So what is happiness? You don’t need to look too far to find shiny images of happiness plastered all over billboards, on the cover of magazines and even on the side of your local bus. Happiness sells and advertising agencies know this. Why do you think  happiness sells? Could it be because many of us are searching for it, would like to buy it or need more of it?

We appear to becoming more of a society that looks for happiness outside of ourselves either through life events, situations, other people, material objects or comparing our current life to a fantasy we’ve made up in our minds (or seen on T.V or in advertising) of how our lives “should be”.

This illusive search for happiness or some peoples version of happiness can be so unrealistic it’s often the root cause of their suffering. When we get that thing, the bigger boobs, that person, that body, the money we think will make us FINALLY happy, we realise that it didn’t bring the feeling we imagined we’d have and so then we’re on to the next thing as quick as we can say “oh crap I thought I would FINALLY be happy when that happened”.

So what is happiness?

Happiness is an emotion. Emotion being “energy in motion”. Anything “in motion” is not constant, so why are so many people expecting to “BE” happy as if they were going feel like this all of the time? I’ll share it with you here.  You see many people associate happiness with pleasure, life’s ups, elated states, the good things, that feeling when we get when the brain releases a rush of opiate like biochemical neurotransmitters & hormones such as dopamine, endorphins, serotonin and oxytocin. You gotta love those juicy brain chemicals.

We like the feeling it gives us compared to more unpleasant emotions and feelings. The illusionary  thinking that one can “always feel pleasant or happy can start a vicious cycle of seeking to gain it and then feeling let down, seeking to gain it again then feeling  let down, seeking to gain it again then feeling let down once again. The cycle of seeking and attainment continues.

With some people this can create addictive behavior such as ; addictions to fantasies, addictions to food (chocolate,sweets etc), alcohol, drugs, sex, winning, alcohol, making money etc. The feelings you get from engaging in these behaviors are short lived, a simple moment in time and will only ever last a moment, it’s not an ALL the time feeling and even sometimes over time the addiction can develop further, as it can take more of the alcohol, chocolate or addictive behavior of choice to give that “high” due to our bodies adaptation of it .

To expect to “BE HAPPY” all of the time is a fantasy a delusion, a concept sold to you by Coca-Cola, Toyota, weight loss companies or any other company, person or religion selling you the promise of happiness.

There is a better way than seeking happiness…..

The outside world will ebb and flow, like the tide, oscillating through life’s pains and pleasures, ups and downs, challenges and triumphs. You see life has both sides, ups and downs. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you’ve done, what you haven’t done, how much money you do or don’t earn, what body weight you are, who your partner is, whether you’ve had kids or not, whether you’re a good person or a bad person or whether you’ve just won the lottery, you ARE going to endure both sides of the coin.

Life will be hard at times and easy at times, you will feel happy at times and sad at times, you will fail and you will succeed, you will endure all. Your emotional nature will change from day to day, hour to hour and even sometimes minute to minute. Our emotions give us character like the translucent colours of a rainbow.

It’s when our emotions swing rapidly between the highs of highs and the lows of lows they become volatile. This happens when you seek the highs to gain that feeling of “happiness”. You can only identify with that feeling by the depth of the low you feel afterwards.

An example of this maybe an elite athlete who has retired from their sport. Whilst they were competing they were “up” there with the best of them, a winner, put on a pedestal by society. When they retire they seek this elated state but cannot seem to find it in every day life. They either become depressed or turn to drugs to be able to experience that high, that elated feeling again, only to come down again afterwards.

They key is to moderate these extremes. When we have true fulfillment we embrace and include equally both sides of life’s coin; happiness and sadness.

My favorite teacher in Human Behavior Dr John Demartini says: ” Happiness, like comedy, is a transient superficial mask that we wear when we ignore the downsides of an inherently balanced event. Sadness, like tragedy, is the transient, superficial, complementary opposite mask that we wear when we ignore the upsides of an event. Our intuition is constantly trying to reveal to our conscious mind the part we are ignoring with our biased perceptions and expectations and to help bring our minds back into a balanced awareness. When we are sad our intuition is trying to reveal the upsides. When we are happy our intuition is trying to reveal the downsides. When we are balanced and centered our intuition transforms into inspiration”.

Much of Dr John Demartini’s work reminds me of when I was studying the ancient philosophies of the Tao Te Ching.  This is where I learned that there are no “Good” or “Bad” emotions.  We put labels on things according to our own perception of things. There’s upsides to the downsides and downsides to the upsides. Our emotions become extreme when our perception of the gap between our comparison of two things (positive and negative) become ever more extreme. This is why it is wise to moderate these extremes

So what to do..

.The next time you see an advertisement on T.V selling you happiness either through a new car, house, holiday, object or weight loss program ask “yourself what would be the down side to buying that thing or acquiring that lifestyle”.? I’m not suggesting not to buy it, I’m simply saying that it’s not all going to be roses and lolly pops.

I bought a new car recently, and whilst it is beautiful to drive and has that new car smell,  there are certainly down sides too, which I balanced in my mind when the salesman was trying to up-sell everything to us.  My old car had a bigger boot, I could’ve done other things I like more with the money I spent on the new car, I am worried about dings and scratches and my old car had so many I didn’t give two hoots if it got more, the list honestly goes on.

I’ve worked with many people over the years and these are some example of how they balanced their perceptions and maintained a state of loving fulfillment in their lives rather than jumping on the exhausting round-a-bout of seeking happiness/pleasure and being let down when the shiny feeling wore off and going on to the next thing that was going to be the answer: eg “Buying our dream home: Upside; Extra space, new kitchen, kids have a bedroom each etc Downside: Larger mortgage, have to work longer hours, less time with the kids, the cleaning never seems to get done as it’s so big etc”

Starting my own Business: Upside; More money, freedom to do what I like, Downside; extra stress, can never seem to leave work at work so it impedes on my personal time which is nearly non-existent, phone calls on the weekends”

So what is happiness? It’s an emotion. A feeling that is momentary.

What is happiness not? A destination where you will reach nirvana, an ALL the time feeling, a goal to strive for in the future when you have all the things you’d like to buy, get married (or divorced) or have children. NO ONE is HAPPY ALL of the time

When you feel happy remember…

“This too shall pass”

In the past how have you defined happiness? Have you been searching in all of the wrong places? or Not?

Some simple terminology I use when chatting with people about their lives is;  instead of asking  “Are you happy” , I ask “Do you feel that your life is fulfilling you?”

Living a fulfilling life to me is feeling we are living life with purpose, encompasses both sides of life (positive and negative), and serving others or enjoying the gifts we were uniquely born with either through our work, business, friends or family.

Enjoy your life and the happy times, but remember the sadness serves us too.

With love Larissa

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