Day 4 Is the state of Happiness elusive or can it be acquired?
I have been reading about happiness today. The holiday season brings about great joy and happiness for many but also sadness in the form of job layoffs, loss of loved ones, loneliness during the holidays and unfulfilled dreams as we start a New Year.
Persecution and lack of respect for one's values and dreams can bring about negative feelings and loss of self-worth. When I was young I loved to read about heroes and their survival. As I got older I started to understand the emotion and pain thresholds that the heroes had to overcome. I also recognised that the path the heroes walked was individual, using their strength of mind and determination to achieve a worthy goal. The heroes met supporters along the way but it was their ability to remain focused and to 'dig deep' to overcome obstacles and achieve their goal.
I wanted to look at the stories from modern day heroes and found these books
Viktor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor.
He wrote about his ordeals and the mindset he cultivated to survive these atrocities- attributing his success to his freedom of mind to choose. It is sometimes easier in this modern age to ignore the extremes of sadness when considering the heights of happiness. It is truly marvellous to consider how the human brain contains the power to control one’s attitude to a situation and have courage to endure.
“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”
― Viktor E. Frankl
Helen Keller suffered an illnesss before she was two years old that left her both deaf and blind. To us with all of our faculties it is almost impossible to imagine day after day not being able to see or hear but as her story unfolds in 'The story of my life- Helen Keller' it is clear that her determination to be connected to the outside world was achieved.
She learned to enjoy music by feeling the beat through her fingertips while the piano was played and recognised people by their footsteps on the floor. Her other senses were heightened as she learned how to explore them to thier fullest. She enjoyed a strong connection with animals through touch and found solace is their companionship.
In her book she writes-
‘Happiness is a state of mind and depends very little on outward circumstance.’
Dr Caroline Leaf, is a neuroscientist who identified links between brain activity and emotive reactions in people. Over the past 10 years her research has proved invaluable to offer programmes to improve the lives of young and old who suffer from lack of identity, and help them to create a positive attitude to life.
Her field of research provides scientific evidence to support the pracitce of acceptance- of where we are, of what we have and what our circumstances are and then to move forward from today learning from past experiences that give us hope look for the brightness in life. Her books are available on Amazon and, at first glance, provide practical, manageable methods to change one’s attitude to self, make meaningful relationships and participate actively in communities. She also has a series of daily affirmations for inspiration and thoughtful meditation that remind us of the goodness in life that is missed when we focus only on the negative
‘It is the joy we have living the “meaningful, good life,” and revolves around our ability to choose to focus on the positive, to connect with others, and to have meaningful relationships in a community.’
Jennifer Hecht identifies three types of happiness in her book ‘The Happiness Myth: The historical antidote’. These are:
1. A Good day: filled with repeatable and forgettable experiences and some rewards
2. Euphoria: intense and lasts a feeling we want to hold onto for as long as we can-like our first kiss or first home
3. A happy life: which requires a lot of energy and overcoming difficulty, work in a daily routine, studying, living life. This often cuts into a good day and experiencing euphoria.
When I started out on this journey of happiness today, I was hoping to find a methodology or process, that if I practised it, I would be in the state of happiness immediately.
John Lennon, one of my favourite songwriters, tells a story of when he was young-
‘My mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I was asked by my teacher at school what I wanted to be when I grew up I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the questions and I told them they didn’t understand life.’
So how elusive is happiness?
Not very elusive because happiness resides inside of us. We only have to give it centre stage and feed it. The voice of a friend on the phone, the bright light of day, the sunrise or the warm hug of a partner, reassurance of belonging.
Today I am grateful for Happiness because it makes my life worth getting up in morning.
What are you grateful for today?