Tag: happiness

Mental Habits, Nutriment and Happiness

Mental Habits, Nutriment and Happiness

The Pattern that leads to Depression 

As I see more and more patients, especially the elderly, and especially during this Covid-19 pandemic, I see a pattern.   

This is the pattern – our mental states, whether happy or otherwise, is very dependent on our mental habits that we have cultivated and strengthened over time.  

This is especially so in the elderly because as we grow older, our mental states tend to be dependent on our dominant mental habits. As we start to lose control over some of our physical functions, we seem to also gradually lose control over our ability to direct our mind. Thus, our mental habits become the dominant determinant of our mental states. 

This loss of control over our life is a source of fear for us, and especially so for the elderly. This fear, coupled with the dominant mental habits, become the trigger for anxiety and depression. 

Thus, if we have the mental habit of wanting to control people, circumstances or outcomes, we become fearful in old age as we gradually lose control. If we have the mental habits of focusing on the negative, we become more worrisome over time, and again, this leads to more anxiety and depression. 

Training the Mind 

Another pattern that I notice is this – it becomes increasingly difficult to train the mind as we grow older. This is understandable as we become more and more set in our mental habits, in our ways.  

Therefore, the wise advice of the ancient sages – that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, and the second-best time to do so is now. The best time to cultivate and train our mind is 20 years ago, but if we have not started, now is the second-best time to do so. 

What kind of mental habits should we cultivate, and how do we do that? 

Well, one of the best mental habits that we can cultivate, that will continue to be beneficial for us now and into the future, is the habit of focusing on the positive. Learn to see the positive in any situation. In fact, if you can see the positive in even the most negative situation, then you have won a prize hard to gain even though you may have lost something else. Therefore, train your mind to see the positive in any situation. 

One effective way of seeing the positive in any situation is to learn gratitude. Gratitude trains our mind to see the good in everything. Open your eyes in the morning and you can be grateful for being alive. Walk into the bathroom and you can be grateful that you are still mobile and strong. Eat your breakfast and be grateful that you have food on the table. Walk outside your house or go to work, and be grateful of the freedom that you still have. Return home at night and be grateful that you have lived another day. There is just so many things you can train your mind to be grateful for.  

Secondly, unlearn the habit of wanting to control people, situations or outcomes. Learn to accept things as they come to you. Be OK with whatever comes along. Just make the best of the situation. Look for your best possible response to the situation that is beneficial to both you and those involved. Let go of your fear or feeling of discomfort at not being able to control the outcome. If the fear or unpleasant feeling persists, be OK with that too. Just learn to watch your fear or discomfort non-judgmentally, and see that they will dissipate with time. They will go away when you don’t feed them with your judgment. On the other hand, if you do feed them with your attention and judgment, they grow stronger and more persistent. This is the wisdom of non-judgmental awareness, and the insight or realization that you will gain. This is also the concept of nutriment is action.  

Too Old to Train the Mind? Try Chanting 

It is often said that “you can’t train an old dog new tricks”. Although not an absolute rule, this observation is generally accurate. It is difficult to train your mind when you are old because you already have a strong set of mental habits. So, start training your mind when you are young. Start now. 

For those who find it difficult to train your mind now, you can try chanting. Chanting, done regularly and diligently, is also a form of mind training. When you chant, you are focusing your mind on something positive or neutral, and therefore not focusing on the negative. The longer you can chant, the better the benefits. So, learn chanting.  

Another method is to keep your mind busy with some kind of work or activity, such as gardening, exercise, walking in the park, playing mahjong with friends. If you have a hobby, then focus on the hobby. Spend more time at your hobby. Any kind of activities that can take your mind away from thinking negatively is a good activity for this purpose. 

Be of Service to Others 

Finally, look for and join societies or clubs that give meaningful services to others. Become a volunteer. Do some charity work. Be of service to others. 

What is Spirituality?

What is Spirituality?

