What makes your heart sing? What brings a big fat smile to your face? Remember the last time you noticed being happy? Are you happy? What is being happy? Is it related to euphoria, ecstasy, contentment, calm, peace, light-heartedness?

Recently pondering these questions with a friend, it reminded me how complicated being happy can be, even in a world where most of us have more than enough to be happy about. 18 was the age I started a quest to understand happiness, and, yes, I can tell you with great assurance that searching for happiness did get me in some trouble! 

No doubt, you can relate to chasing happiness in obvious places like the next holiday, the next paycheck, the next job, the next shopping expedition, the next adventure, or the next competition, a physical activity, a board game, or a head game … or relationships (definitely a favourite of mine for years), or perhaps the next perceived body enhancement. How often do we look outward for enjoyment, fulfilment or satisfaction?

Don’t get me wrong; things, people and places certainly bring us happiness. Yet, we humans are very sneaky and resourceful when it comes to playing hide and seek with happiness. What I can say for sure, is that as the years passed by I saw through the illusions and started looking in a more obscure place: within. And what a journey that’s been!!  

Observing my thoughts was quite scary in the beginning. I often heard things I would never dare say to anyone else. How insanely critical we can be; where does that stuff come from? Well, never mind where, it’s just enough to notice it because that’s the starting point for change. Of course, sometimes we want to stay miserable; it has an upside too.

Aside from our thoughts, emotions are also great clues. In fact, our bodies and minds are what we need to feel happiness. And as it happens, we all have one! Imagine being a spirit, say … an angel, with cool benefits and in all likelihood a lot less suffering, if at all, but wait. Wayyyy-ta minute. We wouldn’t have a body! No more chocolate soufflés, no more crème brulés, no more fudge (yes, I have a sweet tooth), no more lounging at the side of the lake, or taking naps in a hammock, or smelling the first spring flowers. Our body is incredible! Yet, we carry ourselves around mostly unaware of our body. God only knows I used mine mainly to carry my precious thinking, creative, problem-solving head for years!

Through yoga, Chigong and Tai Chi a variety of exercises stretch the physical, energetic and spiritual bodies. One of the first principles is that where the mind goes, energy follows and ultimately leads to the creation of your physical reality. This reminds us to pay attention to what we are thinking as a direct influencer of our lives as well the lives of others. Harnessing this energy accelerates the manifestation of the life we envision for ourselves.

 Is our brain in a state of guilt, avoidance, self-accusation, and desiring control? Or is it filled with caring concern, love, dreams, humour and gratitude? As obvious as it is to see that one leads to harmonious living and the other to destruction, attention, patience and persistence are an ongoing pursuit. Thankfully, a day comes when you notice your reactions are based less on fear and more on loving-kindness.

Gratitude: The Short Film by Louie Schwartzberg (6:22 min.) is wonderfully uplifting. Let its beautiful imagery and thoughts imbue your mind and charge your day. 

As social animals, close relationships and community are certainly key to our happiness, but ultimately, we are the only one who controls what we say to ourselves, how we treat ourselves. Making friends with ourselves is no picnic, yet, considering it is the one constant we can absolutely count on, it’s well worth the exploration.

First published in Tone Magazine, 2018

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