For me, happiness is one of the most mysterious yet over-hyped word in this universe. Everybody talks about happiness. It’s everywhere: in music, in movies, in art or in spiritual techniques. Some of us are taking it for granted, some of us are making a job from talking about it, and some of us are making a living keeping the world as far as possible from it… It’s so present that we’ve almost forgot about it. But this constant presence hides the most wanted mystery of our existence: what is in fact, happiness?
Relax and don’t run away: I’m not going to explain you what happiness is. I truly and honestly don’t know how to explain this or even how to get closer to it. But what I can do is to share some of my ideas, experiences and insights about this process that you may find useful. Or ridiculous, maybe :-). Either way, it could worth a reading.
The first major obstacle in front of experiencing happiness is in fact its own celebrity as a word. Everybody seems to know, as I already told you, everything about happiness. A simple google search for the word “happiness” reveals more than 70.000.000 millions of entries. Seventy millions! Googling is not an option for this, let’s be fair…
So, one possible way to get close to this is to turn away from the word and get back to yourself. Get some space from the official definition and in turn start to analyze yourself. Try to ask simple questions, like “what could make me happy right now?”. Or “how can I define happiness in this exact moment?”. Keeping track of those situations is a great exercise. Not only it would strengthen your discipline, but it will reveal, in 99% of the cases, a definition of the happiness that you never dreamed of.
Because my guess is that happiness is a different thing for each person. And even for every moment of each person’s life. RIght now a glass of water would make you happy, but ten minutes after you would rather go for a salary raise. A family, a house and a career would also be great, but tomorrow you’ll want to climb Everest. Being a priest would truly fulfill you, but then traveling the world would seem even more interesting.Â
The main idea is that happiness, or the definition of it, is more of a personal choice than a general concept. It’s what you think it’s happiness.
But even after exercising this question and answer long enough, and circumventing your own definition of happiness, you will notice that it is not all the time as consistent as it might be. It’s like a fluctuant radio wave: sometime it’s with a higher amplitude, and sometime with a lower one, even if most of the time it has the right frequency for you. There are moments, contexts, situations in which you are more likely to receive that radio wave, and situations in which the transmission is weakened. And with that conclusion we are getting to the theme of this article: training for receiving that radio wave.
Once you glimpsed at your own definition of happiness you will be tempted to make it as constant as you can. Once happy, you’ll always want to be happy, of course. But as surprising as it might be, you’ll realize that this is almost impossible. You can’t keep yourself in this state all the time. And once out of it, you won’t be able to find it again easily. It’s like is out of your control.
And, most of the time, it is. Because you are not trained for this. You are not prepared to be happy. You are not raised to be happy. You are in fact, raised to always talk or think or listen about happiness, but not to experience it. You don’t have the “happiness organ” developed enough. You don’t have the “happiness receptors” in place for it. It’s like trying to listen a concert from 100 miles, or to see the details of a photo from 100 meters. Your infrastructure is not solid enough.
So what could you do, in this case? Yeap, you guessed: training for happiness is the answer! Prepare for feeling it for longer periods of time, with higher intensities and with deeper sensations. Educate yourself for being happy. The sport analogy is very powerful here: if an athlete could train for the Olympics, and win the first place, why one couldn’t train for being happy and then keep it there for as long as he wants?
Start by analyzing your surroundings more carefully. See what specific context makes you happy, and then start making those contexts manifests more often in your life. It’s your job that makes you happy? Then keep doing your work! It’s family? Then let go the useless time you spend in other contexts and start spending more time with the family. What is around you is always an expression of yourself, so having a greater control of this, will make you in turn more in control.
Then make notes about it. Write it down. Put it in words. Keep a journal. Witnessing your own life is a perfect way to spot your weakness and greatness. But be completely honest. If you read the journal after several weeks or years, it will still “smell” you, not a different person. Write every idea you think it would make you happy. Any situation or context. Write it down, but don’t start by defining it by contrast with your unhappy situations. Just write about your own happiness as it would be your high-school homework for today. As in school, you will start to learn how to be happy. But you’ll learn from your own home-works, your own sentences…
And allow yourself to be wrong. Yes, that surprised you, I saw it. But mistakes are only lessons to be learned. If you do the same mistake over and over again, you are repeating a lesson until you learn it. The social conditioning made us very afraid of mistakes. The competition at work and the never-ending race for being “more then the others” have raised the standards to a ridiculous stake. Mistakes are more and more perceived like undoable actions that will mark your life forever. It’s not like this. Mistakes are most of the time the only way to go through an evolutionary process. As long as you treat them as lessons to be learned, not as frightening situations that could actually hurt you.
So, if you truly define your goals – in this case, your definition of happiness – if you start developing the “receptors” for that, and if you scan your surroundings, analyze your actions and allow yourself to make useful mistakes, you will be soon in a much better position to experience happiness. And doing this over and over again will also make you, as a performance athlete, more and more aware of your “happiness strength” and “your shortest paths” to the desired outcome. You will be learning what to do, in what context and for how many times, like a professional athlete, to put you in shape for happiness.
And once you learned how to do it, keep doing this. Being happy is not a situation, is a continuous process.
Running For My Life - from zero to ultramarathoner
The spooky thing about depression is that it sneaks in. There aren’t really trumpets and loud voices announcing: “Hail, hail, this is depression entering the room, all rise!” Nope. It’s slow, silent, creepy. It doesn’t even look like depression. It starts with small isolation thoughts like: “Maybe I shouldn’t get out today, I just don’t feel like going out”. And then it does the same next day. And then the day after that and so on. And then it starts to whisper louder and louder in your ears: “Why would you go outside, you loser? Didn’t have enough yet? Want more people to make fun of how much of a big, fat loser you are?”
And then you start to breath in guilt and shame, instead of air. Every breathe you take is putting more dark thoughts into your body.
Until you get stuck. You can’t move anymore. At all.
If you want to know how I got out of this space, eventually, check out my latest book on Amazon and Kindle.