Sunday 22 April 2018

Time to reflect on what makes you happy

Calodagh McCumiskey - Wellbeing & Meditation

The pursuit of happiness is central to life. But what makes us truly happy? Chocolate, a lovely meal out, a nice glass of wine, losing weight, a perfect body, designer clothes, a new car or home, the perfect job or money? The possibility of happiness is presented as being all around us.

Much of advertising promises it if you do this, buy that, wear the other or visit there. Do these things really make us happy or do they distract from unhappiness? Busyness and distraction can sometimes be used to mask emptiness.

There are different strands of happiness. We can be happy about (by mind) or we can feel joy in our hearts (by emotion) for all the wonders and people we have in our lives.

The Harvard happiness study, a 75 year old study and the most comprehensive and longest study of its type shows: "The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier, period'. This message is also confirmed by studies on the longest living and happiest cultures around the world. 'A disciplined mind leads to happiness, and an undisciplined mind leads to suffering.' - The Dalai Lama.

Meditation, a practice of training our mind to focus, shows us that happiness comes when we are in harmony and connected within so what we think, feel, say and do are all pointing in the same direction. A scattered mind cannot be happy. A scattered 'undisciplined' mind will bounce from one source of unhappiness or problem to another. Inner harmony and alignment or a good relationship with yourself is a great basis and foundation to good relationships with others and life.

So back to: What makes you happy and joyful inside? And what makes you unhappy or prevents you from experiencing happiness?

Stress is the epidemic of our times and we can become numb with stress and stop feeling joy in our hearts. When this happens, we have to find a way of getting the joy back. If your heart is blocked, you can let things go to make space for connection and good relationships. Trust and compassion are key for sustained good relationships. Ultimately true and long-lasting happiness (and health and longevity) is shown to come from connection - to self, others, nature, a higher power and or God.

Interestingly, studies also show that people who pursue money as a primary goal in life are less happy than those that don't.

Throughout the ages, people have been known to find happiness in most adverse circumstances. Equally, we all have good memories and bad memories in life. We can choose to focus on the bad ones, focusing on what we don't want or focus on what we do want. Remembering the good ones, or better still creating new happy memories today for the future will also help us be and feel happier.

Now for an exercise: Close your eyes for a moment and take a minute and ask yourself when was the last time you felt happiness in your heart. Focus on the first thing you remember and take a few breaths to connect with that moment and the feeling. You will notice that in moments of happiness, you feel connected and are present and focussed.

This week reflect on what makes you happy - what brings joy and laughter to your heart and life? If your relationship with yourself or any relationships with loved ones or others in our life are out of balance, reflect on if you can do anything to improve them, and take action to make your life happier and healthier.