If one goal has proven to be most pervasive in humankind, it is the pursuit of happiness. As a people, we overwhelmingly focus on joyfulness, not always just for ourselves, but also for others. While some use a means of materialism and others employ spirituality or frugality, the end which we seek is often the same: the sensation of being content, happy, and alive.
But ask anyone of experience, and they will tell you the desire is easier to manifest than the reality. We want happiness, but it is often difficult to attain, especially for extended periods of time. Nevertheless, there are practices one can employ to better encourage and facilitate joyfulness and the sensation of being happy. These practices involve tuning both body and mind, and listening to one’s self and responding in a positive, graceful way.
1. Eat Clean and Eat Honestly
Just as a comfortable, clean train eases the journey for the traveler across long distances, so does a comfortable, clean body for the soul. These vessels provide an environment for our consciousness, and the quality of that environment directly affects the quality of our consciousness.
Overly processed, fatty, and unhealthy foods directly contribute to an unhealthy state of mind. Not only do they often leave one feeling guilty, but they also harm the body, increasing risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other lifestyle diseases. They drain the body of energy, affect digestion, and can dampen mood.
It’s recommended one follow a whole food diet, where foods in their natural form are prioritized. Likewise, one should be attentive with the source and ethics behind their food. Vegetarianism offers a widely used, intensely researched and respected diet, that does not exclude all animal products (such as milk, cheeses, and eggs).
2. Align Yourself with You, and Practice Grace
One of biggest hurdles in reaching happiness is ourselves. Yes, you.
The mind is an interesting place. It can seek shelter and reprieve in itself, and it can also shame and torment itself, providing no exit. In some ways, we think this way because many purport that suffering, challenge, and hardship are necessary phenomenons to experience in order to reach happiness. In fact, many Western beliefs and archetypes place suffering as an essential step to enlightenment.
But this doesn’t need to be so. Suffering is simply the experience we allow ourselves to endure when we fail to craft accurate expectations of the world, and more so, fail to embrace incongruity between our expectations and reality.
To truly appreciate happiness, one must realize one major element of happiness: it is not a place, it is a direction. In the same way waves are a function of an ocean, you are a function of the universe, and it too operates in swells. There are none who are perpetually happy, forever freed from the devices of unhappiness. What the ‘enlightened’ realize is that they are already there, so to speak, and there is not magical place for which their consciousness is to exist. They exist in the now, regardless if it is subjectively good or bad. When confronted with rejection, failure or pain, they react in a positive way, marked by acceptance and understanding.
Is essence, they align themselves with reality of themselves that is presented, not expected. While one may work to influence their direction, they ultimately must accept the unchangeable reality that the universe presents one with.
3. Cross Borders (In Your Mind, Too)
A large portion of our unhappiness can be attributed to a unique phenomenon: cognitive dissonance. This occurs when one is faced with two contradictory beliefs, and can happen frequently when one is presented with unique customs and beliefs. For example, one may feel conflicted when finding truths in both monotheistic and polytheistic religions: how can both be true?
But this can come down to things as simple as heating system: the French, for example, when touring Germany in the 16th century, reacted in horror to the closed stoves heating homes in place of the traditional open hearth fireplaces. Philosophers like Montaigne thought exhaustively about this, reflecting on the merits of each heating system and the intellectual arrogance at play when judging heating systems that both offer unique benefits.
Keep in mind: we’re talking about fireplaces.
To many, the one practice to ease this phenomenon is to experience more of it – to travel, to try new customs, and to push the border and boundaries of the mind. One must constantly expose themselves to new things to increase their comfort with the unknown. Embrace the strange, learn from it, and respect that it may be a equally good, or even better way, than your being once presumed.
How Do You Embrace Joyfulness
Upon reflection, ask yourself what keeps you from happiness and what pushes you toward it. What stresses deprive your mind of stability, and why? Are they devices of the body, of the mind, or of the society? Next, reflect on your reactions to those things. How do you choose to go about these feelings of unhappiness? What methods do you employ to fight it, or simple ‘get over it’?
In this practice, remember to trust and listen to yourself and inner dialogue. Work to lean toward better practices, adjusting your mentality over time. Above all, practice sincerity in your pursuit of joy – only then can you truly find the direction.