I want to be happy. This is what almost everyone answers when questioned about their ultimate life goal. Sure, who doesn’t, but how? What exactly is happiness and how to achieve it?
To begin with, I would like to make a distinction between happiness and joy. Happiness is ephemeral, joy is not. Joy comes from within – it is a state and you can experience it daily. I believe that most people think they want to experience joy as an ultimate life goal, and mistake it for happiness.
So, what is happiness then?
Strictly speaking, happiness happens when a chemical cocktail of hormones and neurotransmitters such as Oxytacyn, Dopamine and Serotonin is released into our brains. The more often we get these flowing , the happier we feel in general. But how do we do this without the aid of external chemicals?
Happiness is not a constant state. You cannot have matter without space or have light without darkness. But you can buy a pretty damn good flash-light to guide you through and point you in the right direction.
As I mentioned above, happiness is ephemeral, joy is not. Joy comes from within. Not from your thoughts, not from your views, not from your beliefs, nor from your life circumstances or health. It comes from your soul (for lack of a better word).
Our ultimate challenge as humans is to become free of thought. Not free of being able to think , but free from the burden of compulsive over-thinking, of the constant storm of information being processed at one hundred miles an hour in our brains all the time.
We do everything to avoid excessive thinking, to shut down the voice in our head. We drink, we take drugs, we read, we watch TV, we exercise, we try to escape at all costs. Everything goes when it comes to distract our minds, to avoid being bored – that dreaded feeling that makes our brains go into full overdrive.
I mentioned on 3 Steps To Find The Prefect Hobby that activities such as a hobby are essential for a man to reach a state of Flow. Also known as “the zone”, this is the state you reach when you are fully focused on performing a task, you are in control and you do not think about anything else.
The Zone, in essence, means that you are present; that you are living now, that you are fully focused on the task that you are performing, without your mind racing a million thoughts a second about other things. When you experience this, you feel happier.
By working on achieving such state we get glimpses of happiness. If we fully reached such state, then we would be at a higher place as a species. Needless to say, only very few people in this world reach such state, and usually after working on it throughout their whole lives.
To understand what we are, once stripped of all external and internal baggage, is a though nut to crack. At the core of it lies the idea that in order to get closer to your true self, you have to be present. That you do not live in the past nor the future – life is now and everything else is just an illusion.
You need to let go of “what if’s”. If/when this, that and the other happens, then I will be happy. You won’t. You will never by happy as long as you are investing your happiness in the future (which is unknown) or conditioning your present levels of happiness with the past. If that didn’t happen to me then now I would be happy. Again, no you wouldn’t – you are assuming that you would be happier, when in fact you don’t know, and you never will – stop torturing yourself with superfluous thought.
I am not breaking new ground here. Numerous religions, spiritual leaders and even contemporary writers such as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi or Eckhart Tolle have explored this topic to great depth. For centuries people have been trying to understand happiness and this element is just one, amongst others, that should be taken into account.
Live now. Be present. Reach out for a state of flow. Get in the zone and let it be, just let it be.
On Part 2 I will cover other aspects that can contribute to a happier existence. Stay tuned.