Eastern philosophy often preaches the value of releasing desire as the key to happiness. We westerners don’t do so well with that. We like our goals. We enjoy attainment.
However, we also often forget the joy of pursuit. We wrap ourselves up in the need for achievement – the next job, the big sale, the smooth event. We forget about the pleasure of the road we are traveling.
We know we aren’t supposed to try to keep up with the Joneses. That that’s bad. And being enlightened people, we don’t. Because we’re good.
Except when we’re not.
And knowing how and when temptation or envy will strike helps to avoid mistakes.
So know that the Joneses are more threatening when they are close – when they live next door or were/are particularly good friends or are just like you but more successful. Know that these are the characteristics that make the Joneses more threatening.
We too often equate happy and satisfied.
They aren’t the same thing.
You didn’t get the big sale, promotion, or whatever? It’s okay to be unsatisfied, to hunger for more. It’s also okay to be happy at the same time. I’d even say it’s advisable.
The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh, was the fourth book from my 2012 reading list and my first on meditation. This is my second of (1, 2) 3 posts on the book.
Pop quiz: Do happy people smile? Or does smiling make people happy?
Neuroscience research actually shows that smiling makes you happy. Even a forced smile stimulates the area of the brain responsible for positive emotion which sets off a domino effect of recognizing positive things, which brings more happiness, which makes you smile more, which causes you to recognize more positive things, which brings more happiness, which, well, you get the picture.
Thich Nhat Hanh describes one meditative strategy – the half-smile. He encourages making the half-smile a regular practice.
- When you wake up
- When you have a free moment
- When you listen to music
- When you are irritated
Basically, anytime is a good time to smile, and smiling anytime is a good way to rewire your brain to be happier.
Great blog by David McRaney about the money-happiness link. I think (hope) we all know by now that more money doesn’t equal more happiness. But there is a baseline, and the research is in. We all need enough money for the basics which it turns out is around $75,000, a little more or less depending on where you live.
Beyond that more money only gives the illusion of offering more happiness, but it does nothing for happiness, joy, sadness or stress. McRaney offers the brilliant quote from Thoreau, “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”
More money is a game and it’s stacked against you with odds to make a Vegas pit boss drool.
Wanting less is the key to happiness. Appreciating what you have is the key to happiness. Savoring what you experience is the key to happiness. Expressing your love is the key to happiness. Engaging your passions is the key to happiness.
After food, shelter, and a DVR are paid for more happiness is free if you know where to shop.
We spend a lot of time pursuing:
Research repeatedly tells us that happiness is built from pursuing:
- Helping Others
- Peacefulness (e.g., Meditation)
- Spending Time in Nature
- Being with Friends and Family
What if there was a scorecard for life?
If there was, I think the points would be tallied like this:
- Bring happiness to yourself – 10 points
- Bring happiness to your spouse – 50 points
- Bring happiness to your children – 100 points per child
- Bring pride to your parents – 5 points
- Bring happiness to friends or extended family – 5 points per person
- Bring happiness to strangers – 3 points per person
What would you give points for?