Zen and the pursuit of happiness

Officialwanting and striving to be happy can make you feel worse. Experiments by scientists in four universities have shown that the pursuit of happiness makes one feel lonely. They’ve proved it, so it must be true.

Well, clearly: the very fact of wanting happiness suggests you aren’t yet happy, and also suggests that you’re comparing yourself to other people you believe are happy. If you strive to be happy, and don’t succeed in feeling happy, then the apparent failure to acquire happiness will make you feel bad.

Answer? Don’t try. Just be. Happiness is more a state of mind – an attitude to life – than a fact. It’s a feeling, an emotion, that tells you that what you are, what you’ve got, where you’re at, is enough. It’s good. It’s great, in fact. Who wouldn’t want to be happy? But who says you can’t be happy now?

What is it that declares you can be happy? A certain amount of money? What – a thousand dollars? a million quid? A billion euros? How much is enough? Or is it about things – the latest iThing, diamonds, a Porsche, a luxury house, an island in the South Seas? Maybe it’s people – the trophy girlfriend, the happy family, the perfect spouse, the brilliant children, the celebrity friends? Is it fame? Is it success? What is success? What are the prices of all these things? And do they amount to happiness?

Let’s ask Elvis. Or Whitney. Or Amy. Or Jacko. Did they have money, fame, possessions? Yes. Were they surrounded by adoring people? Yes. Were they happy?

All I’m suggesting is that you can choose to be happy, any time, anywhere. You don’t have to wait. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to have stuff. You don’t have to give up your stuff. You don’t have to be clever, qualified, or beautiful. It doesn’t depend on lifestyle, background, money, shape, colour or size.

It’s your choice. It’s not always easy, and some days it seems impossible. But unless the shit that’s happening to you today is going to stop the sun coming up tomorrow, then things can change and you can be happy again. The choice to be content, to be joyful, is backed up by understanding what makes you happy, what makes you suffer, and bit by bit choosing the former and getting shot of the latter. That’s a lifetime’s work – at least.

For now, choose to feel happy inside your own self, whatever’s going on around you.

Tell me:

What is happiness, anyway? How would you define it? What makes you happy? If you don’t think of yourself as a happy person, what would change that? What sort of life is it that you’d count as a happy life? There’s no right or wrong answer – I’m really interested in your take on this. 

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One comment on “Zen and the pursuit of happiness

  1. Steve Dix says:

    Point of fact. Look at the average dog – rarely do you see an unhappy dog, and if you it’s usually quite a shock. That’s because dog, unlike people, live in the now, not in the past. You can argue that’s ok for dogs because they don’t have to pay the rent, buy dog food or pay the vet’s bills, and worry over where the next paycheque is coming from, but, strangely enough, it’s the acceptance of the now, like the dog, that leads to happiness. How many people come out with the truism “we were poor, but happy?”. You don’t hear dogs saying that -mainly because it’s hard to express through a tail.

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