The ultimate goal of the quest for spirituality is to know and experience the ultimate truth, and to return to that original state. But, what is ultimate truth, and what is relative truth, and why are they important?

 

ULTIMATE TRUTH

All spiritual traditions generally agree that there is an ultimate truth or reality that is unconditioned and unchanging, that is beyond time and space. It is indescribable using any languages or symbols. It cannot be known simply through logical inference, but it can be known and experienced through a purified mind.

 

RELATIVE TRUTH

Relative truth or relative reality is the universe we live in and experience. This material world is said to be emanated or unfolded out of the ultimate truth, but this is not to say that the ultimate truth is one thing and the material world is another thing. It is more accurate to say that the material world is within the ultimate truth, although even this description is probably not satisfactory.

Some people have described the material world as a holographic projection out of the ultimate truth. In Hinduism, for example, the material world is called “maya”. It is regarded as illusory and is merely a projection of our mind.

We could easily do a thought experiment with regard to this illusory nature. For example, we can ask ourselves – “Does the world exist if we are not aware of it?”

 

MIND AND MATTER

Through our own observations, we can know that this material world is made up of two things. The first is matter. Matter is perceivable to us via our five physical senses of the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and body. The other is mind or consciousness. Mind, unlike matter, cannot be perceived by the five physical sense organs. It can be perceived only by the mind itself. That is why mind is considered to be our sixth sense.

 

MIND, SPIRIT, GOD – DIFFICULT TO DESCRIBE

Now we have arrived at a crossroad. How do we measure or quantify or define something that we cannot perceive physically? Where are the boundaries? Where does it begin and where does it end? What is its nature or essence? What are its qualities and attributes? Can we even describe it accurately with the languages that we have?

This is where confusions abound in discussion about spirituality and religions. The same term used, such as the word God, can mean differently for different people coming from different backgrounds and religions. On the other hand, something that is the same is often described differently by different people, as perceived from different perspectives. This is made worse if we see only the parts instead of the whole, as in the story of the blind men and the elephant.

Thus, words like mind, spirit, god and several others may simultaneously mean the same thing at times, and at other times hold subtle but important differences.

Without recognising the limitations of words and languages, our discussions on spirituality or religions can and will very often lead to confusions and confrontations.

Yet we know that if there is an ultimate truth that is unchanging and unconditioned, all our collective experiences of this must somehow be the same, albeit seen and understood from our personal perspective, which is coloured by our upbringing, culture and beliefs.

So, the way to avoid or minimise such confusion is to first define the words we use, and make sure that everyone is using the same words with the same definitions. Here is how I would define some of these words:

  • Mind is defined as that which perceives, cognises, thinks and is aware of. This would include both the cognitive and affective aspects as well as consciousness. Mind is also creative.
  • Spirit is defined as the fabric, base or foundation on which the mind acts upon. Thus, mind can be said to be contained within spirit.
  • God is defined as a natural impersonal creative force of the universe. The process of creation is subjected to natural laws.

You will notice that the above definition of God does not fit the God of the Old Testament, which is personal and even vengeful at times. Also, because both mind and God are creative, the two words are sometimes interchangeable, depending on the context in which they are used. In addition, since spirit is defined as the base or foundation from which creation emerges from (or emanate from or spring forth), and God is often regarded in the same way, spirit and God are also often used interchangeably.

So, even with the above definition, there is still room for confusion to occur.

 

TWO LEVELS OF EXPERIENCE

So we have the unconditioned, unchanging ultimate truth or ultimate reality, from which springs forth the material universe, the relative truth or relative reality existence where sentient beings get to experience life as we know it. Sentient beings can experience life from two different levels or perspectives.

  1. A Dualistic Personal Experience

A sentient being is conscious and aware of itself relative to its surrounding. It sees itself as separate from its surrounding. It perceives a “I” and a “other-than I”. It is a dualistic view of existence. This dualistic way of experiencing life is what we know and are used to.

