A few months ago, in response to a conversation centered on happiness, a dear friend remarked that he saw me as a happy person.
He added that I consciously worked toward maintaining my equilibrium when I was far from happy.
I did not ask him how he arrived at that conclusion. I was just pleasantly surprised by his astute observation and uncharacteristic compliment.
This article is my attempt to elucidate my journey. It is also my way of paying it forward for all that I have – be it “My Circle of Life”, or the Grace of the Universe. Together, they conspire to help me stay happy.
My approach to happiness: The Inside-out strategy
My tree of happiness grows on the Inside-out strategy. Its roots lie in the principle that wellness originates within. If my inner space is at peace, it will reflect in my relationships, my life, and my world.
To me, happiness is a personal, intrinsic journey that evolves and strengthens over time, if you nurture it. I am hopeful that some of my experiences will encourage you to introspect, and then practice what “sticks to your being”.
The following serve as my key mantras for happiness. I have been practicing some of these for years without even realizing their power. There are others that are newer additions to the portfolio, ones I am consciously training my mind to both accept and practice.
I cannot emphasize this belief enough: Negativity is an abyss. The darker the space you find yourself in, the faster you need to crawl out. The mind is so powerful that if channeled toward negative thoughts, it is frightening how it can churn negativity at a toxic, scorching pace.
The very same mind, if trained to think positively, can become your best friend.
Some of us may be more inclined to think negatively, but that simply means we need to work on ourselves just a little harder.
Mantra 2: Keep the faith
This is by far my most powerful tool. Last year, after an unusually long period of hopelessness on the death of a loved one, I would never have felt whole again had it not been for my faith. Things do happen for a reason. We do have the power to shape our thoughts and our lives.
I believe there is more good than bad in the Universe. Faith is the umbilical cord that binds me to my mantras, and fuels my happiness.
Mantra 3: Rein in your mind
They provided no value-addition to my life: their roots lay in the past or in the future (not to be mistaken with visualization, a powerful technique).
If you start to observe your thoughts, you will be able to monitor their quality more effectively. Once you identify toxic/unnecessary thoughts, quash them immediately.
Each time your mind plays truant (and I promise you it will if it is anything like mine!), gently but firmly talk to it. Don’t encourage it. I like to use what I call my replacement technique.
If a negative thought sneakily creeps into my mind, I rush to replace it with a positive one. Over time, the mind actually begins to comply. The pace and frequency of negative thoughts decline. I have started to practice this mantra regularly. I’m far from where I want to be, but I am making headway, one thought at a time.
Mantra 4: Uncomplicate
This might appear simplistic, but I do believe that stress and happiness are inversely proportional.
Try to identify your “time rodents”, tasks that eat into your productivity and time.
Introspect: Is there room in your life to simplify? Are you multitasking smartly? Do you prioritize and take time out or, do you feel stressed through the day in an attempt to “finish it off”?
A cost-benefit analysis might be worth your while.
Mantra 5: Be grateful
This is the mantra I have been practicing unconsciously for years now, long before I read of its significance. I feel blessed, speak of how blessed I am, feel special, feel looked after at all times. I believe these feelings evoke immense gratitude at a subconscious level, prompting a virtuous circle in my life.
You will always find something to be grateful for.
Recognize it, and nurture the positive feelings of appreciation and gratitude alike. Let the Grace flow.
Mantra 6: Be content
My best friend, Mona, has known me since I was 10. She sees me as someone who is content with herself: through my career in the financial-services industry, business school, a long period of happy unemployment, and now my new career.
But Mona also recognizes the fire in my belly getting stronger each day. She is bang on: Contentment and ambition can co-exist. They aren’t mutually exclusive.
Mantra 7: Let go
Once you actually believe in the philosophy of letting go, and why it is crucial to your happiness, it gets easier to practice.
Let go quickly – of hurt, of anger, of the past, of righteousness, of’ the ego, of deep pain.
Some days, it seems as if I’ve taken two steps forward one step back. But even on such days, I remind myself I am making worthwhile progress.
Because the awareness that I need to let go exists at all times (and because I’m a long-time follower of Mantra 1: Think and feel positive).
I would urge you to experiment with this mantra. It’s not always easy but it catalyzes a paradigm shift. It will free your mind, and make way for the new.
Mantra 8: Accept the inevitable
The loss of a job, a broken marriage, a critical illness, the demise of a loved one: Don’t try to resist what is outside the realm of your control. If you resist, it will persist. Denial is equally destructive.
You might be able to bury the angst in the recesses of your mind, but it won’t go away until you accept the reality of the situation. Accept.
Despite my learnings and efforts, there have been days when I just haven’t felt good. My mind seemed more difficult, and I felt more fragile. On such days, I let myself be, and allowed myself to recharge.
The trick is: Be aware. Don’t let toxic thoughts multiply. Use my replacement technique liberally, or engage yourself in an activity that soothes you.
And what happens if you find it difficult to move on even after you have accepted what has come your way?
In such cases, be compassionate toward yourself. Allow yourself time to heal, preferably with the support of a loved one or a professional, but don’t let the abyss suck you in.
I find solace in the words of an Indian spiritual teacher who said: “This is not in my way. This is the way.”
Commit to bringing the equilibrium back into your being. You are stronger than you think.
Mantra 10: Forgive yourself
Have you ever been harsher on yourself than on anybody else? Do you experience guilt? Don’t. It won’t do you (or anybody else) any good at all.
Instead, learn from your experience, make sure it doesn’t happen again, and move on.
Mantra 11: Recognize that you are unique
For better or for worse, you are who you are. You are unique; you are special. At times, you may pay the price for who you are, and who you choose to be. That’s okay.
Don’t compete with anyone around you. Accept and love yourself. Choose to be inspired to create and shape your life.
Fulfill the very best version of your destiny.
Mantra 12: With freedom comes responsibility
The blame game doesn’t work. Once I accept that I alone am responsible for my thoughts, words, and actions, it becomes easier to be more cognizant of my actions and their impact on my life.
Happiness, in the larger sense, is the cumulative impact of a series of choices we exercise each day.
Mantra 13: Practice, practice, practice
The longer you have felt unhappy, the more important it is for you to understand that happiness is the innate state of your soul.
Start to practice the mantras that you are naturally drawn to at first, and practice diligently — as if it were a new game you were trying to master.
If you learn to tame your mind, it will have no choice but to acquiesce to your wishes.
Mantra 14: Love
There is no other way to say this: Love is cathartic. Love is an innate quality of the soul. Since happiness is also its natural quality, this particular mantra works like magic to nurture happiness.
However, I have learned that dependency on another — be it an object or an individual — is tricky and unsustainable. Loving and being loved certainly foster happiness, as long as you don’t allow dependency to set in.
I also believe that the magic of loving and giving lies in doing so sans expectations. Freely give of yourself. But don’t expect to necessarily receive the same in return.
Love and life don’t follow the laws of barter. They function on the principles of abundance.
“Through mental training and meditation we can change the ‘circuitry’ of our own minds.”
– FinerMinds Team, Your Brain on Meditation
I saved the best for last. Scientific research now proves that meditation has the ability to actually develop our minds, enhance our well being, and enrich the quality of our lives. Learn to sit with yourself in silence.
Start to meditate, if you aren’t already. There is no dearth of information when it comes to the techniques you can use, but the one thing my meditation teacher taught me is this:
Judge the quality of your meditation by the quality of your day, not by your experiences during the meditation process.
Choose happiness. Believe in it. Commit to it. Create it.