Cultivating Happiness Is An Inside Job

We all want to be happy; why is it that some find happiness and others fail?

According to a growing number of psychologists, happiness is a choice, not something that happens to you or that you find on the outside. Happiness is an inside job: you can choose to be happy by making the effort to cultivate a life where happiness resides.

Mahatma Ghandi said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

In other words, inner alignment precedes outer success. The pursuit of happiness consists less of looking for it out there, and identifying what it is that gives you a sense of purpose and fulfillment from within. We can boil that inner alignment down to four basic principles: belonging, purpose, transcendence and narrative.

In other words, happiness is not a gift that falls into our laps; it is a state of being that is earned. In Manuscript Found in Accra, author Paulo Coelho puts it this way:

     “I fell asleep and dreamed that Life was only

     Happiness.

     I woke and discovered that life was Duty.

     I did my Duty and discovered that life was Happiness.”

Happiness, then, is the fruit that grows on a tree where four distinct branches are dutifully nurtured and cultivated: belonging, purpose, transcendence and narrative. The more we cultivate these, the more bountiful the harvest of happiness it bears.

Belonging

The need for belonging is hard-wired in our genes. From the earliest history of homo sapiens on the planet, humans have sought out communities and tribes to belong to. It affirmed their sense of identity and offered a sense of safety. But in the context of happiness, I am referring to more than superficial, tribal membership and groups based on belief systems.

The true sense of belonging I refer to here comes from understanding who you are as a soul and what your purpose and place is on the grand stage of life. Knowing your place in creation brings the realization that you are made of more than the stuff of belief systems and memberships; you are a unique soul who chose to embark on an earth life and become an integral part of the family of mankind. And as mankind goes, so do you.

In this larger context of identity and belonging, there is no place for petty grievances over race, gender or status. Instead, there is a shared purpose and destiny that we either fulfill and benefit from, or forfeit at our peril as some ancient civilizations had learned.

Purpose

A true sense of purpose requires of us to align with that destiny that is larger than the sum of its parts: the call to awaken to our true purpose in life and embrace the opportunities for growth. It beckons us to uncover and develop our unique gifts, skills and strengths, and then to apply them in service to a cause greater than our individual comfort and existence.

True purpose requires us to step off the pedestal of privilege and instead of asking what others can give to us, to ask how we can be of service. It requires commitment, loyalty, discipline, effort and staying power, yet there is no joy greater than being part of serving the greater good.

Transcendence

Transcendence calls us out from the daily drama and petty battles on the surface of life to a Field much higher, much more powerful and much more meaningful than our individual ego identities.

All spiritual traditions speak of transcendence as a way to rise above the mundane into ultimate partnership with the Divine Creator and the Field of Consciousness. This Field holds the possibilities of all that was, is and can be. It is sometimes referred to as the presence of All That Is.

As we align with this Presence more and more, it slowly permeates our understanding so that we awaken to the process of personal growth and so transform our own consciousness into higher levels of being. Transcendence calls us to this higher way of living: it invites us to expand, grow and reach beyond the mundane in order to fulfill our highest potential.

Narrative

Narrative refers to telling our story, and how it defines us. We can learn much from listening to the way someone speaks about their life; what they focus on and how they cast themselves in the plot.

Are you telling your personal story from the perspective of a victim or a victor? By breaking free from the limiting narratives of your life that constrain and disempower you, you will find freedom to create a new narrative for your life: one that honors the truth of your soul’s limitless potential, filled with deep meaning and satisfaction.

Together, these four principles form a solid foundation for a life well lived, blessed by happiness and fulfillment.

Finally, it is helpful to remember that all good things take time to develop – patience is perhaps the first quality trait needed on the journey toward self-mastery and happiness. In the book, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, the great German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche put it this way:

“He who wishes one day to fly, must first learn standing and walking and running and climbing and dancing. One does not fly into flying.”

