There’s been a lot of talk over Dan Harris’ book “10% Happier” – and often I am asked has meditation made me happier?
The answer to that is yes, it’s absolutely made me happier. I would estimate I’m at least 75% happier since I started meditating – maybe more; but not the way you expect.
I’m not happier in a giddy, excited – life is one great big party kind of way. And quite frankly I’m glad for that – that can get annoying after a while.
I’m happier because I worry A LOT less. I don’t get angry or frustrated as easily and I couldn’t even tell you the last time I felt anxious. In general I’m a lot calmer and content.
And that is why I’m so much happier. I let go of many of the ways that were stealing my happiness.
When the internet or my computer isn’t working I don’t have a melt-down.
If I get stuck in traffic I don’t start swearing at the universe’s conspiracy to make me late – I call the person I’m meeting to tell them I’ll be late and I relax.
I don’t take as much stuff personally – even a snide remark which used to throw me into a tail-spin, I now shrug off knowing it really had more to do with them than me.
Mostly I’m a lot more content than I used to be and contentment is THE greatest form of happiness.
When we think of happiness we tend to think of it as excitement, joy, bliss, delight, pleasure, love… But these are all temporary forms of happiness and also dependent upon conditions.
Jump off this 200 ft platform? I’m in!
I love the excitement and adrenaline rush that comes from jumping out of a perfectly good airplane or bungee jumping. It’s awesome! But it’s also dependent upon conditions; there must be something for me to jump off or out of. If I did it every day the rush of excitement would get a little bit less each time; and quite frankly I wouldn’t want to do it every day.
Not everyone is into that kind of happiness, but I think we could all get behind a great massage or a delicious 5-layer crème filled piece of chocolate cake -though even they have their limitations.
The greatest massage in the world will eventually turn from pleasure to displeasure – perhaps in the 3rd or 4th hour.
And while the first piece of chocolate cake is delightful – how about the 3rd of 4th piece? Still bringing you pleasure?
Every form of happiness is dependent on external conditions and is limited EXCEPT contentment.
Contentment is the Greatest Happiness
When you’re content you don’t want anything – you are perfectly happy the way things are. Whether you are stuck in traffic or enjoying a great massage; and that’s why it’s the best.
Most people are unhappy because they are rarely content. Their minds are always going – urging them on to the next thing.
The message is that happiness is outside of us, something to attain or conquer.
The next promotion, the next pay raise, the next house, the next holiday….. It’s always “the next one.”
When we get the promotion we are happy – no question – but happy in an overly excited kind of way right?
You can’t wait to tell someone – you just can’t keep it inside – it’s bubbling over. So you call your partner and tell them. Then a friend. Then your parents. Anyone who picks up the phone will hear about your good fortune; you MUST tell everyone or you’ll explode!
And it’s fun – it feels good.
But not as good as contentment – where you don’t “have to” call anyone or do anything.
Excitement, while fun, passes fairly quickly and is, of course, dependent on something exciting happening.
We also adapt very quickly to new environments – you’ll get used to the new title before the ink is dry on your new business cards. Then you’ll be wanting that next promotion.
The Happiness of “Not Wanting”
I was working with a client recently who was concerned with how much alcohol she was drinking. This was causing her some anxiety because she would think about it throughout the day, wanting to get to that time of day when she could have her glass of wine.
I asked her how she felt after her first sip of wine. Her reply was that she felt great – at that first sip she could finally relax.
I think we all know, no one gets buzzed off of one sip of wine. So why did she feel so good?
Because the wanting was gone.
Yes, I get that 10 minutes later she was getting buzzed and enjoying it – but the moment of greatest happiness was in that first sip; when she could finally let go of the wanting. The alcohol wasn’t changing her mood, she was.
The Future is Uncertain For All of Us
People spend their whole lives wanting their life to be at some magical, mythical place where everything is secure and structured and safe.
But that’s not how life is. It’s never really secure; no matter how hard you try.
No one knows the future – and that’s WHY we should be happy with where we are now.
Unfortunately this is often realized when it’s too late – when you’re lying on your death bed, that’s when it hits you. That you spent your whole life “wanting” for the next thing to make you happy when happiness was inside of you the whole time – you just had to let go of the wanting and be content with this moment.
This doesn’t mean we sit around like big blobs not caring what happens next or not having any goals or dreams – that’s indifference, laziness, apathy…
We still have goals and dreams and we take actions for them to happen; but our happiness is not dependent on them. Keep your eye on the prize, while enjoying the ride.
That brings me back to how has meditation made me happier? It’s taught me to live and trust this moment that I am living in now; and to know when I start wanting things to be different than how they are then unhappiness will undoubtedly follow. So I have learned to be content with where I am, wherever that is and that is the greatest happiness.