The Happiness Equation

The Fountain of Happiness

I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness. That is clear. Whether one believes in religion or not, whether one believes in this religion or that religion, we all are seeking something better in life. So, I think, the very motion of our life is towards happiness…

-Dalai Lama

Deep within every person there is a “Fountain of Happiness” ready to flow freely. For some, this fountain never flows because it’s never accessed. These individuals choose to live in a state of bleakness. Negativity consumes these individuals, often due to a lack of self-love, and nothing really makes them happy.  For others, the Fountain of Happiness is manually turned on and off. These individuals base happiness on the outside world. If life is going well, these individuals are happy and their fountain is readily flowing. If life is not going well, they are depressed and their fountain remains dormant.

Then there is a group of individuals with fountains “Open Everyday, All Day”. These individuals are happy no matter what is transpiring in the outer landscape of their world. While on the rollercoaster of life, these individuals live in a state of joy during the ups and downs. Sometimes these individuals may be throwing their hands wildly in the air, screaming in exultation during an exciting downhill ride, while other times they are merely smiling as they coast along on a straightaway. These people have figured out where the switch to their Fountain of Happiness is and it remains “on” at all times.

Up until a few years ago, I used to be one of those individuals who based my happiness on my outside world. I would be flying high if work was going well but if it wasn’t; my lack of “success” consumed me. Instead of learning from my mistakes and then letting things go, I would hold on to things until they gradually ate away at me. A former boss pointed out that I needed to stop dwelling on things and just move on. His feedback was quite perceptive and very much appreciated. During graduate school, I would clench myself in a tight ball worrying about whether or not I would achieve a 4.0. If I received anything less than an A, my self-esteem plummeted and I questioned my level of intelligence. My running race times also were a source of happiness or unhappiness. If I was running well and able to push the pace with the leaders, I was all smiles. If I had a bad run or race, I became frustrated and would tell myself I should have trained harder.

As I became a more spiritual individual and found my sense of self from within instead of outside myself, a euphoric state consumed me. I realized that I was completely at peace and happy no matter what was transpiring in my outer world. Did this mean I settled for a low GPA in graduate school, slow race times, and an average performance at work? Not at all! As an extremely driven, goal-oriented individual, I think I will always strive to be the best I can possibly be. The difference is that I am no longer attached to the outcome of my goals. What I have learned is that we can have our whole life scripted out but we need to be comfortable if the universe has other plans in store for us. If we are open and present, the universe will help guide us in the direction of our soul’s calling.

When I began to immerse myself in the natural flow of life, I no longer felt exhausted by trying to force life. I now appreciate whatever is unfolding in the present instead of worrying about what might happen in the future. Before this internal shift occurred within me, I wasn’t in tune with the natural rhythm of life and as a result, it was almost as though I felt like I was trying to constantly paddle upstream.

When I found my “Fountain of Happiness” flowing freely, there was nothing in my external world that was really going well. In fact, it was a pretty lackluster period in my life. At one point I asked myself, “Why am I so happy?” I went through my mental checklist trying to decipher what factors could be contributing to my happiness. I wasn’t in love. I wasn’t fulfilled or challenged in my job. My running wasn’t going well due to unexplained health issues. All of the things in my external reality that, in the past, had typically made me experience a superficial “high” could not be factored into my happiness equation.  I knew something strange had occurred within me and I stopped over intellectualizing the shift (see #8 below) and just allowed myself to accept my new state of existence.

While I cannot profess to be an expert on happiness, I want to share a number of factors that have played into the non-stop flowing of my “Fountain of Happiness.” Every person will have different pieces that ultimately make-up their own happiness puzzle.

1)     Become the ultimate expert on your life – While friends, family, and society may have good intentions in telling you how to live your life, ultimately you are the only one who knows what is best for you. This does not mean you should disregard any advice you receive, but instead, be mindful of whether or not the advice resonates with you. The key is to trust your intuition and stop second guessing what your own truth. Think of yourself as an artist creating your own original artwork of your life. You should strive to be a true original and lead a life that is your own and no one else’s.  When you follow others and don’t dare to be different, you are dishonoring your own individual uniqueness.

