Tag Archives: Happiness

The Habit of Smiling

Recently, I tried to get into the habit of smiling.

Why does that need to be made into a habit? Because more often than not, I realize that I wait for happiness or some form of pleasure to come before I smile.

We have been socially conditioned to think that people smile and laugh when they are happy. So we spend our whole lives waiting for something or someone to make us laugh and smile (Eg: “I will be happy once the holidays come”, “I will be happy when I find someone to settle down with”) It does not need to be that way. We have always heard about our happiness need not and should not depend on the external, and I think being able to smile without any external reason can reflect and affect our inner state.

I admit I was a little skeptical about this at first, not to mention self-conscious (and still am, lest people on campus start noticing me as the crazy girl who goes around smiling to herself). I started trying it out when I was doing yoga, in the privacy of my own space and time. Breathe in, breathe out, smile. Not the widest smile I could give, but a gentle half-smile, something that reflected and ignited a sense of peace and tranquility. I didn’t think of anything particularly happy. Just focused on the breath, and half-smiled. The facial muscles felt awkward at first – I could tell they were totally not used to this. They are used to reacting to emotions, and having them work this way without any emotional stimulation must have felt weird to them.

But gradually, as I persevered, I can feel much less of that initial awkwardness. It’s very liberating. I’ve also realized that this much is true: The brain does not differentiate between the smile we give when we are pleased, from the smile we give at a physical level. Because the brain has been conditioned to link the physical act of smiling to the emotion of pleasure, simply working our muscles into a smile can trick the brain into thinking that we are happy.

It’s definitely something worth trying, to make the world a better place. Have you smiled today?

How Do You Want To Be Remembered?

When Comrade asked me this question, I (sadly) found myself quite unprepared for an answer. I must have thought about this before, but I must have yet to come to a conclusion. After thinking for a while, I came up with something like “I would like to be remembered as someone who loves life and people unconditionally. Someone who can see the good in everyone and everything”, and left it there, saying that I’ll let her know if there’s any changes after more thought.

Well, I’ve thought about it further, and this is the change: I want to be remembered… as a Happy Person.

While I can see how that may come across as a self-centered goal, I would like to attempt to explain how  I’m not thinking along those lines. I was thinking about how I want to be remembered as someone who chose to be happy no matter what happens. Being happy no matter what happens would encompass being able to see the good in everything and everyone. Being happy no matter what happens means having mindful awareness and exercising the will to be positive at all times. Being happy no matter what happens means believing that everything, especially seemingly negative things, happen for a reason. Choosing to be happy also means activating an automatic mechanism to want to help others and be kind to others, even if they have not been kind to you, because you can’t be happy if others are suffering. Choosing to be happy means partaking in selflessness, because your heart naturally expands when you’re happy and you’d be able to accept others for who they are instead of trying to change them and faulting them for hurting you. Choosing to be happy means finding the passion in what you do, even if it isn’t your first choice in life, and inspiring others around you in whatever way you can, even if you would rather be doing something else (link to accepting that everything happens for a reason).

While the ideal situation would be to live a life in which every moment is a continuous stream of conscious, natural and overflowing happiness, we know that it isn’t easy to be so. Some days, being happy takes more effort than others. Some situations make it feel almost impossible to be happy. Some people’s words, actions and company make us wonder what did we ever do to them, that they would want to hurt us like that. Then there are things like the ego, selfishness and self-pity that get in the way. So what we have are more of Moments of Happiness – quite far from a Life of Happiness.

But if I could expand my Moments, such that they increasingly form the bulk of my life, and let this determination to choose happiness be the underlying force in my choice of thoughts, actions and words, I might very well end up being remembered as a Happy Person.

And this life would not have been lived in vain after all 🙂

The Smile Book

A book I used to keep.

In it, I’d record happenings, conversations,  events which brought me some moments of happiness and/or pleasure. I wanted to write them down so that I’d remember them, so that I’d be able to derive some joy from the experienced.

However. Over time, as the records of happy occurrences increased, instead of having the desired effect, the book tended to make me… more despondent, because instead of focusing on the happiness they brought me, I’d think: These experiences are past, and they will probably never happen again. The recording of these events, if anything, only heightened my nostalgia for conversations and people which might never take place or appear in my life again. Needless to say, happiness would not come near such thoughts.

Today, as another happy conversation unfolded, I wanted to record it down somewhere – but I had disposed of this book some time ago.  Fortunately, I had thought to take a picture before doing so. That got me thinking and reflecting on the purpose of my writing down things in the first place… Perhaps what I need to change is not the act of writing itself, but my attitude and mindset as I look back on them.

Instead of feeling despondent that these happenings are over and past, I should feel blessed that I had the chance to encounter them in my life. A kind word, a pleasing exchange, an act of kindness – these are things which mean a lot to me, and noting them down should serve as a reminder that I have been fortunate enough to experience them, that there is still human warmth to be sought in this world, and not all hope is lost.

So… Maybe I should start a second book 🙂

The Art of Happiness – How To

“Generally speaking, one begins by identifying those factors which lead to happiness, and those factors which lead to suffering. Having done this, one gradually eliminates those factors which lead to suffering and cultivates those which lead to happiness.”

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

Let’s see… Factors which lead to suffering? The Ego. Desires. Fear.

Factors which lead to happiness: Compassion. Love. Selflessness.

Now that we’ve identified them, the actual elimination and cultivation can begin.

And this is the story of Life.

The Art of Happiness – How We See Others

“Seeing others as basically compassionate instead of hostile and selfish helps us relax, trust and live at ease. It makes us happier.”

Reading this, my thoughts came to some people, and even students, whom I have found myself disliking at work.

I tried to come from the viewpoint of – we are all victims of the system. No one wants to be in such a system, yet it is where we all are. None of us started it, yet we are all in it. No one wants to be judged, yet we are all forced to pass judgement, formal or otherwise, on each other. Isn’t that enough to make one feel a stronger sense of compassion for everyone?

And if I could learn to see that others may not always mean what they say, and look at their intentions instead of their words at face value – I might start to realise that behind every seemingly harsh word and action, is also a being who yearns to be accepted, to be told that they are doing their job well, to be loved and to be understood. Isn’t that enough to generate a sense of compassion towards even those who appear mean and rude?

And if we could learn to see everyone in a better light, it would make us less troubled by them, their words and actions. It would, ultimately, make us happier, because we would really feel that the people around us are not hostile and selfish. We would then try to be nice and caring towards them, and they in turn would become more nice and caring towards us. It’s a positive cycle.

This is if we lived in an ideal world, of course. If we were all saints, we would be able to do so with the snap of a finger, and I would not be sitting here, typing thoughts like these out.

Till that time comes, I guess I’ll have to be content with trying. And trying. And trying 🙂

The Art of Happiness – Pleasure and Happiness

Instead of denying ourselves certain pleasures by saying “NO”, making ourselves feel that we are denying life, or pushing away good things, ask ourselves: Will this bring happiness?
Most likely, if it is a materialistic pursuit, such as getting  new car, a new laptop when we don’t need one,etc…  The answer will be no, and that will give us better ground on which not to pursue it, hence streamlining our desires, in turn leading to true happiness instead of momentary pleasures.