About the Author

©Copyright Ada Porat. For more information, visit https://www.adaporat.com. This article may be freely distributed in whole or in part, provided there is no charge for it and this notice is attached.

Manufacturing Happiness

One of the most common yearnings expressed by individuals in the West, is the desire for happiness. The founding fathers of the United States declared that the American people have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And pursue it we have!

Hollywood advocates that that we will find happiness when we are rich enough, find true love, or encounter some magical event. We are conditioned to look for happiness somewhere else: in the future, in someone else, or in some outside situation.

Question is: how well has it served us?

When we look at the sky-rocketing levels of addiction, breakup, depression and unhappiness that run rampant in this society despite it being one of the most affluent in the world, it is clear that chasing after happiness outside ourselves, does not work.

You see, happiness is not out there; it is an inside job. And that means that you and I have the power to be happy right now, right where we are. If we are unhappy, perhaps it is time to take a look at the nature of happiness so we can stop dreaming about it and take practical steps to become happier. Yes, happiness is not something we stumble upon; it is something we create, something we become.

Researchers have found that we do not need to always get what we want in order to be happy. We can be just as happy if we don’t get what we want, as we’d be if we do actually get what we want.

In fact, we can manufacture our own happiness – and if we desire happiness, it is essential that we learn how to do this.

Researchers distinguish between two kinds of happiness: natural and synthetic happiness. Researcher Dan Gilbert defines them this way: “Natural happiness is what we get when we get what we wanted, and synthetic happiness is what we make when we don’t get what we wanted.” 

Natural or spontaneous happiness is what we experience when things are going our way and fortune smiles on us. This is the kind we are most familiar with, but it is also fleeting, unreliable and intermittent.

Synthesized or manufactured happiness is the kind of happiness we create when we change the way we look at things; the happiness we synthesize when we learn to make lemonade from the lemons in our lives, and it is every bit as real as spontaneous happiness.

In fact, when we fixate on finding spontaneous happiness, we miss the opportunity to manufacture happiness with what is already in our lives, and we become miserable!

A good example would be looking at how the two types of happiness interact in relationship. In dating, we look to find what we want; in marriage, we need to find a way to like what we’ve gotten!

New relationships are marked by spontaneous happiness; whereas the challenge of marriage is to learn how to synthesize happiness with the person and situation we have chosen. Chasing after the next fleeting experience of spontaneous happiness won’t last; it is the process of manufacturing happiness within the constraints of our situation that brings lasting fulfillment and joy. Ironically, this process of synthesizing happiness works best when we are totally stuck or trapped!

Synthetic happiness acts like our psychological immune system. It works to keep us happy. In his book, Stumbling upon Happiness, author Dan Gilbert describes it as a system of cognitive processes, largely non-conscious, that help us change our views of situations so we can feel better about the situations we find ourselves in.

Author Wayne Dyer put it another way when he said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at, change.”

Our brains are notoriously bad at predicting our happiness. Experiments have repeatedly shown that we overestimate both anticipated pleasure and pain. Our prefrontal cortex simulates that getting something we want, is more important than it really is – it exaggerates the impact of events on our happiness, whether positive or negative.

For example, we overestimate that winning the lottery will increase our happiness or that losing the use of financial security or becoming a paraplegic will completely ruin us. In reality, individuals test at similar levels of happiness one year after winning lottery or becoming a paraplegic. In other words, both our desires and worries are overblown.

We can manufacture our own happiness from within – right now, with where we are and what we have. When we learn to synthesize happiness from within, the very events and outcomes we dread, can turn into new opportunities for happiness.

Studies further indicate that freedom and choice can negatively impact our happiness. When we have choices, we worry about opportunities lost. Think about that the next time you are in the grocery aisle trying to select a product!

Freedom is the enemy of synthetic happiness. While freedom can bring about spontaneous happiness when it offers what we want, it robs us of the opportunity to synthesize happiness. You see, we only learn to like what we have when we have no choice! It is when we are feeling stuck that we have the opportunity to create happiness from within by learning to appreciate what we do have.

