The Pursuit of Happiness part 2
On part 1 I laid down a definition of happiness and I came to three main conclusions after asking a few friends what was their biggest challenge:
1) the uncertainty of the future was a main stressor and hurdle to move towards happiness.
2) Synthetic Happiness, what we make when we don’t get what we want, is of an inferior kind.
3) If we’re chasing something outside of ourselves because we think we are lacking of it and, as we are at it, we over-rate the result and if what we get it is not the desired/perfect/right one, it will never feel good enough nor make us experience contentment.
It feels as we are sometimes victims of our own lives.
Dr Russ Harris on his book The Happiness Trap says that following to estimations from The World Health Organisation by 2020 depression will be the second biggest, costliest and most debilitating disease in the world.
So better start getting onto the happiness highway and pronto!
I’m convinced that the Pursuit of Happiness, as we understand it nowadays, is another heavy rock into our stress bag. It is a like walking out in the streets with no purpose and bearings and repeat like a crazy parrot: I should be happy. I must be happy. Why am I not happy?
The work is about creating and acknowledging moments of true joy rather chasing objectives and even status. But what is joy and where to find it?
Joy, in Maryllislandia, comes and goes in waves. It is that moment when a true smile comes to me and I feel at peace. When I look at my phone and I read a message that says: I love you (usually from my best friend Jenny). When I wake up in the morning and I decide it is going to be a good day. When I get home take my cycling helmet off. When I drink Colombian hot chocolate. When I hear my sister laughing. When I listen to Radioactive from Imagine Dragons. When I say: Mary, it doesn’t matter what gets done and what doesn’t, you are enough! After a good cry. When I remember the exact moment when I met that guy I really like.
To me is about the simple things. I’m tired of chasing the big ones and because being happy is a powerful practice that, if done every day, it can transform the infinite realms of our own existence. There are scientific studies that support this, and no jokes, it is incredible to see that we can pretty much measure happiness with a ruler.
What I love about these studies is that are designed for the non-believers, for those who think that writing and doing the mambo jumbo practices isn’t going to change the fact my husband/boss is a [insert as appropriate] or that doesn’t matter how positive I pretend to be, I’ll be skint by the end of the month AGAIN.
The whole point is that by getting curious about creating happiness and treasuring moments of joy, we are building a happy spirit. Being stationary takes us nowhere. So might as well try something new, which may jump-start the wagon.
The start point is where the answers to the important question are: What do I really really want? Why do I want it? Is this desire a true reflexion of who I am? Is this desire going to help or contribute positively in other people’s lives?
The question I struggle the most with is the third one, I have found myself wanting things out of conditioning rather than conscious choice and sometimes (and I don’t like this realisation much) wanting things out of fear. It may take a few goes to reel myself back in, and in fact only yesterday I was walking through Bloomsbury and I went right into the feeling-sorry-for-myself pit. I was wishing for time to go fast, for me to get the results I wanted and for everything to be perfect and amazing.
In matter of minutes, I forgot I had a great lunch, that I love the yellow coat I was wearing and that the sun was shining. Pretty quickly I saw myself as if I was outside of my body living a life that didn’t belong to me: sulking and focusing on what was out of my control. I looked down at my shoes and started paying attention to every single step and how the shadow of my feet was perfectly defined. Click! I took a Polaroid. I wrote an imaginary post-it note: it is all good. I said to myself: I am enough.
The beauty of the practices Shaw Achor has tested in his studies is that they work. The 21 days Happiness Challenge is a 5-part daily practice that includes a few minutes of meditation, some kind of exercise, write down 3 things I’m grateful for, record a new/good experience I had at the end of the day and my all time favourite perform a random act of kindness.
When I’m kind is when I get back to myself and smile more broadly. It brings a very strong sense of connection, and it’s when I experience true joy. And as I am a joy collector, I Polaroid those moments and file them in my heart, or write them on a post-it note and stick them in my life because without them I forget who I truly am.