Yesterday was international day for happiness, which left me feeling a bit glum. Like all people, my preferred state of being is to be feeling happy, but there have been many times in my life when that has definitely not been the case and it seems to me that there is even more emphasis on the search for happiness now than ever. It is a poisoned chalice and an ever moving target. As society we tell ourselves that we will be happy if we have the right job, the right house, enough money, a baby, the latest gadget, a holiday to the Maldives, a shiny new car, meet Mr/Ms Right, if the weather was different, if we were thinner/fatter/taller/shorter, had a smaller bum, could bench press an elephant, retire early, climb Everest, or win a gold medal….
The list is unattainable, endless and of course only ever seems to lead to more disappointment when we realise that even if we are lucky enough to go on to own that house/car/baby we are still the same person underneath with the same hopes, fears, dreams and worries. In today’s society where we want it all by yesterday and are constantly over-exposed to everybody else’s edited version of ‘happiness’ through social media this quest often feels like an exhausting race that we cannot win.
Happiness like sadness is just a feeling, and like all feelings we can’t expect it to last forever, nor would we want it to. Although I want my child to be happy, it is more important to me to teach him that sometimes he won’t be, and that is OK. As a parent I want to help him learn to manage his expectations and reactions when faced with disappointment as much as I want to praise him and encourage him to strive to be the best version of himself he can be.
Our fundamental happiness is what lies underneath all of this. To feel content in our own company and in the present moment. To accept our flaws and strengths. To enjoy and appreciate the happiness when it comes, and not be sent into despair when it ends.
There are many things in my life that if I stop and think about them for a moment, make me realise that I am happy on this fundamental level. If that is what international day of happiness serves to remind us then that is fine, but if, like me, there are many more things every day that make you question that happiness and you woke up yesterday feeling particularly lost and lonely, then remember that is normal too. Maybe one Wednesday in three months’ time that will change and when it happens there will be no international band wagon to jump on. Maybe nobody else will be around to notice or care about it. The important thing is that when it happens you do, and that you enjoy it for what it is, when it is.
The goal of yoga is to learn to separate your fundamental being from the deceptions of the mind. It is a difficult and lifelong process, but it is one that has certainly helped me to regain perspective on whatever drama I have been sucked into within my life, psychological or otherwise. If we can learn to observe the ebb and flow of our emotions with detachment and stay more focused on the present moment, we can stay in touch with that inner core of our being. Even if you’re not a yogi, the rising popularity of mindfulness practice has taken this concept and made it ‘popular’ for all age groups. This is a sustainable version of ‘happiness’ that I think we can all get behind.
|A moment of happiness (NB. a storm started 2 minutes later and we were drenched but that didn't look as good on Facebook!)|