#387: Creating Happiness
Monday, August 02, 2010
There is an old saying that most people are about as happy as they set their minds to be. But what does that mean?
This afternoon I watched a movie where a dying woman insisted she wanted to live so she could be happy. "What is happiness?" her caretaker asked her. The woman had no answer.
It's easy to do as she did and claim we simply want to be happy. But does that mean we are free of debt? That we have sufficient income to pay our bills? That we have meaningful activities to fill our time? That we have a few close friends? That we enjoy good health? Must all of these things be present for our happiness?
Isn't true happiness more than that? Isn't true happiness internal, a feeling of satisfaction despite our circumstances and problems?
"There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will." Epictetus
Proverbs tells us that "...he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast."
But doesn't unhappiness seem to be the normal state of mind of most people as they complain, feel envy, hatred, distrust, fear, worry and deal with stress, boredom, loneliness and feelings of worthlessness?
Happiness, then, like other habits, must often be forced in order to overcome that kind of thinking. That can be done by focusing on the positives in our lives. It may take a great effort of will to convince ourselves that the negatives facing us will one day be eliminated, but to think our problems will always be with us is to doom us to a life of misery and despair.
When a negative thought enters our minds, let's take a deliberate step to think of something positive. One author calls it "present moment happiness."
Or we can follow the philosophy on the back of H.C. Mattern's unique business card: "The way to happiness: keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry. Live simply, expect little, give much. Fill your life with love. Scatter sunshine. Forgets elf, think of others. Do as you would be done by. Try this for a week and you will be surprised."
Yes, life is often difficult. But difficult circumstances need not dictate how we think. And if we think happy thoughts we can banish negative ones. It may take practice, but it can be done.