What makes you feel happy?
People often think that 'things' can make them happy, new toys, new clothes etc. , and of course they do initially make you feel happy, for a while. but this kind of happiness is external, that means you need something outside yourself to feel happy and therefore without that thing you might not be happy.
The kind of happiness that we get from say being with good friends, playing sport or expressing ourselves in some way is different from the happiness that we get from 'things', in that it connects us to other people and to the world and so gives us a feeling of being part of something bigger than ourselves. This kind of happiness and benefits us in a deeper way and usually lasts longer. Also exercise or physical activity allows our body to produce Endorphins, these are the 'feel good' hormones that make us feel happy and relaxed after doing sport or moving around a lot.
Random acts of kindness
This means doing or saying something kind or helpful to someone when they are not expecting it and you have no need to do it, you don't have to, you just want to randomly make someone feel happy. So you might hold a door open for someone, or stand up on the bus to let an old lady sit down. Maybe tidying your room, telling someone when you think they are wearing a nice outfit, or that you admire something they have done.
The funny thing about doing a random act of kindness, is that it actually makes you feel as happy as the person that you have been kind to!
Doing something kind has been shown to release endorphins, just like doing exercise does. So you are actually being kind to yourself too, you feel good about yourself for being thoughtful and you feel happy to think of the person who's received your kindness feeling happy too. Happiness all round.
Stopping to think about all the lovely things in your life can make you happy too. I go into this in more detail in 'Attitude of gratitude'.
Happiness from within
If we can learn to react differently to situations then we might find that we can stay happy in situations in which we wouldn't normally expect to be happy. for instance if we always tell ourselves that we don't like something, we can start to get all stressed about it before it's even happened, whereas if we try to keep our minds open about things, and live in the moment more (not worrying about the past or the future too much).
Meditation can help us to develop this kind of attitude, because during meditation you notice thoughts and feelings you might have and some of these might be unpleasant, such as a headache or pins and needles in your foot (not real ones!). You might remember an argument you had with someone,or something hurtful someone said to you, you might equally think about a happy memory. What ever comes up for you just notice the thought, notice how it makes you feel and then let it go. If it's an notice how it makes you feel and then let it go. If it's an uncomfortable sensation in your body, just do the same thing, notice it, notice how that part of your body feels different to the rest (for example the fizziness of pins and needles) but don't judge it as good or bad,just notice, then go back to thinking about your breathing again.
And so, by doing a bit of meditation every now and then, we can learn to keep the strength inside us, as we remember that thoughts and feelings come and go. Thoughts are sometimes good, sometimes bad, underneath these feelings we can quietly watch, a little bit apart from them. Still feeling the sadness when it comes, the anger, maybe crying or getting cross, but then letting it go, freeing yourself from it.
Looking at things from a wider perspective
Sometimes when you can't seem to distance yourself from unwanted thoughts, it can be helpful to literally look at things from a wider, or bigger perspective. What I mean is, to get outside where there is space around you, going for a walk to the top of a hill and looking down at the view, or looking at the sea can feel very calming as it helps you to remember that you are just one tiny part of this big world and suddenly your problem can seem smaller, it gives you the space to feel as if you can stretch to the size of your surroundings (in your mind) and feel less separate and more connected with the world, not caught up in your own little mind space.
This can make you feel calm, more in control and happier.
If you don't get the chance to go to a big space much, just imagining it in your mind will probably give you a similar feeling.
Happiness comes from within
Just connect with that deep ocean of calm happiness underneath the rough stormy surface that life sometimes gives you. It is there inside you, always.
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