We can never obtain peace in the outer world
until we make peace with ourselves.
~ His Holiness the Dalai Lama ~
I recently came across a book I would have never picked up myself due to its title “Happy for No Reason” by Marci Shimoff. As I mentioned in a previous blog (Happy life, the ultimate goal?) and during several discussions with friends I am not a big fan of the ‘happiness’ talk. I am more looking at being content, experiencing joy, feeling at ease, etc.
Now, I understand that all these can all be words that do describe “happiness” but to me this “happy” sounds on the one hand too superficial and on the other hand it can put a lot of pressure onto a person. All this talk we “we have to live a happy life”. Then again, perhaps it is just me that has an issue with the happiness talk?!
But – I am getting away from the topic here, back to the book. Overlooking the title the book intrigued me as the subtitle reads “7 steps to Being Happy from the Inside Out”. So what is it that we can find or change inside us that can lead to more happiness?
The book is structured into three sections. The first part explores “the paradigm of true happiness” that the author classes “Happy for no Reason”. Within the second part you get a step-by-step guidance on “how to raise your happiness level”. And leaving you in the third part with some “direction about how to put the Happiness Habits into practise every day”.
Setting myself up to read this without any higher expectations and expecting too much “happiness talk” I was surprised. And while the title did not sit with me, most of the content did. Some great research information gave me surprises, confirmation, ideas and food for thought throughout the reading!
I learned for example that we all have a happiness set point; so “that no matter what happens in our life” we “tend to return to a fixed range of happiness.” And this “happiness set-point will remain the same unless you make a concerted effort to change it.” And this was undermined even more by going into details that in fact “50% of our happiness comes from our genetics”, 10 percent are determined “by circumstances such as our level of wealth, martial status, and job.” And a whooping 40 percent are “determined by our habitual thoughts, feelings, words, and actions”!
We then indeed have an explanation why some are happy more easily than others, but that at the same time we all have a rather big chunk on ourselves to decided how happy we want to be in our situation! And we can change or improve our habits to get to a higher level of happiness as “we all have the right to practice happiness, not chase after it”!
So, it is a lot about changing habits. And I had to laugh as it shows again that somehow everything around us is linked together. And not only because I recently read the book about habit changes.
As mentioned, the second part goes deeper into practices and it was enlightening to read parts of it and I will for sure take some of them into my day to day life. I won’t go into details as I think everybody needs to find his/her own way and has his/her own focus points. But just to give a little idea, think about how often we all tend to complain about something or somebody every single day, how we blame others and may feel shame. We have to start with ourselves instead of looking to the outside! Just go and try do not complain about anything at all for a whole day? Sounds easy? Then try it!
Same counts for our thoughts. After all they are just thoughts, not the truth. Yet their impact on how they make us feel is scary! And we are kind of programmed to focus more on the negative around us, then paying more focus on all the good. Perhaps it is really time to change this, what do you think? Let the positive linger longer than the negative?! Sounds good to me.
Forgiveness was as well an important part that got to me. And I was grateful that it was not just brushed of to simply forgive the other person but instead to focus on ourselves. “It is ok if you still feel angry; the purpose […] is to begin to release the pain in your heart, not to excuse others for their actions.”
And obviously our diet, sleeping-, exercise- and relaxation habits, or let`s just say our own personal wellbeing regime are points within ourselves that can contribute in increasing or reducing our “happiness level”.
And so do people around us. Have you ever noticed how you sometimes pick up the same moods or emotions of some people around you? Yes, moods and emotions can be “contagious”. “When you surround yourself with relationships that support you, your energy expands. When you have a lot of toxic people in your life, your energy contracts. […] Think about the people in your life. Do you want to “catch their emotions”?” Or do you have “happiness vampires” around you? But be as well aware to not take the “people who mean the most to” you for granted. Make sure you acknowledge them more!
This leaves me with part three in the book which gives a great short overview of all the steps mentioned on how to “take ownership of your happiness” and leaves you with additional ideas on how to move forward.
Coming to an end, I must say it was a much better and insightful read than I expected and I do recommend reading it. A bit too many “happiness” words but I guess that comes with the title.
And for me personally it was great to see yet again how all the things around me do not stand on single pillars but all are connected; may it be habit changes, being more mindful, finding passion and inspiration, to simply being more content or at ease in life. One does not happen without the other, but it all starts from within us!
So, how “happy” do you want to be?
Have a lovely day,