Happiness. So misunderstood.
Updated: Apr 24, 2019
Why pegging your hopes of happiness on things you don’t have control of, won’t make you very happy.
Less anxiety, more perspective and a feeling of underlying “alright-ness”. These have been the more noticeable positive effects my 12-year journey with meditation has had on me. But, over the years, I’ve found that meditating daily has also given me profound glimpses of clarity. Things click into place. Although I do often end up with a realization that sounds like a cheesy motivational quote that belongs in front of a picture of a sunset, there’s something about figuring out the logic behind it that makes it come to life.
One of the things that I’ve recently been thinking about is happiness, and how I’ve been getting it all wrong. I’ve always thought that happiness is determined by external factors. If only I got a good mark, won that award or wrote a novel, I would be happy. People think that a new car, an amazing holiday selfie or a new wardrobe will bring them happiness. But the truth is that the happiness that you gain from these outside sources is never lasting. Think about how quickly the thrill of winning an award is replaced with the anxiety that you won’t win one again next year. How after two weeks, you probably hardly notice your new car, in fact you’re far more focused on that idiot that cut you off in traffic.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t have goals or dreams, but rather you should try to get enjoyment from working towards them and not be too hung up on the outcome. If you’re pegging all your hopes of happiness on something you don’t have control of (other people’s reaction to the fruits of your labour) as opposed to something you do have control of (how you feel about the labour itself) you’re on shaky ground. The outcomes we put so much store in generally don’t bring us the satisfaction we’re seeking.
Through meditation I’ve discovered another source of joy; one that doesn’t depend on any outside circumstances. When you meditate regularly, it becomes easier to quieten your mind and it’s possible to experience serene, blissful states of consciousness. This deep, endless source of happiness is in all of us, and we've all experienced it at one time or another in our lives. Meditation gives us a way to access it and enjoy it.
Scientists at Kyoto University discovered that an area in the brain called the precuneus was larger in people who were happy. This study, coupled with previous studies that show that regular meditation increases grey matter in the precuneus, leads to the conclusion that meditation can increase happiness. “This study suggests it is possible to grow a happier brain.” said Dr Sato.
Aristotle said that ‘happiness depends upon ourselves’. Knowing that you can create your own happiness gives you a real sense of freedom. Your desires release their stranglehold on the present and you can see what’s around you more clearly. It also makes you far harder to control or manipulate because when you automatically react with craving or aversion to positive or negative stimuli, you diminish your freedom of choice. You seed control of your own happiness.
So I’m trying to stop thinking of happiness as something that I have to persue, and start thinking about it as something I have to enjoy. Maybe I’m a little late to the party, but at least now I’m starting to understand the whole “True happiness comes from within” thing. Cue cheesy sunset pic.