our creative efforts. With that realization we can see (finally) what the Zen folks are getting at: we are indeed already happy and free, but we had to chart a difficult path to recognize that.
The Bright Side: You Can Be the Change
American psychologist and author of Stumbling On Happiness, Dan Gilbert, challenges the far-reaching assumption that not getting what we want makes us unhappy. He suggests that the very opposite is true: we’re happier people when we don’t get what we want.
Consider the “freedom” of choice here. Research suggests that when we are presented with one irreversible decision, we are more satisfied with our outcomes than if we had a multitude of options and were given the flexibility to reverse our decision. To what do we owe that? Our ability to synthesize happiness. That is, our power (and willingness) to accept the things we cannot change and be satisfied with the outcome.
Two guiding principles stand out for me in this idea, which we can apply to every aspect of life: acceptance and faith, with faith more accurately representing our belief that we are capable of making good decisions. The overarching quality here is optimism. But not the false optimism that defies facts and ignores better judgement, but rather a chosen orientation toward the bright side – that outcomes will be satisfactory, good, or even fantastic because of how we choose to perceive them. To quote Shakespeare: “Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
So, how do we drive up optimism or rather “synthesize happiness” when life is hard and our ability to affect a favourable outcome is challenged? When we find ourselves stuck in the muck of these big questions about the nature of mind, of life, of reality? Or when the spilled milk creates puddles just large enough to be mildly irritating?
First of all, acceptance is key. If I could shine the spotlight on the most significant nugget of truth I’ve encountered over the years, acceptance would take centre stage. We are (mostly) not in control of events, situations, or outcomes. However, we are in control of our response to them, and the degree to which we allow them to impact our contentment.
But I prefer allowance to acceptance as a more effective term as far as personal fulfillment and happiness are concerned. Acceptance carries an undertone of resignation. Allowance suggests a willingness to be with what is unpleasant or unsatisfactory. It means we let in what we don’t like. The alternative is to be trapped by an active aversion to what we don’t like, and that’s ultimately where the core of dissatisfaction lies. By allowing life to unfold around us, we meet endless opportunities to synthesize happiness and decidedly experience a more pleasant outcome. Therein lies our ticket to happiness (yes, there has been one all along!)
Keep in mind that contemplating a series of thoughts spilled out onto digital paper isn’t usually enough to get us out of our heads and into happiness. But sometimes, a few words can click something into place, setting the stage for a deeper, more somatic inquiry. That’s where I come in. I use the power of Reiki and hypnosis to help my clients move from stuck to stumbling to striding along that path, because – let’s face it – the path beckons, whether we ultimately need it or not.
Contact me to schedule a time that’s convenient for you. I’m located in Durham Region, serving clients in Clarington and surrounding areas. I look forward to hearing from you.