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Are You Happy? - by Dr. Charmaine Saunders


Are you happy?
This question is likely to bring either a defensive response like `Of course I am!í or a bemused reply of , `No, should I be?í

Dr Charmaine Saunders - from Perth Australia

Happiness is such a simple, natural concept and yet it seems so hard for the average person to attain. Most of us are really bad at being happy! Why on earth should this be so? Firstly, letís explode some myths and then we can look at some strategies for allowing happiness into our lives. Myths about happiness:

*Happiness is somewhere `out thereí and we have to find it
*Itís associated with goals, places, people, events
*I can GET happiness and MAKE others happy too
*Happiness is basically unattainable and certainly fleeting
*It has to be earned.
*Itís elusive and in the future somewhere
*You need a reason to be happy.

Sounds familiar? Letís take each one of these in turn. Happiness lives within us, never outside of us. Therefore, it cannot come from external sources. The joy we get from things outside is the cream on the cake, an extra bonus but it can never be the whole story. Relying on people, places and events to make us happy is the ultimate fantasy. It can only bring transitory pleasure and disappointment in the end.

There is no need to try to get happiness because it is your natural birthright. It exists ddep within you like a constant well-spring - infinite, always available, powerful. Imagine knowing that you can be happy at any time and forever, without having to do anything to earn it or make it happen.

As happiness is linked to the life-source energy, like sexuality, creativity, spirituality and joy, it rests in the individual and therefore, cannot be bestowed by one person on another. This is one of our greatest myths - that we can make each other happy. At best, it is a romantic illusion created by songs, literature and popular culture. At worst, it causes a great deal of societyís heartache as this mistaken idea is taken into marriage and other relationships where it can only be ground into dust by the heavy foot of disillusionment. The saddest part is that we donít need to suffer if only we are prepared to accept responsibility for our own happiness. It works both ways. If no-one has to make you happy, neither do you have to do it for others. Think how liberating that is! It isnít selfish or uncaring because as you feel your own happiness, youíll have more to share with others, anyway.

We learn at an early age to think that we have to make others happy in order to be allowed happiness ourselves. These are the seeds of co-dependence which are sown in childhood and unless we consciously resist, we will be doomed to keep trying to make this happen all through life. When it doesnít work, as it canít except in the most temporary way, we feel bitter, angry and resentful, hating ourselves and the people we fail to make happy. Because happiness is energy, it is the exchange of it that makes us feel good. Think about that moment that you and a friend get a joke and both burst out laughing; think of the spontaneity of a childís hug and the ready smile of a stranger that lights up your day. These are all reflections of our own happiness. Havenít you ever noticed how people tend to return your smile as you go around during the day and just as clearly, scowl at you if you have an angry look on your face.

The main reason we believe that happiness is unattainable is because weíre been told it is. Our society is based on fear and negativity with adages like `Life wasnít meant to be easyí readily accepted. In fact, I think life WAS meant to be easy and itís only our expectation of problems and struggle that blocks the natural flow of our days. When things are going well, we panic and start worrying, waiting for the axe to fall. It has a lot to do with deservability or should I say the lack of. We tend to get what we expect in life so be very careful of your thoughts - remember they create your reality.

Fear is your greatest enemy; itís crippling and destructive, stops all good things from happening, such as following your heart, pursuing your dreams, having loving relationships, enjoying life. Fear and happiness cannot exist together in the human heart. You literally have to choose. If I hear you saying that fear is normal and you canít help worrying, Iím here to tell you that itís simply not so. These are learned behaviours and thus, can be unlearned. Happiness is a choice. All you have to do is open yourself up to it and itíll be there.

I need to make the point that, of course, Iím not speaking of ecstatic elation every moment. Thatís the kind of joy that happens at special times and is wonderful but itíd be pretty exhausting to feel that on an ongoing basis. The type of happiness that is possible on a permanent level is the interior peace that means you feel good inside your own skin, that you have a positive relationship with yourself and youíre enjoying the journey we call life. It means you can relax, be yourself, not have to try so hard to please and impress.

Most people feel happiness is a goal to be reached somewhere in the future. Itís what I call `deferred happiness,í you know the kind of thing - `Iíll rest on the weekend,í Iíll travel when I retire,í `I havenít got time to play sport, Iím too busyí - and so on.

Each day is a unique experience and cannot be retrieved if you waste it. `Wastingí time having fun is fabulous, wasting time in regret, guilt and anxiety is expended energy you could better utilise elsewhere.

Have you noticed that if you just feel happy for its own sake, people think youíre strange. They say things like, `What do you have to be happy about?í or `Whatís brought on this cheerful mood?í The whole point of being happy on a continuous basis is that there is no particular reason - you feel the joy inside you and you naturally smile and shine, like walking near the ocean on a glorious summerís day and being grateful just to be alive. You can have that `blissí all the time, in the sun, in the rain, on good days and difficult, when life is going your way and when it appears everythingís against you. Itís feeling `okayí inside all the time. That is true freedom. And as you shine, those around you bask in the warmth of your joy.

Okay, weíve talked about all the things we donít want to do, things that block happiness.

How do we positively work with the happiness principle?

*Look for signs everywhere
*Make positive thinking a choice
*Relax and stop worrying
*Remember life is a daily adventure
*Connect with your inner child every day
*Play every day, not just on weekends and holidays
*Love yourself enough to allow happiness
In my work as a counsellor, I like to think of myself as a `joy merchant,í someone who sells the idea of joy. I hope youíre buying. Itíll change your life.

Iím going to finish this discussion with my favorite saying, `There is no way to happiness; happiness is the way.í

Dr. Charmaine Saunders is a therapist, columnist and 6-times published author in Western Australia. she writes regularly for various publications and is a university lecturer and sought-after speaker. 


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