How To Find Happiness
One of the main questions I get from teaching about how to be happy is:“Yes the concepts make sense and I understand them, but how do you really do this on a daily basis because it can be quite hard to live a happy life every day” or put more simply, how to find happiness on a daily basis. How do we do it? When I was younger and studying, the first language course I ever had was French and what I found was, I was more of a math and science guy than a language guy. So I had to put in a lot of time to learn French and it didn’t come easily to me. I had to study the words; I had to listen to the phrases. I had to practice speaking it. And it was challenging, to say the least. But what I learned was, though it was quite challenging, it’s because I put the time in and I consistently put forth the effort that I slowly got better, and with time I was actually not too bad at it. And it really came to portion was when one summer I had the opportunity to spend a little bit of time in France and I learned that I could actually speak French a little bit. I wasn’t fluent but I could definitely converse and that was because I spent time everyday for a few years until I had mastered some of the skills of speaking French. It took a lot of work. It took a lot of effort, but I was able to do it.
Now another thing I got into at a very young age was exercise. When I was younger in high schools, the two sports I did were football and track and then when I went to college I didn’t play any sports, but I did go a lot at the gym and other outdoor sports. I remember always liking it even as a young adult. I just liked working out. I did have to learn skills to become good at the sports I did, particularly as I delve into new sports like yoga, but I got pretty good at it because I enjoyed it and it was easy for me. There are things to learn but my background and my physiology were such that I actually enjoy working out. Now, many years later, when I get up in the morning, I go to the gym every day. I actually enjoy going working out.
So those are the two spectrums that we’re going to approach happiness with. One is we’re not going to be very good at it and two is, it’s going to come pretty naturally to us. So first, why is that? Why is it that certain things come easily to us and another things are quite hard? Well, it really boils down two things. There are some people that are just born happier. They are as a child described as being happy and even when they have things that happen to them, they tend to bounce back pretty well. Other people are born with more of sore dispositions, so it’s going to be a little bit more work for them to learn how to develop happiness skills. However, what I think the more important thing is our environment. What did our environment model for us? In regards to happiness, was it a happy environment? Were our parents cheerful, positive, loving people who had good outlooks and saw the glass metaphorically half full far more than half-empty. Did they have things in place that taught us to be more detached, to be living more in the present moment? Did they meditate and teach us to meditate? Or we’re on the other spectrum, where there was a lot of dysfunction, a lot of hardship and now we struggle with a variety of mental disorders because of that, but in either case, both genetic and environmental, they can be changed. So how do we find happiness if our environment wasn’t ideal?
The good news is that we can become quite good at being happy no matter what our upbringing was. And no matter what type of disposition we are prone towards. We can change both. For some of the listeners are going to hear about the different aspect of being happy and it’s going to be, oh yes I get that and they’re going to implement it and get quite good at it quite quickly, but to be honest for most of us, it’s going to be challenging because the world environmentally is just doing so many things to push us to be unhappy. I mean the media spends billions if not trillions of dollars around the world every year, convincing us that we are unhappy so that we will buy their product to be happy. They are not going to make any money unless we buy their product. And we’re not going to buy their product if everything is going great. So they spend a lot of money, convincing us that we’re unhappy
I often describe happiness to like food, we really are what we eat. So what are we eating mentally in our mind? We want to work towards exposing ourselves towards positive, helpful things, like listening to the Happiness Podcast. With time, our ultimate goal is just too quiet or mild, be still and live in the present moment, that will and of itself cause happiness, but this is the end result. To get there is what I want to talk about today. How do we find happiness?The first thing we have to do is be patient with ourselves. If we are, metaphorically, a 300lb couch potato in regards to happiness, we’re not going to be running the marathon in a quick time. It’s going to take some time or we’re going to start off slowly. We might, metaphorically, just walk around the block for a few weeks and walk around two blocks in half a mile, then a mile, then two miles and then start jogging and with time we’ve become great. Unfortunately, this is what most people do. Imagine as you’re trying to run, you have someone follow you around and say, “you’re an idiot, what is wrong with you, you are not very good at this, you’re a fat lard”, but that is actually what most people do. When they mess up, when they are not doing this right, most people get stuck on being incredibly self-critical. They think it’s okay because they are doing it themselves but it’s not very motivating really. When I was taking French, I could tell this was going to take a lot more work for me than other people in the class so I put in that time and I would be proud of myself of putting in that time. So I put in the time and I was able to do quite well in French, but it took a lot more effort on my part than some of the other people in the class. Some of them just came naturally to it. I had to listen over and over again to the same phrases until it stuck in my brain.
