I have nearly forgotten how it feels to walk on my legs. I have spent a year in bed and much more trying to walk, with limited success.
Not long before, I used to feel that I got stuck in time. It felt all the world was zooming ahead leaving me behind. All my friends were living the life of their dreams while I was confined to my home. I had lost money, career and a precious relationship due to my illness.
There were days when I even felt living this way was worthless. I was very unhappy.
All life my deeds were guided by the goal of finding happiness. And I had grand plans for my life. We all do the same. We make plans. Plans of future happiness.
And our quest of future happiness is a collection of lots of if ‘s like:
1. If I have more money, I’ll be happy.
2. If I have a better job, I’ll be happy.
3. If I become healthy and fit, I’ll be happy.
And many more such ifs.
However, can happiness really be attained by material possessions? Are all extremely wealthy and socially well placed people actually happy? If I look back at my life , I wasn’t really happy when I had ample money, a great job, awesome girlfriend and was travelling to the best places in the world.
Because I wanted more of everything and used to postpone my happiness to future accomplishments and plans.
But not all plans work. Naturally we feel worried when the future is different from planned. We feel happiness has been taken away. What we don’t realize is that only some plans have failed. Life has not failed.
It’s basically wrong to link happiness to material possessions and some future plans.
Time and again studies have proved that beyond a certain threshold (usually the average income level) money doesn’t bring happiness. For that matter, no material thing brings real happiness. That’s because we try to bring happiness out-to-in. We amass materials and relationships to acquire inner happiness. But it doesn’t work that way.
Contrary to popular lingo, happiness can’t be found or attained.
To create happiness its important to understand better. After so much despair I finally decoded real happiness. I’m still in a bad state. No ability to walk, same problems. But I’m no longer sad. I am happy, real happy for myself.
You can be too. We can be happy without buck loads of money, that big house, great car or that great loved one of our dreams.
I’ve realized we create real happiness ourself. It’s a 2 stage process. First understanding and second practicing.
Stage 1: Understanding Real happiness.
Happiness is an internal state of being. It’s very unlike hunger or thirst which are demands of the body and can be fulfilled materially by food and water. We can eat food by finding it. We can buy a great car with the money. But the associated joy and contentment of driving that car comes from the inside.
Happiness is demand of mind and soul. It can’t be satisfied by anything material. It can’t be attained or found. It needs to be created. Yes! Happiness needs to be created within. I learned to be happy with whatever I’ve got.
We need to accept and become content with the present to be real happy. Stop thinking about the great past. Stop thinking about how great the future will be. Start living in the present.
Stage 2: Practicing Happiness
Brain doesn’t work like a hard disk where everything is stored and accessed on demand with same priority. In fact our brain works more like a jungle path. The more we think about a particular memory the stronger we make it. It has been neurologically proven.
Even you can test it. If you don’t recall any of your memories for a long time then they fade away. And after some time if you recall them, you simply can’t. Try recalling phone number of a distant relative. You simply can’t. But you can easily recall number of your home if you dial it daily.
Everyone should use this property of the brain. Don’t think about things which make you unhappy. That broken relationship or that lost career opportunity, just don’t think about them. Anyway things are not going to change by thinking over and over. So stop it.
Instead think that you are happy. In tough times recall what you still have and what makes you happy in the present. In every moment tell yourself that you are happy. I’m not saying it is easy. It’s actually very hard and in the start it would be a blatant lie. But if you repeat it several times then slowly it will sink in. And happiness will start to creep in through the path you have made through your thoughts.
These small, practical tips have helped me in practicing happiness. You can try them too.
1. Never think about the past.
Avoid any chance of disappointment or dwelling in the past, as that can only complicate things. It will solve nothing. Think what best can be done in the present situation. For example, I have one fine leg and hand. I can best use them to learn to walk using a stick instead of fussing about the weaker left side.
Remember now. Not in the past. Nor in future. I never think what I could have done to avoid this. I never think what I will do once I get better. I think only about now. So, just think what can you do now which will make you happy.
Had a career defeat? Try thinking about maybe a new business, maybe enroll again in college.
Had a bad relationship experience? Think about taking a break with friends. Don’t think what you will do better in the next relationship. Time will come for that also. But now think only about present happiness. It is a habit that takes time and a lot of practice.
2. If you feel depressed, just think that it could have been worse.
When trying to be happy, once or twice a week depression kicks in. At that time I never let it sink in. On the contrary, I tell myself that it could have been worse. I could have gone completely paralyzed, or worse I could not have come out of coma at all. So I’m glad and happy that I’m still alive and not in any of those situations.
3. Don’t compare your life with others.
From a distance others lives look peachy. But everybody has their own set of problems and failures. Remember, the grass is always greener on the other side. Don’t be fooled by those great, happy Facebook pictures of all your friends. Nobody shares their failure and disappointments
4. Enjoy and appreciate small things in life.
Enjoy the food you just had. Enjoy your present job. Accept your health. Give compliments to your wife. Appreciate your kids for making you happy. In short, enjoy the small things in life. This very small practice can do wonders for you.
You can be who you want to be right now, no matter what your situation looks like.
Life is weird and, let’s admit it, kind of miraculous. You grow up wanting a certain kind of life, a dream of a life, but by the time you get there that life is gone. You have to make your own life and you have to make it your way. Everyone goes through this, everyone settles for a little less than they wanted, and everyone gets a little more than they bargained for. If life is just about working and earning money, we’re all screwed; but if life is about living and being happy in whatever we’ve got then anybody can be happy. – (From TV series ‘Underemployed‘)
Before closing I would share a secret with you. A miracle of sorts for me.
When I was depressed and unhappy with my situation nothing seemed to work. My health was not improving despite all efforts and medication. But over time things have improved drastically. With more willpower and belief I have got one hand and leg working normally. Just one more leg and hand to go and soon I’ll be again on my own feet.
What happened differently? I simply stopped worrying. I became really happy with whatever I’ve got.
So, If you want to be happy. Just be.