Most of us tend to have a basic level of happiness that we revert to. Not everybody ascribes to the “bullying cheerfulness” of false happiness, as physician Andrew Weil describes the prevalent cult of happiness in America.

In his book, Spontaneous Happiness, Weil says that there is an inverse relationship between affluence and contentment: The more we have, the less contented we seem to be. In America, the cultural expectation that we’re to be happy all the time and our children should be happy all the time is toxic, and it gets in the way of true emotional well-being.

Mahatma Ghandi perhaps put it best when he said: “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

Genuine happiness comes from within, and is synthesized by a lifestyle that integrates personal values, gratitude, laughter and forgiveness. In the long run, these qualities allow us to synthesize happiness as an enduring form of contentment and serenity, independent of external circumstance.

About the author

©Copyright Ada Porat. For more information, visit https://www.adaporat.com. This article may be freely distributed in whole or in part, provided there is no charge for it and this notice is attached.

The Search For Happiness

Everyone in the world wants to be happy; and yet everyone suffers in some way. People the world over eagerly search for happiness as if it were a highly treasured secret.

The search for happiness has led many to explore religion, because all wisdom traditions teach that virtue is a precondition of happiness. Virtue may be defined differently by various traditions, yet the search for it invariably calls the seeker to personal introspection and self-honesty.

Times of social upheaval often serve as a catalyst to ignite this individual search for meaning and happiness. It is when the known certainties of our lives crumble, that we start looking for deeper answers. We may embark on this journey to find meaning in the death of a loved one, mourn the loss of a job or relationship, or survive the turmoil of financial instability.

Seekers often believe that the source of meaning and happiness lie outside themselves. They may seek for it in words, books or teachings from those who have been anointed by modern society as the guardians of spiritual truth.

Buddhism takes a contrasting view: it teaches that true knowledge and meaning cannot be found in any outside power or agency. Instead, it is found in the deep knowledge of truth that resides within each of us, even when we try to hide from ourselves.

Why would we want to hide from our inner truth, you may ask? Because we do not want to see our flaws, faults, weaknesses, and excesses. We fear that they’d make us feel too vulnerable and guilty. We are ashamed to admit to ourselves that some of the things we want are forbidden, illegal, unethical, or fattening.

We also hide from inner truth because we are afraid to face our fears. Although we may appear to be self-confident, we are all vulnerable to failure, defeat, humiliation, loss, pain, and death. We fear these things and so we repress those fears. And so we struggle to repress the truths within that we are not able to face, until it seeps through our defenses to haunt us in nightmares, anxieties and everyday worries.

This unwillingness to see things as they are, is the primary obstacle to happiness. It is the chief cause of our self-inflicted suffering; a form of self-denial that the Buddha called ignorance.

If ignorance is the underlying cause of our self-inflicted suffering, then awareness is the remedy. The keys to the kingdom of happiness lie in becoming self-aware. True self-awareness enables us to change the things we can, to accept the things we cannot change, and to know the difference.

Self-awareness can be cultivated through meditation, introspection and reflection. It requires us to witness our inner state of being without reacting to it. The very act of honest self-observation gives us the necessary insight to change our habitual patterns of thought and action.

When we embark on the journey within, we learn to access the truth that offers true happiness. As we come to understand our own resistance to truth, we learn how to transform it. We learn how to change our habits of negative thinking, repressed emotions, and fear-based action into courageous openness, honest awareness, and joyous equanimity. We learn to accept and relax into existence as it is, rather than to anxiously reject and fight it.

We begin to see how we, ourselves, are the primary cause of our own sorrow. And we come to understand that we can also choose to be the cause of our own release and happiness. We learn to find harmony between our inner being and our outer environment, so that peace and happiness flow.

This process of diligent and honest introspection has the potential to radically change our lives from within and restore a true sense of happiness.

