“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, or worn. It is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace & gratitude.”
– Denis Waitley
“Happiness doesn’t depend on any external conditions, it is governed by our mental attitude.”
“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”
I used to think that I was a grateful person. I remembered to say ‘thank you’ and I also remembered the kindness that others showed me and did my best to return the favour whenever I could. It turns out though that this didn’t quite qualify me as a grateful person. A well-mannered person perhaps, but not a grateful one.
While I was conscious enough to say my thank you’s and appreciate my friends and family, I was completely blind to so many other things like the food I enjoyed daily, my home, having the money to pay my bills with and so on. I now realise how dependent I am on all of these and how lucky I am to have them. Yet, I took these things for granted – without even realising it.
If that wasn’t bad enough, I was also pretty quick to whine and complain (at least in my mind) when things didn’t match up to my expectations or go as I would like them to. Again, I wasn’t even aware of how often I complained. It had become such a big part of my life that it seemed ‘normal’. How was I ever going to be happy?
I didn’t really make the connection between happiness and gratitude until fairly recently. I spent many years believing as many do, that happiness was some mythical place you arrived at, once you had ticked all the boxes and jumped through all the hoops that we, as a society, have told ourselves we needed to. Things like going to school, getting a degree, getting a job with a hefty pay cheque, finding a partner and getting married, owing the big house and car and raising some kids and so on.
Thanks to some wonderful books by some exemplary people, I woke up. I am greatly indebted to writers such as David Icke, Louise Hay, Abraham & Hicks, Rhonda Bryne, Wayne Dyer, Wallace D Wattles, Eckhart Tolle. They have helped me see a great many things clearly.
Through their work I could see that happiness was not destination that we had to get to, but a choice we had to make. This choice was available to us in every moment of our lives. We could either choose to look for the blessings that come our way (even though they sometimes come disguised as ‘disasters’) or we could look for shortcomings and things to complain about. Either way, we would find the evidence to support our beliefs and this would result in a feeling of happiness and contentment or its opposite.
The big breakthrough came when I realised a few truths about happiness that I wasn’t fully aware of before, such as:
Happiness doesn’t exist in the future. If it did, we could never BE happy but would always be STRIVING FOR happiness and never getting there. I didn’t want that. I wanted my happiness NOW! I wanted it every minute of every day!
You don’t need all of the things on society’s list to be happy. I had come across so many who appeared to ‘have it all’ but were sick and miserable. I also saw some who lived the most simple and sometimes unconventional of lives and yet were blissfully happy.
Happiness was a mindset. A mindset is something that we can arrive at internally. So happiness wasn’t really dependent on external conditions.
Happiness and pleasure are not the same thing. You could be happy while experiencing pleasure and perhaps, pleasure could enhance your sense of happiness. Yet, happiness itself can exist independently of pleasure or a lack of it.
These truths helped me arrive at a clearer understanding of what happiness meant to me.
Now, to me, happiness means a feeling of contentment and the sense that ‘all is well’.
A clearer understanding of what happiness was (and what it wasn’t), still didn’t bring me the happiness I was looking for . There was something more that I needed to know. The missing piece of the puzzle revealed itself to me in the form of a little thing called gratitude. It’s very simple when you think about it – How can you feel bad or that something is lacking when you are busy counting your blessings? I’d say it’s pretty near impossible! This simple truth had eluded me all this time and now that I understood it, I finally had a fighting chance!
Just because it is simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. It turns out that if you don’t already have it, an ‘attitude of gratitude’ takes some time and effort to cultivate. When you are carrying the momentum of a lifetime of unhelpful thought-patterns, you can’t expect to do a 180 degree turn just like that. The good news though, is that it’s not impossible.
My wife and I had recently re-read Rhonda Byrne’s ‘The Magic’ (a book about gratitude and how to practice on a daily basis) and we started off practising it daily. It is a 28 day program where she gives you daily tasks to help you stay on track. I fell off the wagon at day 14, yet Shani kept on going (together with one of her friends). I could see the difference it made to her life and it often spilled over into mine. She became more light-hearted, more up-beat, and she even had more energy! She also had a lot of nice things happen to her during this time. Being a witness to all of this helped me realise that this was where I needed to be. I needed to get back on the Gratitude wagon and fast! Enter my friend and fellow blogger, Andrea Zimmerl.
I was just thinking of starting back at Day 1 of the ‘The Magic’ when Andrea posted on her Facebook wall that she was going to undertake a 30-day ‘no complaining’ challenge. I knew this was a sign, so I jumped in with her and also wrote to her about my 28 days of gratitude. Guess what!? She had been thinking of doing a daily gratitude journal too! She had even written a post about it on her blog. You can read it here: Gratefulness & My Journal.
I am firmly back on the gratitude wagon and aim to stay there. Please wish me luck for I shall be needing it!
In closing, I will leave you with this thought, which represents my current understanding as to what happiness is and what we could do to be happy:
Happiness is not a destination we have to get to but a choice we have to make. There are no tasks to complete and no boxes to tick. Right now, where we are, we can choose to be happy. It requires nothing more than a willingness to see the best in what IS, here and now.