What does the word happiness mean to you? Though we all want the same thing, happiness, love, to live a meaningful life, to rise to our potential, there is no set formula – the path is different for each one of us. But one thing is sure: happiness is at the core. Our natural state is one of joy; we are here to feel alive. When we vibrate from a place of joy, we are attuned to who we really are. This allows life to open up to us, and allows us to meet that energy in ways we might not have previously imagined.
I have come to see happiness as an umbrella that covers so many aspects of living life fully: it embraces joy, gratitude, compassion, connection, physical wellness, mental fitness, generosity, purpose and even grace. It operates on every level: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. But what I love most about it, is that it strengthens the inner resources that allow us to handle the full range of life…including the tough stuff. Happiness does not mean that our problems magically disappear – it means that we are more able to deal with them. I want more of that in my life and I want it in yours – that is why I started Project Happiness, and really that is why I’m writing this book.
We are all on a journey. Think of your body as a ship, a vessel that allows you to go wherever you choose to, as far the eye can see. On this journey, you will have untold adventures, that allow you to learn more about not only the places you travel to, but also about yourself, the capacities you know about, and those that are getting ready to emerge. Storms may come up, and if you are not taking care of your boat, it could spring a leak, take on too much water and if things get too critical, get so heavy it could even sink. In the same way, the body itself has to be taken care of. The sea of negativity, if it fills up your boat, could become a threat to your body and mind.
"Ships don't sink because of the water around them; ships sink because of the water that gets in them. Don't let what's happening around you get inside you and weigh you down." – Unknown
Just like a captain has daily protocols to keep her/his vessel ship-shape, you can develop habits that will keep you afloat no matter if the seas are stormy or calm. You can also use these habits to intentionally check in with your vessel and plug up any leaks before they get dangerously large. You can learn to navigate the waves.
In this chapter, we’ll look at the different type of happiness. We’ll see what positive psychology tells us about happiness and wellbeing and how to change our brains to bring forward the best within ourselves. We’ll explore the 7 Happiness Habits and simple practices to expand happiness in day-to-day life. Then we’ll see how it is possible to thrive, even after trauma. Happiness is a journey, one of the most important ones we can ever take – let’s get started!
What is Happiness, Anyway?
First of all, having all the toys in the store, all the shoes in your closet, all the friends at the party does not determine your happiness. For happiness to last it cannot, does not and will not come from outside sources. Well, maybe temporarily, but soon enough the thrill is gone. Happiness is, as the saying goes, an inside job. External validation does not last. Only we can really make ourselves happy.
Does that put you off; does it all seem like too much work? Actually, it involves no work at all – just a shift in perspective. We are all born to be happy – it is our true nature just as it is our birthright. That’s right. You, like everyone, deserve happiness and you can have it.
What we don’t always realize is that so much of happiness depends not on what happens to you, but on how you interpret life’s events. How you hold them. The story you tell yourself. If you have been a victim in your story, you can find out how to reframe it to underline what you have learned in the last phases, what you are doing now, and what you plan to do in the chapters to come.
We have more influence than we may know. Our thoughts and the beliefs they produce are like boomerangs – what we send out comes back to us. Have you noticed that when we release thoughts out into the world, the results of those thoughts often show up in our lives? When you have a bad day and send out angry thoughts, you usually get some angry responses in return. If you send out thoughts that life is pretty good, chances are that you are seeing evidence of that too. But let’s be clear. This is not about lying to yourself – it’s about what you are choosing to bring to the forefront of your mind.
The good news is that we can train ourselves to activate what we want, just by giving our attention to it. What we focus on grows, so imagine purposely focusing on feeling good - that we have everything we need inside of us – that we are supported – that we are already loved, and that there is so much to be grateful for. We can reframe the challenging stuff (For example, I sprained my ankle. Reframe: if I hadn’t sprained my ankle, I would not have paused long enough to see that I was ready to change jobs, friends, cities – you get the idea.) When you choose to focus on all the good things here and on all the unknown gifts to come, you position your mind and your vibration to welcome them in.
By intentionally focusing on what you want (not what you have settled for, not what you feel stuck in right now) you create a strong intention to bring that into your life. By practicing visualizing and even happily feeling it happen, similar to what athletes do when preparing for a game, you light the fire to move forward in that direction.
More excerpts from Emotional Advantage:
Randy Taran is the Founder and CEO of the global organization, Project Happiness. With a loyal following of 2.5 million people, she has been covered in O magazine, NPR, and The Huffington Post. As the producer of an award-winning documentary on the nature of happiness, she facilitated interviews with George Lucas, Richard Gere, and neuroscientist Richard Davidson. Her best-selling book on happiness became the basis for curriculum in over 120 countries worldwide. She has worked with First Ladies, Ministers of Education, and major thought leaders, for nearly a decade has served as a board member of the Dalai Lama Foundation and is on the board of the United Nations-sanctioned International Day of Happiness. Randy, a master in NLP, is a sought-after international speaker on the topics of happiness habits, preventative wellness, and emotional resilience.