I can’t help but cringe a little whenever I hear people talk about finding happiness or searching for it like they’re on a quest.
Happiness is not something that you dropped on the street and need to pick up again. It’s not lost in a forest somewhere waiting for you to unearth it.
This view that happiness is something that exists outside of us is part of the reason so few people actually are happy.
You’re not going to find happiness in a job, or in a certain amount of money, or in a person.
If you think this way, you’re only setting yourself up for massive disappointment and pain down the road.
For some this can be an alien concept however. This society practically hinges on the idea that happiness is some kind of abstract goal, and if we just work hard enough, get enough money, buy that fancy house and find the perfect partner, we’ll magically “achieve” it.
I’m here to tell you, for the sake of your own health and well-being, that this is a pipe dream.
Attitude and Perspective: Their Role in Our Mood
There is so much disinformation on this issue. Most people think of moods as these flighty bodily states that just come and go as they please.
Yet mood is 100% controlled by your mindset.
I realize this isn’t something everyone wants to hear. It can even come across as “insensitive” in today’s overly emotional environment.
The fact remains however that mood is simply a byproduct of your perspective, which is and always will be cultivated by you.
You have to realize the importance attitude plays on your life if you ever want to truly “find” happiness.
You will never find it outside of your Self, because happiness first and foremost is an emotional state.
An emotional state can only ever derive from your perspective, which is the collection of your thought patterns and the reactions you have to those thought patterns.
Your thoughts are either controlled by you, or are regulated by your ego. If the latter scenario is at play, your life will often feel out of your control, and your moods will come and ago without your say in the matter.
Many people who allow their egos to run the show develop different kinds of psychoses over time. This includes Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD), Schizotypal Disorder, and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).
Most mental disorders are a result of the ego developing too many lenses through which it filters sensory input and thought.
Usually these lenses are the ones in which it filters information relative to itself and how other people perceive it. Often it will develop so many overlapping lenses that the resulting input that is gathered becomes too distorted to make proper use of, and this is when people devolve into obsessive compulsive, sociopathic, narcissistic, and violent behavior.
All of this is a product of having an overdeveloped ego.
If you want to obtain happiness, you must first do away with the ego and the hold it has over your decisions and attitude.
Understand that your mood is within your power to control and that you decide how you “feel,” not outside events, other people’s words, or happenstance.
If you believe you can’t control your own emotions or thoughts, then it is your ego that is doing the talking on your behalf.
Meditation is the most effective means of dissolving the ego and removing these “lenses of distortion” as I call them.
The ability to healthily interpret what you see and what happens to you gives you the ability to better regulate and control your emotions, and thus remain in a positive (healthy) emotional state.
Thoughts on Mindset
I often think of a short blurb from The Language of Positive Thinking, a book I’ve often used to help my students form a healthy self-image.
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.
It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do.
It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home.
The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.
We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable.
The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.
I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.
And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”
(Attributed to Charles R. Swindoll)
The important takeaway from this is that once you make the connection between mood, self-control, and perspective, life just sort of clicks and falls into place.
The most pertinent line in the whole text is the oft repeated “life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”
Let’s break this down, because it’s basically the truth.
Emotion does not arise from what goes on around you. Emotion is the product of your reaction to what goes on around you.
This is where self-awareness plays a huge role. You might experience the cognitive awareness of an emotion as the tiniest blip, giving you very little “control” over what your emotional response to stimuli will be. However, this “blip” can be widened into a long, safe bridge with mindfulness training.
The bottom line is, however, that all emotion comes from within you. It’s not something that is forced on you against your will.
You could pay witness to the greatest of suffering and tragedy and not be brought low by it if you have control over your emotions.
Something else I think more people need to hear is that it’s okay to be strong.
I think we’ve placed so much of an emphasis on “being weak” that it’s distorted everyone’s sense of emotional control.
People say things like “it’s okay to cry,” “it’s okay to feel,” “let it all out,” but most of the time this kind of behavior doesn’t really make us feel better or produce any mental or emotional relief.
Weakness has almost been turned into a virtue.
These days it’s seemingly “okay” to be weak. People will pat you on the back and you can just sit in a room and wallow in your weakness until it consumes you, and most of society won’t even blink. They might even hand you a few pills, tell you how “brave you are,” and then continue on with their lives as if nothing is happening.
If we lived in a more natural world however, weakness of this sort would kill you.
Allowing emotion to consume you isn’t a virtue and isn’t even natural. It goes against everything the natural world and our biology evolved to do: create fit and balanced creatures that are strong when they need to be and tender when they need to be.
Instead of telling yourself, “it’s okay to be weak,” change this mantra to “it’s okay to be strong.”
You need to learn to find that gap of self-awareness between an event and your reaction to it. Therein lies happiness.
In life, things are going to happen. You can label these things bad or good, but this doesn’t solve anything.
You should never attach predetermined emotional reactions to random events, because this is how you give your ego power through expectation.
Instead, understand that life just is. Stuff happens.
You can’t go through life being controlled by happenstance.
What I mean by this is, whenever you feel an emotion against your will, you are technically being controlled by outside forces.
You could be going merrily about your day, and then a random person walking by decides to blurt out, “man that’s an ugly shirt.”
These simple words from a random stranger might crush some people and ruin their whole day. That basically means you are a slave to that person.
No one should make you feel something against your will. You are the gatekeeper for your emotions.
If you have no sense of control over the reactions you experience from outside stimuli, you are just acting as an open door, allowing anyone or anything to control you.
Are you going to give happenstance and random strangers the power to control you?
Sadly, this is the reality for millions. A stubbed toe or a long line at the supermarket is enough to literally alter their mood and disposition.
For the aware, this is a hysterical premise.
Let’s flip the script and speak about this scenario from a place of power.
I would never in a million years allow the words of a random stranger or random happenstance to dictate how I feel or think.
Events are just events. Words are just words.
Doesn’t matter if I’m dirt poor living on the street or filthy rich living in a penthouse (I’ve been in less exaggerated versions of both of these scenarios, FYI).
Your mood is how you experience life. It’s your attitude, it’s everything.
Are you really going to let random events control your precious time? Dictate the life you experience?
No. If you find yourself doing this, cut it out.
Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react.
This means, the state you find yourself in is dictated 10% by the actual events, people, and issues, and the other 90% is how you interpret and respond to those events, people, and issues.
You have the power. You have the control.
Happiness is found when you finally stop being attached to outcomes and issues and realize that your mood and emotions don’t have to be dictated by circumstances.
Your mood is yours to decide. It’s not always going to be easy, but the more you practice mindfulness and find that “gap of consciousness,” the easier it gets and the happier you become.
My biggest recommendation is, if you struggle with finding happiness in your life, begin meditating and practicing mindfulness daily.
Look for the space between what happens to you and your reaction. Meditate on the why behind every emotion, and you will discover that it was your ego calling the shots all along, and that you never needed to feel most of the things you were forced to feel.
Happiness is not transient. It is a state I actively cultivate.
You can do the same.