©Copyright Ada Porat. For more information, visit adaporat.com. This article may be freely distributed in whole or in part, provided there is no charge for it and this notice is attached.

Growing Gratitude: A Valuable Life Skill

Growing Gratitude: A Valuable Life Skill

What would life look like if we experienced more gratitude? Imagine your satisfaction when someone expresses gratitude for your efforts; or your contentment  when feeling happy about life, right in this moment. We can all have more of that because growing gratitude is a valuable life skill we can learn!

The simple attitude of gratitude is one of the most powerful creative energies we can work with. It transforms our consciousness because energy flows to whatever we focus on, and makes it grow.

Gratitude also increases happiness. When we express genuine appreciation for the goodness we already enjoy each day, we cultivate happiness in our lives.

Perhaps you have not yet lost the twenty pounds you want to, but you have learned to make better food choices. Or you have not yet found the love of your life, but you have been blessed with loving relatives and friends.

It’s a simple yet powerful principle: You can develop more of what you desire in life by noticing what you DO have already and growing an attitude of gratitude for that. You have the power to create more of what you love by expressing genuine appreciation for the good things you already have.

Expressing gratitude is a learned skill. It is done not in a superficial or schmaltzy way, but through genuinely heartfelt, eyeball-to-eyeball or heart-to-heart connection. It involves appreciation delivered with real meaning rather than some perfunctory mumblings or syrupy platitudes.

Just think of all the meaningful things that you have already enjoyed today: the smell of coffee that got you going, a warm shower, soft towels, a selection of clean clothes in your closet, sunshine warming your face, tantalizing aromas all around, the ability to walk and talk… there’s so much to be grateful for!

Once the habit of growing and showing attitude takes hold, you’ll start noticing more and more of life’s blessings around you. Gratitude expands our hearts to notice more of what we already have appreciation for.

Imagine how relationships would be enhanced if you used the same approach to express appreciation for the people in your life!

Take a few moments to consider the relationships you’re grateful for. Reflect on the qualities you appreciate in each of your relatives and friends: the smile on a child’s face, the hug of a loved one, the spontaneous playfulness of a friend… and even their individual ways of craziness! We can find something to be grateful for in every person or situation.

I had an eccentric great-aunt who had the knack for making keen observations about others at the most inappropriate times. I used to blush in embarrassment at her unflinching directness, yet when she was no longer able to attend family gatherings, her special brand of candor was sorely missed. Only then did I realize how her unique brand of eccentricity enriched our lives.

Perhaps there are a few people with varying degrees of eccentricity populating your life as well. They also have a role to fulfill — even if it is to stretch your tolerance level, teach patience or give you an opportunity to forgive! And yes, they offer you an opportunity to grow more gratitude.

Expressing gratitude is a priceless gift we can offer ourselves and others. Now is a perfect time to express your gratitude to people who have touched your life. Let them know what you love about them and how it makes you feel. You’ll add meaning to their lives while strengthening your relationships.

Growing gratitude is indeed a valuable life skill we can learn to enhance our quality of life.

About The Author:

©Copyright Ada Porat. For more information, visit https://adaporat.com. This article may be freely distributed in whole or in part, provided there is no charge for it and this notice is attached.

How to Stay Strong When Things Go Wrong

How to Stay Strong When Things Go Wrong

Do you wish you could stay strong when setbacks hit and things go wrong? If so, you’re not alone! Setbacks and disappointments are a part of life, but learning how to effectively deal with them, can help to strengthen us from within.

When faced with setbacks, disappointments and stagnation, the first thing to do is not to fight back harder, but to step back and regain perspective before proceeding. This may feel counterproductive at first, but it is vitally important.

When we get so focused that we see things as black and white, good or bad, we can get boxed into rigidity. Truth is, life consist of an entire spectrum of possibilities, rather than just two choices. Stepping back and refocusing opens our minds to more ways of seeing and acting in life.

