Everybody just wants to be happy.

jaimin-desai-90301

When I read the news about all the horrible things people do to each other, I often thing about Dalai Lama talking about happiness. “Everybody just wants to be happy”, he says. The problem is that we don’t know what makes us happy.

Isn’t that weird!? We learn so much in school, at college and at work; math, grammar, history, science etcetera, but we never really learn how to be happy.

A man who kills hundreds of people in the name of a god or an organization – did he do that to be happier? Well, maybe he was not in a good, harmonious and balanced mood, feeling loved and prosperous. Maybe he felt that if he did something that counted, others would praise him and see him as a hero. Unconsciously, being seen as a hero, might be something that feels closer to happiness than anything else in his life? The girl who makes up rumors about another girl in class. Isn’t she mean and evil? Well, maybe she is afraid that nobody likes her as she really is, and – once again unconsciously – if she can make her friends dislike another girl, they might not dislike her as much. Not really happiness, but a step away from the frightening unhappiness.

I don’t say that Dalai Lama is right about this, but I often think about it and it gives me a kind of explanation to the seemingly irrational behaviors of some people. So we come back to the weirdness of not knowing what makes us happy. Do you know what makes you happy?

Part of the answer might be easy, like; being with my friends and family, sunshine, a cinnamon roll and a cup of tea, a job that I like, good health. But if we dig a little bit deeper? When you are being bullied at you job, your best friend doesn’t invite you to a party or you get sick? When you are angry, sad or humiliated? Then what makes you happy? Maybe just to ask yourself what will make you happy implies that you are not happy right now, and that thought (the acceptance of being miserable) might be worse than pretending that all is fine. And maybe all will be much better if those horrible people over there were to blame?

I don’t have a quick fix solution to instant happiness, but I once in a while try to sit down and seriously ask myself what I really want, what really would make me happier in the present situation.

But my key point today, is not so much about my or your happiness, but to consider how everyone else is fighting for happiness, even when it looks just the opposite to us. In what way is that person trying to be happier? That is an interesting and valuable way of personal development I think.

Stop. Breathe. Notice.

rafa-espada-32160

This is one of my favorite exercises to make myself more mindful in my everyday life.

I might sit in my office about to write a blog post, when I simply stop what I’m doing for a moment, I look outside the window and take a breath. Then I just notice whatever I see. Today the sun falls nicely on the leaves of the green bush outside, while the leaves of the tree behind gently play in the wind. It’s surprisingly beautiful!

But I’m always surprised by the beauty of what I see when I just suddenly focus on something ordinary surrounding me. I think it’s the breathing that makes me notice what I actually see. So often I look out the window but I don’t really see anything in particular. To stop, breathe and then just notice what you see, not judging or starting a long chain of associations, but just noticing makes your pulse slow down and the stress hormones in your body decrease instantly. I also feel that it makes me happier. Most of my thoughts are about memories from the past or worries or planning for the future. Very little of my time I actually spend in reality – here and now. To just be and enjoy the very simple thinks in front of my eyes makes me appreciate my life more.

And it’s such a good thing to do when you’re waiting; in the line at the grocery store, in the street waiting for green light, on the doorstep waiting for your teenage daughter to finish her make-up or in front of the wakening computer. Waiting is usually boring and useless, but if you train your mind to notice the things around you – “she has a green hat”, “the shadow is very long”, “all but one person here are wearing sneakers” etcetera – the waiting will suddenly be a little pleasant reality check. Try not to go on about how ugly the green hat is or how cold it is in the shadow – simply notice what it looks like. I promise you that you will like this exercise!