I used to want my life to be an endless stream of happy moments.
It was easy for me to imagine, a life without disappointment or struggle, a life where every moment of my day was filled with happiness. It would be the ideal life, a life worth living – the perfect dream.
But then I came to realize that a life of constant happy moments, would lead to happiness-overload, and at some point I would yearn for a different experience.
The best example of this is when you are in love. You meet the perfect person and you are filled with joy. You think of them constantly, you can’t wait until you see them again, and when you do, you feel elated. But after a period of time that high, happy feeling subsides.
The truth is, it is difficult for our bodies to sustain a high level of happiness for a long period of time. Eventually our lives must get back to a state of normalcy again. We must go back to work, clean our house and do our laundry. We must return to balance in our lives.
When we strive for constant happiness, our lives can quickly get out of balance. We can easily forget about the value of sleep, stillness, personal time, and the importance of maintaining our health and well-being.
But what if we learned to find happiness – in the balance – to find happiness in the everyday experiences of life?
I admit I was a happiness-seeker, looking for happiness in possessions, other people, and pleasurable events. I was stuck in a never-ending cycle of wanting, one that provided only temporary pleasure, and kept leading me back to the same place- a lingering dissatisfaction with life.
It took me several years before I finally stopped to pay attention, to make the time to deeply explore why I was feeling this way. Once I identified the thought-patterns and behaviors causing my dissatisfaction, I was eventually able to work to change them.
What would my life be like if I wasn’t seeking happiness?
I learned that an imbalance occurs when you focus too much time seeking happiness in your life. When you seek pleasure, entertainment, or the feeling of happiness through the obtainment of the material – you run the risk of losing the meaningful.
When this imbalance is present, we are usually attempting to avoid the discomfort we feel. We are seeking happiness as a way to distract ourselves, to ignore our feelings, numb the pain we feel, and hide from the difficulties in our lives.
It is easy to feel happy when things are going well in our life, like when we are in a new relationship, our body feels great, or we are enjoying ourselves while on vacation. Yet how do we respond when our lives are uneventful, when we struggle with our health, or we are faced with one of life’s many challenges?
The truth is, life is an accumulation of experiences. Some experiences will be happy and effortless, others will be sad and difficult. If we believe our life is supposed to be happy, then when a challenge appears we may feel upset more easily. We may ask ourselves, “Why is this happening to me?”
Happiness is cultivated in our minds.
If we believe we can only be happy under certain conditions, we are setting ourselves up for constant disappointment.
With a change in perspective, we can gain a stronger appreciation for every experience in our life. We can realize that even life difficulties can be opportunities, allowing us to learn, grow, and become better people.
Overtime, I learned to respond to challenging life events with less resistance, more curiosity, and a deeper sense of calm within me. Now, with an open-mind, I am able to stay present and accepting of whatever life brings me. I experience happiness by welcoming everything that comes into my life.
With a daily practice of mindfulness, we can experience happiness more often, and in the simplest of things.