 

2)     Serve others – Walter Breuning, who was the oldest living American up until his death this past April 2011, gave an interview on 60 minutes and was asked what words of wisdom he would like to share with younger generations. He said that so often people think life is all about them, when in reality, life is about serving others. Walter’s statement brought tears to my eyes because his words rang true and were truly from his heart. I strongly believe the root cause of depression is allowing your ego to rule your world. When you are completely absorbed and tuned only into, “The Days of My Life,” it is virtually impossible to be happy. By opening your heart to another in a selfless way, your spirit soars higher and higher. Why? Your ego becomes disengaged and you are no longer consumed with your own life. Serving others sets you free from the miserable solitary confinement of your own head, which is often occupied with negative, ego-fueled thoughts.

 

3)     Connect with others – This does not mean sending encrypted text messages, brief emails, or leaving a quick voicemail message. Connecting with others means making an effort to truly connect with someone on a deeper level. From my experience, those individuals who have authentic relationships with coworkers, family, and friends, are often the most happy and fulfilled individuals I know. The reason is because these individuals are allowing themselves to be vulnerable, present, and open with others. When we hide from the world, we become overwhelmed with feelings of isolation, separation, and loneliness. By connecting with others we realize we are not alone on our journey through life.

 

4)     Greet nature on a daily basis – One beautiful fall day during my junior year in college, my best friend and I were standing on campus at UW-Madison about to go for a run. I opened my arms wide and exclaimed to the unverse, “I just LOVE fall!” Nature brings about a natural high. It’s virtually impossible (unless you are a member of the first group I mentioned above) to be unhappy when you are graced by the unconditional love of the universe.  If possible, spend time disconnecting from life during daily visits with nature. You will meet a sun, some trees, and a sky that will remind you how insignificant your worries truly are.

 

 

5)     Figure out what makes your heart sing – A number of years ago a good friend confided that she had yet to connect with anything she was truly passionate about. My heart went out to my friend because I could not imagine a life void of passion. Passion is wood for your internal stove. Without it, there are no flames, or even small sparks. In order to connect with your passions in life, you must first connect with your true self.  Remember what you used to love to do when you were a child. Think about what you would do if you had more time. Pay attention to what activities energize you.

 

6)     Love your own company – Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, learning to be comfortable alone is an important factor in finding true joy within. As someone who needs alone time for survival, I am always surprised when I hear people say they dislike being alone. When you are alone, all the outside influences are turned off and you can sit with your own thoughts and engage in self-reflection. Those who are comfortable alone are typically comfortable with themselves.

 

7)     Take the plunge from your head to your heart – During a rather long road trip from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest, my mom and I stopped at a gas station in the middle of a small town in Eastern Washington. I was minding my own business, waiting in line to buy a bottle of water, when this man came up behind me and said point blank, “You think too much!” I looked at this man and wondered why he felt the need to say this to me, especially since he didn’t know me at all. I realized I probably was completely consumed in my own thoughts and this random observant stranger picked up on it. In order to experience a liberating freedom, you must get out of your head from time to time. When I find myself constantly processing, analyzing, and over interpreting thoughts, I picture a huge waterslide connecting my head to my heart. When I take the “plunge” into my heart, I feel so much more relaxed and balanced. When you only live in your head, you are essentially cutting off 50% of your life supply.

 

8)     See the best in others – I once read a quote that stated, “When you seek out the best in others you will be amazed at what you will find.” Instead of focusing on flaws in others we need to focus on the glowing gifts that each person on this planet has to offer. Remember that just like you, each person has his or her own struggles. The journey of life can be challenging and we need to be more compassionate towards one another. People will touch your soul and warm your heart if you truly seek out the best in them.

 

 

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One Response to “The Happiness Equation”

  1. Victor Says:

    “The difference is that I am no longer attached to the outcome of my goals” That is exactly what i need to do!!

    I found my “on switch” last year and was happy all the time, even in dark times, however my fountain stopped after a big big failure and I was not quite sure of the problem until I read this.
    thanks =)

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