In order to do this, we need to label or name things. We need to discern or compare, perceive differences and make judgments. Thus we see big and small, tall and short, and we sense hot and cold. This is how we make sense of the world we live in.

We experience all these contrasts from a personal perspective or view.

  1. An All-Inclusive Impersonal Experience

There is, however, another way to experience life – a way described by certain accomplished saints and meditators. Ancient sages from all traditions have told us of this higher perspective of experiencing life. It is an experience that is all embracing, all inclusive and free from thoughts, personal biases and prejudices. It is experienced from beyond the perspective of the self. It is an impersonal experience.

This experience is described in superlative terms and is regarded as a higher and more superior experience than our normal dualistic experience. Words such as unconditional love, great compassion, blissful joy and peace are often used to describe this supra-mundane spiritual experience.

It is also described as an inner and inherent essence or quality of our purified mind or spirituality, and is not affected or corrupted by anything outside of this mind.

This elusive and blissful state is what motivates and drives worldly beings in search of their spirituality. This is a state that is free and independent from any physical reality, and is achievable through a purified mind attained via meditation.

This state is called spiritual happiness, contrasting it with the more transient and illusory worldly happiness that is dependent on pleasing our physical senses, and is described not just in the Taoist, Buddhist or Hindu traditions but also in the Christian gnostic, Jewish Kaballah and Muslim sufi traditions.

Considered an even higher happiness than spiritual happiness is the total release from existence as we know it, culminating in a total union with the ultimate truth or reality with no possibility of coming back in any form.

 

Happiness is a state of mind

Happiness is a state of mind

Your happiness is not dependent on external things. If it were, it would not be possible to find lasting happiness.

Your happiness is dependent only on the state of your mind. Knowing this gives you the power to determine your own happiness.

The good news is that it means that you have a choice to be happy or not. The bad news is that you can only have this choice when you are totally aware of this fact that your happiness is entirely in your hands. This fact is unfortunately not as obvious as we would like it to be. In fact, most people cannot see this truth. For them, their mind has been so conditioned to think of getting happiness from people and things outside of themselves that to be told that they are the real source of their own happiness is quite simply unbelievable.

Yet, this is the truth. Your happiness is indeed in your hands. To be more precise, your happiness is in your mind.

You do not have to believe me. Instead, you can do an experiment on your own life. Choose to be happy, just for a day. Make it today. Make it this moment. Consciously choose to be happy, and see how your attitude and state of mind change to reflect that choice. Is your mind lighter? Less tense? Less tightly wound up? Less rigid? More open? More liberated? Simply by choosing happiness, you can immediately feel the lightness of your being.

However, if you have been conditioning your mind to be tight, unhappy and fearful all these while, do not expect that it will be easy to simply switch to be happy. It takes persistent effort. Old habits die hard. They keep coming back because they feel familiar. Therefore, to replace an old habit with a new one, you need to be aware as often as you can. Stay alert to your state of mind. Keep reminding yourself to choose happiness. Gradually train your mind to be happy, to relax and to lighten up. Be aware of how you feel when your mind is in this new state. Do you feel better? Happier? Lighter? It is important to experience this new state, and be aware of it. It is very rewarding, and it will continue to motivate you to be alert and aware of your state of mind.

So, how do you make your mind happy all the time?

You simply have to keep doing this – be aware of your mental state, and make a conscious choice to be happy – every day, every moment. Make it a new habit of yours to constantly check on your mind state whenever you remember – when you wake up in the morning, when you shower, when you eat, when you take a break, when you are about to go to sleep. You can do it anytime, any place. When it has become habitual, then you will be able to be happy everyday.

Remember, happiness is a state of mind.

5 Mental Habits that will increase your Happiness

5 Mental Habits that will increase your Happiness

In the last 20 years, science has learned a lot about the links between spirituality and happiness. Studies on spirituality, specifically on certain spiritual or mental qualities like altruism, generosity, faith, hope and gratitude, have shown repeatedly that they increase our level of physical and mental well-being.

