Flowers, chirping birds and blue skies…these are things that make us happy, right? Now spring has arrived we have all this in abundance, but is everyone happy?
While flowers may cause you great happiness when you look at them, flowers do not care about giving you happiness. In fact, nothing in nature cares about your happiness. It’s not supposed to. It just goes on being itself whether we like it or not. Some may say that is very selfish of a flower to not care about your happiness. In reality, nature doesn’t need to care in order for you to be happy, and nature doesn’t need you to be happy either. If nature needs anything it needs you to stay out of its way.
Yesterday in my yard I discovered a bird’s nest with an egg in it. When I looked around I noticed two birds perched on the fence across the street. Watching me VERY closely. I stepped forward to get a better look at the nest and it only took two seconds for me to feel flapping wings around my head. Those birds did NOT want me to get any closer to their egg! Yet, it still made me so happy to see that perfect egg, a sign of new life in my tree in the front yard. When my sons saw it, they thought the Easter bunny had come late. We all laughed and had joy. But the egg didn’t care. It just sat there being perfect.
Only one thing can make you happy, you. If you don’t believe me, just think about the best thing and the worst thing that happened today. Now ask why was the worst thing the worst and why was the best thing the best? It’s because you decided it was so. If someone presents you with flowers, you make a decision to enjoy them and allow yourself pleasure. You may also decide NOT to enjoy the flowers and NOT allow yourself pleasure. It seems like an easy decision to make to be pleased by flowers, but you may have a very good reason for choosing NOT to do it.
If it’s up to you to choose, you can be happy about anything. Take for example a dead lizard or a handful of dirt. Yesterday my gardener presented me with both these things and it made me very happy. I was ready for it…my happiness spigot was in the ‘on’ position. There have been days when the happiness spigot was in ‘off’. But yesterday, I chose ‘on’. I prefer this way of being, even though the full spectrum of feelings is just fine. I want to learn all I can about turning my happiness spigot ‘on’ independent of what the birds, sky, flowers or anyone else does.
“Flip the switch!” my mentor in business and coaching used to say if someone had a bad mood or drama. With his prompt I usually was able to flip it. But when he isn’t around I have to flip my own switch. I am just learning, but if you’re curious how to do this, I can break down into three steps what I have learned.
If you are like me and love games you should already be starting to feel a little bit happy. One, two, three steps and then bingo! …A result! That is a game. I enjoy small games, but bigger ones make me even happier. In the absence of a game, sometimes my spigot gets stuck in the ‘off’ position.
So here are the steps to get to ‘on’.
1.) Attend to your immediate environment. Get in a place that is more pleasurable. For example, go outside in nature, look at something beautiful, or get in the water. All three of these things have the power to set off pleasure receptors in the brain by attuning the brain to the present moment. In ‘Go Wild’,
Dr. John Ratey espouses the value of replicating life as a hunter/gatherer. Having a heightened awareness about the present moment releases dopamine in the brain and results in pleasure.
“Our pleasure circuits are attuned to awareness and the unexpected. A state of peace is not the absence of challenge…if anything it is the focusing of alertness in preparation…an exacting state of mind.”
2.) Set down heavy baggage. If there is a thought floating in my head that has to do with the past or the future and it makes my heart sag with grief or constrict with fear, that is a thought that is heavy. In order for the thought to take up less cargo space, it must be set down! If visualization helps you, then you can imagine a big bulky suitcase sliding down the chute (like in the airport) in your mind and watch it getting a nice kick from an airport attendant that sends it flying right out the doorway of your ear! It lands in the back of a garbage truck that happens to be driving by.
3.) Make a heart connection. Certain people in my life have the ability to help me get in touch with my heart no matter what the circumstances. Thich Nhat Hanh says, “’understanding’ is love’s other name.”
You surely have people like that in your life. These are people who positively impact conditions for you to be happy. They don’t make you happy or even give you happiness, but they have the ability to make it easy for you to choose happiness. When you find these people stay in touch with them! Ask to do projects with them, move in with them, or marry them (or all of the above!)
Just don’t expect them to make you happy, because they won’t. Only you can. They will just go on being themselves, like a perfect egg, sitting in a nest.
“When we feed and support our own happiness, we are nourishing our ability to love. That’s why to love means to learn the art of nourishing our happiness.” Thich Nhat Hanh