Saturday, 22 June 2013

How to be Happy, it's a skill not a journey!

I had to attend a meeting in Birmingham four years ago, it is around 500 miles from my home so was a big journey. Before departing a colleague said he had a map of the local area, being that it was 2009 I laughed and said, "I have a satnav". I programmed the address, and off I went, the majority of the journey consisted of 3 motorways which was pretty easy. On arriving in Birmingham I followed the satnav and ended up right outside the door of my destination, great right? Well the problem here is that there wasn't any parking facilities out front. I had to follow the one way system desperately trying to seek parking, getting more and more flustered as I tried my best to find a place to leave the car, as I got further and further away from my destination. Eventually I found an industrial estate car park that charged £14 for the day. The 2 mile walk back to my destination I was in a hurry and on arriving was asked, "Why didnt you use the carpark behind the building". 

What I had failed to do was learn anything about my chosen destination, relying on technology to guide me but without any clear understanding of the place. This was costly, both emotionally and financially. 

Happiness it is said is a journey, or a pursuit, but in reality it is just a skill you haven't mastered yet. Being happy is not something that is an external force, being happy does not come about by your circumstances, otherwise you would see mass suicide rates in the 3rd world. In fact the rise of mental health issues and depression in western civilisation is a result of both our over reliance on medication and our inability to control our own emotions. A negative outlook portrayed by not only a mass media and government that consistently portrays the world as a dangerous and hostile place. Presenting you with the fears of the day in printed fashion, whilst your trying to enjoy your coffee and toast.

Add to this mix, a society which is more comfortable typing their emotion into a Facebook status than actually having a conversation. The reliance on technology for all our needs is a false dawn, without human interaction the brain disassociates itself from the real world, those with severe technology addiction even become frantic and panicked when unable to use technology. How many people fall asleep with a TV on, how many people now instead of reading a book or talking type into their mobile smartphones, how many people wake up in the morning and instantly reach for that little device. These are all causes of misery, not use in itself but over reliance on technology for emotional stimulation.

This bombardment of negativity and isolation means that western residents can often feel alone, fear and hopelessness. They buy self help books in their thousands to try and find out where this mysterious happiness lives, perhaps the next town over will make you happy, or if you could just get that promotion at work and the brand new car. But when you eventually attain your goal happiness doesn't knock at your door and invite itself in. 

When people find the real answer, which is that happiness is inside you already you just need to access it, they tend to dismiss that idea as some crazy hippie thought. How could it be so obvious, how could I be happy when I can't pay my mortgage, when the country has no money, when people are dropping bombs on each other? 

To become happy you must view it as a skill, finding the happiness in your existence is about forgetting the past and not focussing on the journey ahead, but simply existing in this moment in time. The comfortable feel of the cushion underneath you, the sun on your face or the taste of the coffee you are drinking. Those small fleeting things that you ignore, open your mind to the world around you. 

As an aide to help you with this training you should massively increase the time you spend with real people, be it friends or family. If you have neither then join a group, society, sports club or religious body (it is not required to actually believe in God to join a Mosque, Church or Monastery). Our animal instincts crave human contact, we are not the lone wolf of nature, we survive by congregating into large populations and it is a relatively modern phenomenan that we are so ignorant of other humans around us. 

Everyday take some time to enjoy the moment, whether it be two hours or ten minutes, this consistent approach to living will increase your happiness over time and you will begin to see the joy in everything you do. Training your brain to respond differently to situations is not easy, but the eventual result is well worth it.