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What is happiness?

It’s a misunderstood concept. Highly misunderstood. That is because so many people have a different opinion of what it should be, and then believe that their made-up definition applies to everyone. Like somehow they have it figured out because they are the happiest people on the planet. They then create a chronic pursuit of a white rabbit that descends them deep into a madness.

The truth is, happiness is not some elusive beast that is trying to escape you. I think we all have an inherit ability to naturally be happy, but this God given talent has been adulterated by a few bad eggs that are very good at dragging others down with petty temptations.

Before we get to what happiness is, let’s dig a little deeper. Let’s try to understand the white rabbit that everyone is chasing, first.

There are at least three different distraction bunnies that exist. First is that need to be busy all of the time. The idea that if we are busy all of the time, then it makes us feel important. That ability it say, “I can’t go out with you tonight, I am busy” makes us feel sought after. But then, what are we really busy with? Some of us only say we are busy so that people will get really excited when we finally “Find time” to go out with them.

The second distraction is basing our level of happiness on the things we buy. A dear friend of mine posted on social media a few weeks back something along the lines of, “When you are feeling down, go buy some clothes!” This terrified me. They were tying a noose around their happiness to material goods. A material that deteriorates in value the moment they put the new clothes on. This then forces them to have to buy more stuff to continue to feed this so-called happiness thus falling into a vicious cycle of chasing that white rabbit, and every time he finally pinches the toes of that bugger, it escapes their grasp once more. I’m sorry, but is that not the definition of insanity? How many of us are going insane chasing happiness?!

The third bunny is thinking that fun and happy are synonymous. Fun is an action the requires effort. Occasionally this effort creates stress and emotions that are completely contradictory to happiness. “Fun” can also leave us feeling terrible afterwards, depending on your definition of fun. Thus sometimes making us LESS HAPPY after the fun has been had. Having fun is NOT being happy, though you may experience happiness during fun.

So the Merriam-Webster definition of happiness is this:

  • A state of well-being and contentment
  • A pleasurable or satisfying experience

So by definition, does happiness always mean getting what you want? Is happiness an action we can perform? Can we DO happy? Will having the newest iPhone put you in a state of well-being and contentment? Is scrolling through your social media feeds a pleasurable or satisfying experience?

I know at least for the latter, that is a definite no from many of you. Yet we continually sacrifice time we could be spending cultivating happiness for these mentally draining tasks. We’ve been conditioned into thinking that being busy all of the time is happiness. That if we aren’t stimulating our senses every second we get, then we are wasting our time and destroying ourselves. That somehow being busy all the time is something we should strive for. If we are able to tell people, “Actually I am busy tonight.” That we are doing something honorable with ourselves. The truth is that this being “busy” is the real draining habit. It is a drought we are all facing. I know I struggle with it. My mind constantly races trying to find the next thing I should be doing to improve myself.

Let us not confuse fun with happy. They do not mean the same thing. Fun is something you do to pleasure yourself. It’s an action. A verb. There is an effort for fun. Some people feel the need to involve a great deal of stress, and sometimes, the very opposite of happiness for fun. Fun is good, and it is very rewarding, but you can’t have fun all of the time, but you can be happy all of the time.

I used to always say that happiness is different for everyone, and for the most part, I still agree with that statement. BUT.

Think about some of the people who “have everything”? Do they really look happy?

  • Materialistic people are not happy. That is why they buy so much stuff. They are trying to fill a void in them that is where happiness should be.
  • Happiness is a purely mental phenomenon, so basing your happiness on things outside of yourself, such as materialistic goods, makes it impossible to reach. If you had every material thing around you. A car, a nice house, a new phone, everything else, you still would not be happy, because you failed to focus on what’s inside of you.
  • Simpleness is happiness
    • Think about those people in the world that have nothing, and are still willing to give everything they have away. After having nothing, they still manage to smile. Laugh. Love.
    • Why is it that when we look at suicide, most of the people that take their own lives are people who seemingly have everything to live for. This seems like the opposite of things that should be. As if depression and suicide is a privilege of the wealthy or people doing well.
    • The people who have nothing have stumbled across the keys that many of us have spent our lives searching for. Happiness is not in the money. Happiness is not in material goods. Happiness is inside of us. In the organ that keeps us going. Happiness is in the heart.

When we nurture our heart. When we care for other people. When we are open and willing to give instead of taking. That is when we begin to find happiness. Those things that we do for love will help us to become happy. Being mindful of ourselves and those around us.

  • Living in the moment
  • Disconnect to connect

Slow it down

  • Try to not be busy all of the time
  • Become comfortable with doing nothing

Are you doing something you have to be doing right now?

Are you doing something you want to be doing right now?

  • If you take only one thing from this podcast, let it be this final point I am about to present to you.

The core of happiness. The one thing that will always create happiness in your heart is gratefulness. When we are grateful, we are happy. Gratefulness costs us nothing. We don’t have to plan gratefulness and stress over it. We don’t have to spend time cultivating gratefulness. All we have to do is look at what we have and be glad that we have it. Be glad that things aren’t worse. Be glad we have the friends and families and opportunities that we have. Be glad about the things that you don’t have. That nice car you want is expensive to maintain. That significant other that you wish you had will have flaws that will drive you nuts. Be glad of where you are right now, and where you have the chance to go in the future.

One last parting thought about gratefulness:

Catholic Benedictine Monk David Steindl-Rast says gratefulness is when we are given something. Being grateful makes us happy. So what if we realize that every moment is a given moment, and not guaranteed? If we realize every moment is something given to us, we are happy in every moment.

Now get out there, and get after it! I hope you were inspired by this blog post and if it did something for you or you think it could do something for someone else, please share it in the place that you share things, tune in next week as I ponder the question, “Why me?” and as always thanks for listening. This has been Life and Fitness with D. Banks.

Podcast Link: http://lafwdbanks.libsyn.com/happiness

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