This week saw the launch of a movement calling for people to increase happiness and reduce misery in themselves and in the world around them. Seems reasonable enough, but unfortunately, Action for Happiness comes across as a little banal and too simplistic.
Now I don’t want to piss on their cornflakes. I’m all for a little more happiness in the world; goodness knows we need it. But I think they don’t go far enough in their actions for happiness and are in danger of missing the point.
www.actionforhappiness.org/ contains lots of information and tips on how to be happier, but it basically boils down to being more selfless and caring about others. They point out that we’re less happy now than we were 50 years ago, even though we’re better off. As society has become increasingly selfish, driven by the desire to create more money, we have become more miserable.
Obviously, it’s not as straight forward as all that. How happy we feel is influenced by our genes and childhood, as well as outer circumstances we may have little real control over. But the important point is that no matter how set in your ways you think you are, or how unfair events surrounding you seem to be, you still have a choice.
You can choose to change the way you think.
In fact, self-mastery may be the only area where you have real power. Happiness is a choice.
I find I am happiest when I forget myself: listening to or playing music, absorbed in the flow of creative inspiration when writing, or just watching the magpies playing on the roof opposite. It’s about being present – being here and now – and not allowing your mind to go wandering off worrying about a future catastrophe that may never happen, or anaesthetising yourself with thoughts of a long lost golden past.
When you are truly here, truly present, life flows because you’re not getting in your own way, trying to second guess and maintain the illusion of control. This automatically makes you more open to others, more willing to help, to smile and be happy.
Which brings me to one surprising thing I found on the Action for Happiness website. You can download an app which tracks your happiness. Now I think this is one way to guarantee your own unhappiness. If you have to keep checking up on yourself to see how you feel, you’re missing the point. It’s widely understood (by anyone who thinks about it for more than 5 minutes) that if you pursue happiness you’ll never achieve it – it will always and forever be on the horizon.
Constantly thinking to yourself – how am I feeling now? How about now? And now? – takes you out of the now, out of the present moment. Out of your heart and into your head. You will never be happy if you keep dividing yourself up – head or heart, past or future. I want it all and I want it now. Not because I’m selfish and I want to eat all the pies, but because I am the all.
This recognition of the unity of all life is where true happiness springs from. You can’t fake it by being nice because you think you should be nice ‘cos it’ll make you happier. That is pure selfishness. ‘Being happy’ becomes just another ego project, another excuse for narcissistic self-indulgence in the name of ‘doing something good for others.’ There’s nothing worse than a do-gooder.
Ultimately, being happy is about saying an absolute, unconditional YES to life, which can only happen in a spirit of self-forgetfulness. Happiness is the product of inner freedom.
What makes you happy? Share your happiness tips below…