I wasn’t harsh on myself. I just realized I’m good at math, but not as good at French. So I really had to work at it and I did and I got better. And we may be that person that because of our background there’s a lot of negativity in us. There is a lot of anxiety. There’s a lot of fear and just to put on a happy smile and really feel happy for five minutes a day is a great improvement, but it is a great improvement–that’s the point. You don’t compare yourself to anyone else in the universe except our own past. And if the conditioning and genetics of your past have pruned you towards unhappiness, then making a few steps forward is awesome, it’s great and using that approach of praise instead of blame. When we begin to change our conditioning, we get good at it. I was raised in a culture where we spoke English, and for me to learn a completely different language was hard for me to do. So I just learned it. I put forth the effort. I got better at it, so I was actually able to go to France and I’ve been there a few times now and I was able to converse there okay and get around and find the bathroom and restaurants and things like that. So we can get good at this, but we, my goodness have to be patient with ourselves and to be honest, we are not very patient. We just want to get it and be happy; it’s not going to work that way.
How we are going to find happiness is by seeing small increases and then more small increases. And with time, we’re going to become fluent happiness people. We can truly become happy people, but it does take work, particularly if we come from backgrounds that were tough. We know our backgrounds. We know what we went through to get where we’re at today. If it wasn’t completely loving and positive then this is going to take more work but it’s worth it. When I discover an area that I need to improve upon, I am just going to completely immerse myself in it until I get it. It’s a lot like learning a language again, it’s like going overseas, and no one speaks English. The same is true with happiness.
We can learn any skill, including how to live happy beautiful lives on a daily basis, it does take a reconditioning of ourselves and in order to do that, we really have to spend time over and over again listening to the concepts of happiness at work for us, thinking about them, pondering them, surrounding ourselves with them so that they become our impotence. And even when we get there, we’re going to continue to want to surround ourselves with them. If it takes us 20, 30 years to be the happiest people that we know, wouldn’t that to be worth it? That would be worth far more than retiring with a billion dollars. It would be worth far more than having the whole world envy us. It would be far more than anything we can imagine. So why not make that our goal to be the happiest people that we know?. We have to eat well and exercise to be healthy. We have to think well and be well to be happy. We can become masterful at this if we put forth the time if we put forth the effort, that’s what it takes. It’s that simple.
So how do we find happiness? Years ago I got involved in wilderness survival and the man who taught me with his wife were experts at tracking animals, not for killing but just to track them because they loved learning about animals and he could read a little smudge of the dirt and tell what kind of animal it was, how fast it was going, where it was going. He was amazing. He was a great tracker. And he said his skill came to one thing, he just spent a lot of dirt time in the dirt learning how to track animals. It was that simple. He had spent a lot of time and got quite good at tracking animals. It’s true with any skill. We can get good at anything that we put forth time, but my question is, of all the different things we can learn, whether it be a language, whether it be tracking animals, whether it be building an empire, wouldn’t it be better to put time into being happy and I know some people may say but “Dr Puff. Isn’t that selfish?” Well, I find, when we find something beautiful like happiness. We actually want to share with other people and improve their lives. So the opposite is true here instead of becoming greedy billionaires, we become giving, loving people for everyone that we meet. Happiness is something we share, we don’t possess. So perhaps, just perhaps now when we struggle with this we’ll be far more patient and we’ll just move forward, realizing we’re learning the language of happiness, and we can become fluent at it. We just have to put in the time. That is how to find happiness.