Standing in the queue with my grocery basket weighing heavily and my foot tapping impatiently, I sullenly gazed around waiting for my turn to burn some plastic. I scanned about lazily, not really focusing on anything when suddenly my ears pricked up. My head whipped round and my eyes trained in on an odd-looking couple. A curious blend of an old, crazy scientist and a weather-beaten, hippy mum were casually discussing ‘the philosophy of happiness’ in what can only be describe to the world as ‘only in South Africa’ accent. I was gobsmacked and did my best to scoop my agog tongue back into my mouth while I eavesdropped with shameless abandon.
Much to my disappointment they turned down the condiments aisle and the conversation faded from earshot almost instantly. I must be honest the thought of aisle stalking did occur to me as I was genuinely interested in what they had to say, but as fate would have it, it was my turn next at the checkout counter.
Over the next few days I pondered over my experience and tried to imagine what the rest of their conversation would have entailed, maybe they were discussing happiness as a form of religious contentment or perhaps something simple like the difference between pleasure and happiness? My mind meandered and my thoughts tumbled and tripped as I metaphorically stumbled about trying to figure out what exactly is happiness and is there a philosophy to it?
In an effort to find some clarity I decided to do some research on the topic of happiness and so I read and researched and scoured the internet for an answer. However I just could not find anything that sated that lingering, unformed, yet definitive question bouncing about in my head. It wasn’t until a few days later when I was helping someone understand how our emotional response to an event can shape or influence our outcome that it dawned on me. The answer I was seeking was right in front of me!
Like the proverbial genie jumping out of a lamp, a wave of clarity came crashing through my battered brain. We are responsible for our emotions! The philosophy of happiness is one of choice. We have the choice to be happy. What a simple revelation.
However, an obvious question arises from this revelation: “if it’s as easy as making a choice, why do so many of us ‘choose’ not to be happy?” It’s a fair point. And further to this point, when talking to my sister about this, she uttered in frustration “WHY is being happy such hard work?” another fair question in the context of things.
A past employer often used a phrase that I have now adopted as my own. We often discussed ‘why’ people wouldn’t do something and he always summarily stated: ‘Human beings seek the path of least resistance’. This is so accurate. In ignorance we choose a path that initially brings us some form of satisfaction and we adopt this as a belief. However once it ceases to provide us with any further satisfaction, we choose to do nothing about it because it’s ‘comfortable’. If you do anything for long enough, it becomes autonomic. The unconscious mind accepts it to be a reality. We create excuses to justify why our choice is valid. That is the way the unconscious mind works. Once a belief is created here, it will always provide the conscious mind with ‘answers or reasons’ as to why choosing something else is perhaps not viable. This is what is referred to as the ‘comfort zone’.
We are so comfortable in our misery and shackles of daily life, that seeking out true happiness is often difficult and scary. The unknown evokes a sense of discomfort and even though happiness is always a choice, fear and doubt are powerful motivators. If you’ve watched Star Wars, you’ll know how powerful the dark side is…
To walk in the light and find the resolve to make the choice is always going to be a challenge. But here is an obvious truth and a reality you will need to accept: “Nothing comes from nothing” (Shakespeare’s King Lear). Ponder on those words – they are immensely powerful if you apply them to your current situation. As I said previously, the more you do something, the more your unconscious mind accepts it to be a reality. To help you get started here are three things that can help you foster more happiness in your life.
Smile. No, I really mean it, smile. And if you really don’t feel like it – fake it! Force yourself to fake a smile! Why? Because the mind cannot distinguish between what is real or imagined, and if you force yourself to smile, in time your unconscious mind will accept this as a reality. So smile, even if you don’t feel like it right that minute. The more you do it, the more natural it will become and besides, everyone is prettier when they smile.
Surround yourself with happy people and stay away from the happiness vampires that lurk about. You know who they are, always moaning and complaining, finding fault and blaming the world for everything. Those people who bring you down. And if you are a happiness vampire, make a conscious effort to stop, immediately. Self-awareness is such a powerful tool. Remember, making the choice is easy – it’s having the resolve to work at it daily that makes the real difference.
And lastly, find a sense of purpose. People who know who they are and where they are going are always happier people. Whatever it might be, define your life. They say life is a journey, not a destination, but that makes no sense. If life is journey without an end, you are a nomad, a wondering gypsy that cannot settle and will be eternally restless. If you undertake a journey, there must a reason for the journey and once you know where you want to go, then you can truly start to enjoy your journey.
Make the choice. Be happy.