Spiritual practices that incorporate these positive mental qualities and habits increase our happiness while practices that incorporate negative mental qualities and habits such as fear, hate and suspicion lead to the opposite effect.

These findings provide the scientific basis for good spiritual practices throughout the world. All major religions advocate these healthy spiritual practices. On the other hand, deviant religious practices advocate the negative mental habits and qualities, and it is in this way that we can recognize them as deviant.

Here are five positive mental habits that will increase your happiness when you put them into your daily practice.

  1. Savor the present moment

The ability to savor the present moment, such as savoring the food you are eating or the moment you are sharing with your child, requires a certain degree of mindfulness of the moment. This habit of savoring the present moment leads to a sense of awe and connection, a feeling of joy and contentment  —  all positive emotions that increase happiness.

  1. Be thankful for the good things you get

Gratitude is an attitude that rewards you repeatedly. Those who have the habit of being grateful for what they have and what they got tend to find more joy and contentment towards life. Being grateful also makes one feel at ease – a sense of being at peace with the world. A mind of gratitude is open, expansive and relaxed. All these increase the level of happiness experienced.

  1. Aspire towards a meaningful goal

Having a sense of purpose in life leads to hope, happiness and a sense of optimism, so set yourself a worthy goal. The goal need not be huge or materialistic. It can very often be immaterial, such as being of service to others, being a good role model for your children, or simply spending quality time with your family. You can start off with a small achievable goal. Once you have attained this goal, you can gradually increase the challenge and aim for bigger goals. Know that if you can do a small task well, you can also do a big task well. All it takes is planning and persistence.

  1. Give generously

Give or share generously with others. Regardless of how rich or poor you are, you can always give or share things, skills or services. There are many things you can give that will not cost you a lot, such as giving your time to listen attentively to a friend in need, to console a grieving person or to encourage a disheartened friend. Genuine giving such as these again leads to a mind that is open, expansive and relaxed. It leads to a sense of having, not lack. It leads to a sense of purpose and self worth.

  1. Empathize

Empathy means being able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. A person who can empathize well finds it easy to understand the sufferings of others. They are also more willing to listen and help. Empathy has been found to be an important aspect of emotional intelligence. It helps us greatly in our interaction with others.

Science has shown us that people who consistently practice any one or more of the above positive mental habits daily are happier people. Science has also shown us that these skills can be learned. So start learning and putting them into practice in your daily life today and increase your level of happiness.

40 Simple Ways to practice Gratitude

40 Simple Ways to practice Gratitude

Gratitude is such a powerful emotion, one that can make your life better in so many ways. It’s quite difficult to feel depressed or sorry for yourself when you are feeling gratitude.

In a study carried out by Emmons & McCullough in 2003, there were a multitude of benefits from keeping a gratitude journal, A simple notebook where you write down daily what you are grateful for.

The study showed that the people who kept a journal exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic. It also showed that people who kept the journal were more likely to make progress towards their goals.

Overall, there was a greater sense of feeling connected to others, a more optimistic view towards life and better sleep quality, relative to a control group. If you would like to experience some of these great benefits why not try some of these simple ways to make gratitude a part of everyday.

Here are 40 simple ways to make gratitude a part of everyday.