It does not always require a major shift; even a small tweak can make a difference. Just step back and shift your perspective enough to include one more way of looking at that situation. Is it really true that you are the only actor responsible for creating a desired outcome? It may be more accurate to say you represent one of many conditions that need to come together for something to unfold.

Even when we put our best into something, the outcome might not be what we expected. There may be very strong messages from inside and around us telling us that the outcome is the most important thing, yet that is a limited perspective. The outcome is less important than cultivating our capacity to be with whatever is, even when it is not at all what we have wished for.

This means learning to be okay with not knowing, with not being able to control the outcome. We continue to practice and train our ability to at peace within, and we don’t take the outcome personally.

This is at the heart of authentic spiritual work: it includes both being and doing; awareness as well as the discipline of application. What keeps us pliable in this often challenging process, is the attitude of gratitude.

Gratitude is not dependent on external circumstances. We don’t feel gratitude just because everything is going great, although that’s important to acknowledge. We especially need to practice gratitude when things are not going the way we want them to. It’s when things go wrong, that we are faced with deeper attachments and desires that often masquerade as needs.

To stay flexible, we need to practice gratitude anyhow; similar to the concept of “hallelujah anyhow” that is often heard in black churches; giving thanks and finding gratitude not because of our circumstances, but despite them.

The challenge is to stay in a receptive, open place, not fighting against what’s happening, but digging deeper within to live from our core values, to be the difference we wish to see in the world, and to lead by example in making a difference despite the setbacks we may face. It requires us to dig deep and keep showing up, doing our best with the resources and gifts that we ourselves have been given to make this world a better place.

And when our best is not sufficient to change things around yet, we entrust the outcomes to a Higher hand and we stay the course with compassion for ourselves and others. Once conditions are appropriate, the outcomes will be sure. In the meantime, the work remains because living from our true core and purpose is the only meaningful way to live. Even when conditions are not yet appropriate for optimal outcomes to show up, we can say “hallelujah” anyhow, and stay the course.

Setbacks and delays are part of life’s reality, and they are fully workable. Our practice is to not pull away from the dissonance, not to withdraw from what we are faced with; and in that place where commitment and discipline meet the obstacles, our souls learn resilience and strength.

This is true especially when you feel outnumbered and alone. Don’t get locked into the duality of blame and shame! You cannot be successful by feeding what you are fighting, so when you reach this point, step back and regroup!

Do something good instead. Recognize that we need the shadow to show us the light, and navigate by forgiving the limitations of the shadow and finding a way to shine the light.

One of the biggest pitfalls in our society is the way in which personal preferences are mislabeled as needs. People often attempt to manipulate others by presenting their emotional preferences as needs, and then demanding these “needs” be met. Listen to individuals for a day and you’ll notice how often this is used to manipulate: “I need you to be quiet now,” “I need you to listen to me,” “I need you to do this right now,” and the list goes on.

In reality, these statements confuse emotional preferences with needs. They are indicative of misappropriate use of the limbic brain, where needs and preferences are often confused in early childhood. Adults who get stuck in this dysfunctional behavior, create a lot of chaos for themselves and others.

An emotional “need” is not the same as the biological need for oxygen, food and shelter; it is simply a preference. In fact, psychologist Steven Stosny identifies only one valid emotional need for adults, and that is to act consistently on deeper values.

When we consistently act from our deeper values, all the emotional preferences that parade as important needs, will either be satisfied as a byproduct of meaningful living, or they will drop away as unimportant in the bigger lens of living a purposeful life.

The best way to attain the life you want to have, is to approach it from the perspective of living it in alignment with your deeper values and meaning, not from emotional preferences masquerading as “needs.”

When you do that, you will find your roots digging deeper so you can stay strong when things go wrong.

About The Author:

©Copyright Ada Porat. For more information, visit https://adaporat.com. This article may be freely distributed in whole or in part, provided there is no charge for it and this notice is attached.

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