The 3 Steps for Finding Happiness
Why can’t we be happy all the time?
We seek happiness more than anything else. We imagine that we can and should feel blissfully happy all the time, and never feel dissatisfied, disappointed or bored.
But, Neuroscientists say: “there is NO biological basis for sustained happiness”. Scientists still can’t find a single area in the brain that controls happiness, but more importantly, there is no mechanism to sustain it. It is quite the opposite.
Sustained happiness would have killed us off
As we evolved, sustained happiness would have killed us. If any one thing permanently satisfied us we would’ve given up on tasks that were necessary for our survival and died off. The short duration of happiness followed by dissatisfaction, or the scarcity loop is what our brains used to help us survive in the past. We saw how it is played out with addictions in last week’s blog (link below). So brief moments of happiness quickly followed by dissatisfaction is repeated for life, no matter what our situation.
True happiness can be easily confused with the kind of excitement and hormone rush we get from addictions and cravings. Our brain is programmed to crave and cling to emotional swings and has difficulty to sustain contentment and quiet.
It is just the way our brain got programmed. Believing that any degree of dissatisfaction is abnormal or pathological only fosters feelings of inadequacy and frustration. Given our wiring, dissatisfaction should not be considered a personal failure. It is the Default Mode Network at work once again. making the “me” and all of its perceived needs the seemingly focal point of our life.
Constant Bliss? Excess before the fall
Moreover, our society makes us feel as if any day that isn’t pure bliss is problematic, leaving us to chase the wrong things. The research consistently shows that money, power, prestige, food, drink, status, carnal pleasures, and everything in the American dream doesn’t typically lead to lasting happiness.
All societies and civilizations fall into a similar pattern. The founders of a society work hard under harsh conditions to establish it . These harsh conditions require and develop social cohesion. In time, the generations that follow become too far removed from the original hardship and work ethic it took to establish prosperity, and maintain the society. These generations become soft and comfortable and adopt an attitude of entitlement. This is exactly what happened to Rome in 500 AD.
Entitlement, dissatisfaction, always wanting more are the typical narrations about me, mine, my life, that are constantly running in the background of our thoughts. It leads to excess, addictions and interminable discontent: because what we are seeking cannot be found in things.
You Have to CHOOSE to be happy - it takes effort and diligence
Joy, love and happiness are our natural states. They are lying there, just beneath the surface of our programming. In a layer just a bit deeper than our thoughts. We just have to do what we need to do to get beyond that layer.
The STEPS to Attain True Happiness
Step One : Acknowledge that dissatisfaction and wanting more are just conditioned programs and do not reflect reality
So DON’T believe your thoughts and what your mind tells you.
Recognize that these are just programs, results of millions of years of conditioning: random thoughts that have nothing to do with reality. Learn to detach from your thoughts by observing them rather than getting pulled into directions that eventually lead you to even greater dissatisfaction and unhappiness.
Dis-identifying and detaching from our thoughts and feelings is the ultimate goal of meditation: becoming a witness to your thoughts rather than indulging them and letting them lead you down the garden path. Start right now: set the intent to allow awareness to peek through and “wake you up” every time you get lost in thought.The next few blogs will provide you with other ways to do this and re-program your brain.
One of the key reasons why this was not such a problem in past generations is that we used to walked long distances to school, make things with our hands, tinkered to fix things, we built, walked to the library, flipped through index cards and searched the shelves to find the answer to a question we had.
Using our hands requires focus and attention: it engages our brain and keeps it from going into the default mode of dissatisfaction.
Step Two: Discover a “Higher Purpose”
Research has cited having a higher purpose as the most essential element of True happiness. So, that begs the questions: “What do we mean by higher purpose? And How can we experience what that is?”
Anything that brings you beyond the Default Mode Network and your perceived needs has a “higher” purpose.
Developing a sense of purpose and meaning is the key to true, enduring happiness. A higher purpose is what makes our soul sing. What makes our soul sing is the development of our natural gifts and capacities. AND, it does not have to be our own personal gifts: we have as much joy and true happiness in watching others display the result of their devotion to the development of their gifts.
It is how we feel when we watch olympic skaters, gymnasts and dancers, or listen to talented, practiced musicians, look at the results of an artist’s toil, or read a masterfully written poem or book.
For any of these to be awe-inspiring and invoke that true, deep sense of happiness, the author of the action must be a pure channel for creative consciousness. The practice is what eventually purifies the being so that the ego is out of the way, nowhere to be found, and only pure, creative universal energy is pouring through. It is when our craft becomes a form of prayer, or an expression of universal love.
Step Three: Start experiencing the difference between brief moments of excitement (aka the dopamine hit) and true happiness
Exercise for Step Three: What do you experience while you are watching someone masterfully executing their craft, art or sport? Compare that experience with buying something. What are the differences? Engage in activities that inspire moments of awe, or deep satisfaction and feeling good about yourself, your contribution and your natural talents.
MAKE and write the next birthday or greeting card and walk to the post office instead of sending an e-card. Knit, sew, play an instrument, take up calligraphy, wood-working, sculpting, ceramics, cook for the local shelter, help out as a volunteer. Even just taking the stairs instead of the elevator, every chance you get is a bit of activity that will do amazing things for your health and well being.
Higher purpose comes out of silence, stillness, and emptiness. It is free from conditioning, free from the “me”. It involves an expansion of our life force into something bigger than life, much bigger than the “me”. It involves “getting out of the way” of what is trying to express through us, and allowing that energy to flow, allowing ourselves to be receptive, and open.
It is experiencing what we are doing with curiosity and without attachment to outcome.
Expectations lay the foundation for dissatisfaction. We apply discipline, so that the energy can find its unique expression through us, and surprise us.