The happiness puzzle
Life is full of turbulent times, and times that are calm or somewhere between the two extremes. However, the way you respond determines whether you suffer, and your response is determined by how you manage stress and your outlook on life. Happy people are not always ecstatic, they are content. Unhappy people meet discontentment on a daily, or maybe minute by minute basis. Learn to be content, and you’ll find reaching happiness is simple.
How do you manage stress?
Some events lean toward the probability of suffering, yet they only meet their potential if you allow yourself to be swept along by their current. Things happen, events unfold, but your perception of them makes them good, bad, or somewhere between the two where a balance of mind exists. Of course, certain situations seem inherently negative; you wouldn’t expect to be happy if you were a prisoner for example. Nevertheless, some people have encountered negative events, but not suffered in the way you might expect. Understanding their constructive attitudes can help you be happier.
Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl identified that having a positive state of mind can help you get through even the worst events in life. Focusing on love, and looking inwards to his spiritual values, helped him cope in dire times. Perhaps the most important message people can take from Frankl is to use their minds constructively. Your thoughts color what happens to you; you create your experiences. Hopefully, you’ll never have to face such extreme circumstances as Frankl encountered, but learning to manage stress will influence how happy you are when facing the instability of life.
Consider how you usually cope with anxiety. Do you shout, become irritable, or reach for a crutch such as alcohol or pastries? Or, like people with a propensity for happiness, do you think your way into a helpful mind-set that accommodates joy rather than misery?
Contentment isn’t like a firework display; they are no delighted coos from the crowd. However, its calm, gentle way of not being moved is what aids a peaceful mind. When you are content inside, the outside, life’s dramas, don’t rattle you. You ride the waves without going under them if you have inner balance. You know you can’t stop them, so you don’t try. You don’t resist events you cannot change, and this non-resistance means emotional knots of anxiety don’t form in your body and mind. In a state of calmness, rather than fight or flight, you glide through life, stopping to notice its beauty, though not stopping to plunge into its turmoil. The result of being content is a clear head that thinks its way out of misery quickly. Additionally, from a state of contentment, you can easily reach the higher state of happiness.
Examine your thoughts
What you think about events triggers your feelings, so choose to think in helpful ways. Before you can make such a choice, you need to be aware of your thoughts as they occur. First, practice noting them as they happen without judging them. Begin to detach yourself from them, as the less attached to them you are, the easier it is to let negative thoughts go. Stand back from them in your mind, acknowledging they are there, but without forming opinions about them.
When you are adept at watching your thoughts, begin to notice whether they are helpful or detrimental to your well-being. For instance, when traveling to work, thinking about how inept the driver is in front of you, building anger is clearly unhelpful. Your anger won’t change the event; it will change your level of happiness, bringing you down. When you recognize the rumblings of such unhelpful thoughts, detach from them, and shift to a neutral state.
Neutrality moves you closer to contentment because nothing phases you when you are neutral. You recognize unhelpful events, but you detach from them. They are just things that happen. When you are in the neutral zone, you can begin to choose your thoughts. If negative thoughts appear, see them, then detach from them by not judging them.
You can move from contentment to happiness by focusing on positive thoughts. In tough times, you may only be able to stay in a neutral frame of mind. When life isn’t too challenging, though, you can concentrate on helpful topics. If unwanted thoughts appear, go through the process again: detachment, neutrality, contentment, and happiness.
Practice, as always, makes perfect, but you’ll see positive results right from the beginning of your journey. Soon, you’ll realize how valuable knowing the process of becoming happy is and want to teach everyone you care about how to complete the puzzle.