1. Keep a Gratitude journal and add to it everyday.
2. Tell someone you love them and how much you appreciate them.
3. Notice the beauty in nature each day.
4. Nurture the friendships you have, good friends don’t come along every day.
5. Smile more often.
6. Watch inspiring videos that will remind you of the good in the world.
7. Include an act of kindness in your life each day.
8. Avoid negative media and movies with destructive content.
9. Call your Mom more often.
10. Cook meals with love, think of the people you will feed.
11. Volunteer for organizations that help others.
12. Don’t gossip or speak badly about anyone.
13. Spend quality time with your kids.
14. Remember to compliment your friends and family when they look good.
15. Write a card to someone you haven’t seen in a while and tell them something nice.
16. Add to your gratitude list daily, at least one more thing each day.
17. When you think a negative thought, try to see the positive side in the situation.
18. Commit to one day a week when you won’t complain about anything.
19. Try to take note when people do a good job and give recognition when it’s due at work.
20. Reward effort, if someone does something nice for you, do something nice for them.
21. Meditate with your gratitude list, giving thanks for all your good fortune.
22. Live mindfully, not worrying about the past or future.
23. Thank the people who serve you in the community. The shopkeeper, the bus drivers, etc.
24. Say thank you for the little things loved ones do for you, things you normally take for granted.
25. Post quotes and images that remind you to be grateful around your house.
26. Call into an elderly neighbor and say thank you for their presence in your life.
27. Call your grandparents and tell them you love them.
28. Embrace challenges and turn them into opportunities to grow.
29. Send love to your enemies or people you dislike.
30. Be thankful when you learn something new.
31. See the growth opportunity in your mistakes.
32. Help your friends see the positive side to life.
33. When times are bad, focus on your friends who are at your side.
34. When time are good, notice and help others.
35. Make a gratitude collage, cut out pictures of all the things that you are grateful for.
36. Make gratitude a part of family life, share it with each other during meal time.
37. Practice gratitude at the same time everyday to make it a habit.
38. Focus on your strengths.
39. Share the benefits of gratitude with family and friends.
40. Share gratitude each day by posting a tweet, Facebook post or Pinterest.
Be the change you want to see in the world by making gratitude a part of each day. If we all practice gratitude more regularly, the world will be a better place.

This article is written by Ciara Conlon
Ciara Conlon, The Productivity Coach, is a speaker, blogger and author of Chaos to Control, a Practical Guide to Getting Things Done. Find out more about Ciara’s publications and online courses at theproductivityblog.com. You can follow her on twitter @ciaraconlon

Thoughts and Happiness

Thoughts and Happiness

The principle for happiness is surprisingly simple to understand, yet difficult to attain. Just as when a sage was asked by a king about the guide to happiness, the sage explained that happiness can be achieved simply by abandoning evils, doing good and purifying the mind, whereupon the king exclaimed, “This is so simple that even an eight year old can understand it”. “However,” said the sage, “even an eighty year old man cannot practice it well”.

This is not to say that happiness cannot be attained. It can be, but only with proper cultivation of the mind – and herein lies the challenge. It is simply not enough to abandon evils and do good, without cultivating the mind, for the cause of your happiness is your thoughts, as illustrated in the diagram below.

thought-feeling-actionIn fact, the cause of all your emotions – both happy and sad – is your thoughts. Like it or not, you have to gain mastery over your thoughts in order to gain the happiness you seek.

 

Seek First to Understand How Your Mind Works

Understanding how your mind works is crucial to mental cultivation. To understand how your mind works, you need to be able to look within your mind and be aware of all the thoughts that arise. This means you will need to be mindful of your thoughts and feelings.

  1. Mindfulness is an indispensible tool for self understanding. So, start training yourself to become more mindful – meaning to become more aware of your body, feelings and thoughts, and watching them in a non-judgmental or impersonal way. As you watch your body, feelings and thoughts, see how they affect each other. Examine their relationships with one another.
  1. Satisfy yourself with the accuracy of the observation that your thoughts affect your feelings, which in turn move you into actions (as shown in the earlier diagram). See how every positive emotion is preceded by a positive thought, and how this is true also with negative thought and emotion.
  1. Notice also that although external objects (people, things or events) may trigger an old memory or mental habit, it is your present state of mind that determines whether they may affect you in a particular way or not. This is called conscious living or living in the present moment. In karmic lingo, it is said that what you experienced outwardly is old karma, and how you experienced them inwardly is new karma. In short, you must recognize that while you cannot control what is outside, you can be in full control of what is inside – your thoughts. This insight puts you totally in charge and fully responsible for your own happiness (or sufferings).
  1. Recognize also this very important principle – what you feed becomes stronger, what you starve becomes weaker. This principle is what you will use to strengthen wholesome mental habits and weaken unwholesome mental habits. How do you feed your mind? You feed it by choosing what to focus on. Focus on what is wholesome, such as unconditional love, kindness, generosity, compassion, altruism, fair play. Discard what is unwholesome, such as fear, worries, anxiety, habitual speculation or making assumptions. It is important to recognize negative mental habits and remove or replace them with positive habits.

