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Last updated December, 2017.
Happiness is elusive. Or, it might be more accurate to say, consistent happiness is elusive.
We stumble on it now and again, but life is a series of peaks and valleys and happiness never seems to last long enough. Maybe we're looking to the wrong things for happiness?
Most of us tend to think that changes to external factors will bring us internal happiness (and peace, and contentment). Getting a new job, a new partner, a new "toy" or gadget. Or, moving to a new location. That's what will finally make us happy!
This thinking is reflected in the old adage represented above:
"The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence."
But, when you reach the other side of the fence, the grass seems to be greener somewhere else. Perhaps even back on the side you originally came from!
By searching for happiness out there - getting a new job, moving to a new location, buying a new car, getting the latest smartphone, finding a new boyfriend/girlfriend - you may find momentary satisfaction, but it never lasts:
And, when that satisfaction disappears, you go back to searching for the "next thing" to make you happy. It's an endless cycle. But, if your happiness depends on something external happening, you will never achieve it.
That bears repeating:
If your happiness depends on something external happening, you will never achieve it.
Because there will always be something else external that needs to happen; it's a trap of the mind!
Your happiness gets lost in "If only...":
But, objects and external events do not produce happiness, they merely trigger it.
By strengthening awareness through mindfulness and meditation, you learn that your mind sends you on an endless quest of "If only" scenarios. It promises you that lasting happiness is somewhere just over the horizon, when you achieve this or acquire that.
Awareness will also teach you that the trigger for happiness is something you can control internally. And, once you realize this, the "seeking trap" dies. Your happiness is no longer dependent on something from a shelf in a store (or something you order online), or the approval of another person.
To the contrary, true happiness is cultivated from within ourselves, in the present moment.
This understanding brings another positive side effect: when external things don't go the way you want, they no longer have the same effect on your internal happiness.
Consider the ocean. The surface may be in turmoil due to storms and rough waves. But, deep down below the surface, it's calm and serene. As you strengthen awareness, the same applies to you - the turmoil on the surface (external factors) does not affect the conditions deep down (internal happiness).
Your happiness starts right here and right now. Stop putting other things between you and it.
Awareness-based therapy (ABT)
Do you struggle with thoughts and emotions? Our online, self-paced program can help. It teaches you how your mind works, and provides a path to move beyond "coping" to achieving and maintaining a more consistent state of well-being.
Find out more about the ABT program here.
Our free guide to mindfulness and meditation.
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