The Pursuit of Happiness?

I went to Mantra Lounge here in Philadelphia last month to hear Devamrita Swami, a traveling monk, speak about happiness. I had absolutely no idea what to expect and was pleasantly surprised with how his ideas stuck with me after the event.

After meditation, he discussed the ambiguous nature of happiness. As it’s written in the Constitution, happiness is always a pursuit. When I get this job, when I meet that guy/girl, when my children are settled…on and on we go. We look to materials, places, people to complete us, to put a bandaid on a bullet hole.

Before we peel back some of these layers with a few questions, I want to define happiness. I don’t mean slap happy, jumping for joy, euphoria (though that’s fabulous). I’m talking about being at peace with your life. Now for the questions:

  1. When was the last time you were genuinely happy?
  2. What were you doing?
  3. Who were you with?
  4. Where were you?

Now strip all of tha away. Would you still be happy? For sure, there are things that make me happy. Happy hours with my besties, pedicures, Grey’s Anatomy and peanut butter enhance my mood and certainly I enjoy all of those things. However, if I stop, slow down and look at my life, am I pleased with what I see without those things? Yes, for the most part, I am.

It’s a bit of a tricky concept to articulate. No one is saying stop setting goals or going on trips. Well, the traveling monk might say that however, I’m not. Go for the promotion, dance to the music, kiss the boy (or girl). And don’t let those experiences define your mindset.

If you’re struggling with the ‘I’ll be happy when’ syndrome, here are ideas to try. It’s an art, not a science, each day will be different and present its own challenges.

How does the idea the pursuit of happiness mess us up?!
  • Start with gratitude. ALL of us walk around taking the little things for granted. You slept in the bed last night, right? Ate decent food? Are walking, talking, reading this on your own? Start there. On your worst day, there is someone who has it worse.
  • Notice the world around you. Go outside without headphones and listen to the sounds of nature. Get present in your body by focusing on your breath. Scan from top to bottom, intentionally focusing and showing love for each body part. They’re all part of the system that keeps you running each day. How miraculous is that?
  • Pay attention to how you’re talking to yourself about your life. How do you show yourself grace? How do you shake off a bad day? What does your gut say about the situation? There are little clues hidden in these places. Self-care is extremely important here too.
  • Practice non-attachment, the hardest part of it all. This goes back to gratitude. If that thing you really wanted doesn’t happen, what did happen? What is the universe trying to show or tell you? Remember, when you show up to the universe with openness, the universe will respond back

I’d love to hear more about your relationship with happiness, what challenges you’re facing and your reactions to this post. The good news is there’s no right answer!

During the month of May, I’ll be sharing a series of posts about mental health. Please shoot me an email (acrispino25@gmail.com) if there’s something specific you’d like to see posted.

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