 

Some Observations about Thoughts

After you have examined your thoughts for a while, you will start to realize some things about your thoughts.

  1. Your thoughts come and go according to certain causes and conditions. Specifically, thoughts are triggered by association between what you are in contact with now (people, things and events) and your past memories or experiences about them. From there, it proliferates according to your mental habits. Thus, the state of your mind when the impression or contact is made can greatly influence the outcome of your present experience.
  1. Thoughts are NOT created equal. Some thoughts are more important and useful to you than others. However, you have the habit of treating all thoughts with the same urgency and importance, giving them equal weightage and attention. You need to change this habit.
  1. In the ultimate sense, thoughts are empty of any intrinsic values except what you give to them. Thoughts are simply thoughts. They become real only when you believe in them.
  1. There is no one to own the thoughts. They simply appear when certain causes and conditions are met. You personalize your thoughts and everything else in your life when you claim ownership over them.

 

What does it mean to take full responsibility for your life?

What does it mean to take full responsibility for your life?

When you said that you are taking full responsibility for your life, it must not be said only as lip service. Instead, it must come with a real change in mindset. A person who takes full responsibility for his life has a certain attitude towards living his life.

He understands that everything that he experiences is a result of his own thoughts and manifestations. He understands how his thoughts create his experiences. He also understands that how he experiences his life depends on his perspective, or how he sees things.

Thus, his own state of mind – whether happy or sad, good or bad – depends only on himself, on how he manages his mind. He sees the importance of having a greater degree of mastery over his mind. He sees the need to work with his mind.

He begins by discarding any old mental habits of criticizing and judging others, or even the tendency to do so. He then applies it on himself as well, meaning that he also stops criticizing and judging himself.

He realizes the importance of looking within to further understand himself better. Therefore, he learns to be mindful, to be more aware of his thoughts and feelings. He observes how his mind works, without judging it. He simply witnesses the unfolding of his thoughts and feelings as they occur, fully accepting them, embracing them. He drops all resistance, all fears through understanding and through confidence in the benevolence of the universe.

He understands that his present experience is the results of his past thoughts and mental habits. He realizes also that how he responds to his present reality becomes the seed for his future experiences. Thus, he consciously chooses his responses, thereby changing his present and future experiences.

This act of conscious choosing gives him a greater degree of mastery and control over the outcomes of his life. It is indeed empowering to know that one has the ability to determine one’s own destiny.

This is in sharp contrast to one who is unaware of all this, and simply reacts to events through his conditioned mind, out of old mental habits. Life seems out of his personal control for one like this.

He who takes full responsibility for his life also knows that he is fully accountable for his decisions and choices, and he takes on that responsibility knowingly and willingly. This takes courage and honesty.

One who takes full responsibility for his life is one with such a mindset. With the absence of judging, with greater understanding and acceptance through mindfulness, he begins to experience a new and transformed life – one with greater peace of mind and contentment.

The Science of Happiness explained

The Science of Happiness explained

WHAT IS HAPPINESS?

One of the major problems with doing scientific research on happiness is finding an appropriate definition for happiness. Happiness is generally defined as the state of being happy. That is to say, happiness is a state of mind. However, this definition is too broad and non-specific.

For worldly people, happiness is getting what you want and not getting what you don’t want. Happiness is seen as the fulfillment of our desires (wants).

