Mondays with Meg: The Habits of Happiness

 After quite the hiatus, I’m back! Sorry I’ve been away for a few weeks. I recently started graduate school and the adjustment has been…interesting to say the least! I’m still getting used to the swing of things here at Syracuse University–the classes, balancing homework and my job, and still trying to find time to do the dishes and shop for groceries. It’s a lot to take on, as many of you know, but I’m trying to find time for me as well. That’s something I never did for myself as an undergrad, and I’m trying to make myself a priority this year.

 I’ve been watching some TED Talks lately (which are phenomenal–you can find a talk on almost any subject), and came across one titled “The Habits of Happiness” by Matthieu Ricard. I have always been interested in happiness–how people perceive it and achieve it. Is happiness more than a fleeting moment of joy? Sometimes it feels that way. What does it truly mean to be happy? Is it success? Wealth? Is it anything that brings a smile to your face? I think people have lost the true meaning of happiness. Our materialistic culture has taught us to search for “things” to make us happy: money, big fancy houses, shiny cars, the “perfect” career. We also look to other people to make us happy: our families, friends and significant others. And while these things and people can bring joy into our lives, they are not ultimately what makes us happy. We are in control of our own happiness.

Ricard, a biochemist turned Buddhist monk, thinks of happiness more as a state of being than an emotion. He defines happiness/well-being as “a deep sense of serenity and fulfillment, a state that actually pervades and underlies all emotional states.” I love this definition, because happiness should be more than a fleeting emotion. We should strive to have this sense of well-being, through times of sorrow and joy.

Our minds are often clouded with worry and doubt, causing us to take our focus off of the most important thing: ourselves. “Our control of the outer world is limited, temporary, and often, illusory,” says Ricard. We can only control our actions and reactions. We cannot change the behaviors of others or the outcome of events that are not within our reach. For control freaks like me, this is especially difficult to do. I obsess over things in and out of my control, spending more time worrying than actually being proactive. It comes down to perfection. We want things to be so perfect that we spend most of our times worrying about perfect outcomes than executing our tasks. Sometimes, done is better than perfect.

Back to happiness. Ricard mentions in his talk that we can change the way we think and perceive the world around us through meditation. Through meditation, we can find the serenity, inner freedom and inner strength necessary to lead a happy life. Most importantly, happiness results from taking care of yourself. “We spend surprisingly little time taking care of what matters most–the way our mind functions–which again is the ultimate thing that determines the quality of our experience,” Ricard says.

What is happiness to you? How do you promote well-being in your life? Share with me below :)

-Meg

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