What about our needs? According to Abraham Maslow, there is a hierarchy of human needs:

  1. Physiological needs – food, clothing, shelter, medicine
  2. Need for safety – not just physical but also emotional, mental and financial security
  3. Social need – to connect with others and to contribute meaningfully to society
  4. Self esteem – the need for a more mature and higher self regard
  5. Self actualization – the need to be the best that we can be as a human being

Surely to be happy, we not only want our desires fulfilled but also our basic needs satisfied. Thus, it would appear that happiness for worldly people means having our needs and wants fulfilled.

Scientists broadly agree that happiness is a combination of how satisfied we are with life and how good we feel on a day-to-day basis.

 

WHAT DETERMINES OUR HAPPINESS?

Internal and External Factors

The factors that determine our happiness vary from person to person, but roughly scientists are of the opinion that both internal and external factors determine our happiness. Only an estimated 10% of our happiness is determined by external factors and circumstances, such as where we are born, what kind of government we have, and even our family environment. A huge portion of our happiness is actually determined by our internal factors, such as the way we think and behave (40%) and our genetic make-up (50%). Thus our happiness is predominantly within our own control and dependent on ourselves.

Adaptation

We have the ability to adapt well to external circumstances. In tough circumstances, we learn to tolerate and bear with the discomfort and stressful environment, and they soon become the new norm. We see this in children living in war-torn countries and people with extreme disabilities. In the same way, in good circumstances, we also quickly learn to tolerate the new comfort, and so demand more or better comfort. That is why we continue to seek greater thrills in extreme sports, better tasting food, higher comfort and so forth.

A Bottomless Pit

The problem with seeking happiness from external and physical things is that there is no end in sight to it. It is like a bottomless pit or a black hole. It cannot be fulfilled. The goal is one of futility. It will only meet with vexation and frustration.

Right Focus

Thus, we should instead be focusing on attaining happiness from our own internal factors, and specifically on cultivating our thoughts (40%).

 

WHAT MAKES US HAPPY?

When scientists study what are the areas in our life that give us happiness, they looked at some of these areas: Happiness and wealth, happiness and health, happiness and relationships, happiness and meaning of life, happiness and spirituality.

  1. Happiness and Wealth

A common belief with regards to wealth and happiness is that the more wealth we have, the happier we are. In other words, many people see their happiness as proportionately related to the amount of wealth they have. Is this belief true?

According to the happiness scientists, this is a false belief. While it is true that we need a certain amount of money or wealth to be happy, it is not true that the more money we have, the happier we will be. We do need money to provide for our basic needs for food, clothing, shelter and medicine. Having these basic necessity met gives us a sense of security that makes us happy or contented. In the USA, scientists have determined that generally a yearly salary of slightly above US75,000 meets this condition for basic needs. Any amount of money above that does not significantly increase our happiness.

This seems to imply that a large part of our happiness comes from having a sense of security. Security here includes not just the fulfilling of basic physiological (physical) needs but also the need for safety in other areas as well, such as emotional, mental, financial and social security.

So, if you feel you need to hoard a lot of money to be happy, it might be worth looking inwardly into your own sense of security, or lack of security. Recognizing and overcoming our own inner sense of insecurity offers us a better and surer attainment of happiness than our external wealth, which can be taken away from us through sickness, theft, government, and natural disasters.

  1. Happiness and Health

A common belief about health and happiness is that having good health makes us happy, and this belief is true. However, what is less well known is that the reverse is also true – happiness itself brings us good health.

Studies have shown that people who are happy are less likely to have chronic illnesses such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes mellitus. They are more likely to have better HDL-cholesterol (good cholesterol) level, better immunity against infections and live longer.

Happy people are generally less reactive to stressors in life, have lower risk of depression and are generally more resilient.

Happy people are also generally more successful across multiple life domains, such as marriage, relationships, careers, income and work performance.

  1. Happiness and Relationships

Studies have shown that our relationships provide us with meaning and purpose of life, and having a meaningful existence makes us happy.

Some key traits that lead to successful and healthy relationships are kindness and generosity. On the other hand, traits such as contempt and criticism tend to worsen a relationship.

Many people believe that in order to be happy, they need to find the right person in their life. In other words, their happiness is dependent on someone else. The truth of the matter is that only we can give ourselves happiness. Happiness is found within us, not outside of us.

  1. Happiness and Meaning of Life

We have said earlier that a meaningful life is a happy life. One of the ways we find meaning is in our personal achievements. Thus, to find something meaningful or a higher goal to aim for, and to work towards that goal gives us a sense of satisfaction and happiness. The more honest we are working towards such a goal, the happier we are.

There is a common belief that for our success to be meaningful, it has to be big. Perhaps we have to be famous or become the richest man in the country, or we gain some limelight on TV or other media. The truth is that meaningful things come in doing the small things in life with love and compassion. According to Mother Teresa, it is not how much you do but how much love you put in the doing that matters.

So, if you belief you need to be famous or extremely rich to be successful, perhaps you might want to examine your inner need for recognition. Might this be about your ego instead?

  1. Happiness and Spirituality

It is commonly believed that a moral life leads to happiness, and this is verified by science. We have certain built-in traits, such as a conscience, that necessitate us to do what is considered right or good. To do what we know to be wrong is a stress to our conscience, and therefore to our peace of mind, which leads to sufferings.

Qualities such as good moral conduct (virtues), altruism, compassion, kindness, unconditioned love and generosity are universally encouraged by all major religions as conducive to happiness. Such qualities have been studied by science and they truly have strong links to happiness.

In addition, what we have also learned is that the state and attitude of our mind strongly determine our happiness. Gratitude, for example, is an attitude that leads to happiness and contentment. Forgiveness is another good trait that supports happiness.

Generally, studies have shown that people who are more spiritual are happier. Spiritual people here do not refer to those who religiously attend their weekly churches or temples. Rather, what truly matters is the quality of thoughts and sense of connectedness with others and with nature that define our spirituality.

It has been found that spirituality:

  1. Offers psychological comfort related to death and the afterlife
  2. Provides social support
  3. Provides meanings and sense of belonging
  4. Provides a stable foundation of good values for children as well as adults
  5. Encourages the experience of positive emotions

 

THE POWER OF POSITIVE THOUGHTS AND EMOTIONS

Positive thoughts and emotions, such as unconditional love, kindness, compassion, gratitude, generosity, forgiveness and altruism, are the true causes of happiness. Happiness is the cause of our successes across multiple domains of life, not the result.

People with positive emotions are more able to thrive and flourish, are more creative and more resourceful. They are better at adapting to change, and are more resilient in times of adversity. It is not surprising, therefore, that they are more successful in life.

Thus, this verifies the truth of this statement: “Mind is the forerunner of all states. Mind is chief. Mind-made are they.” This is a powerful statement of truth and a complete understanding of this truth can lead us to happiness, to success and to good health.

 

HAPPINESS IS A SKILL

Happiness is not a fixed point. You can change your level of happiness. Knowing that your happiness is dependent not really on external circumstances but your own internal environment means your happiness is in your own hands. You are responsible for your own happiness.

You can always cultivate the necessary skill to become happier. The skills you need to cultivate to become a happier person are:

  1. Mindfulness of your own thoughts
  2. Courage to be honest with your thoughts, both positive and negative ones
  3. Letting go of the negative thoughts and increasing the positive thoughts
  4. Constantly repeating the above three steps

Once you have mastered these skills, you will become a happier person.

 

SPIRITUAL HAPPINESS

What we have discussed so far refers only to worldly happiness. Spiritual seekers recognize that there is an even greater happiness than worldly happiness, namely spiritual happiness.

Spiritual happiness is higher and better than worldly happiness because it is found entirely within oneself. It is more permanent and cannot be taken away from you by others or even natural disasters. Thus, it is a more secured form and greater intensity of happiness.

To attain spiritual happiness, one needs to attain the jhanas (intense absorption concentration of the mind), which is achievable through meditation practice.