In my native language, Swedish, there are two words for happiness. One is glädje – used to describe the fleeting joy we might feel as we tuck in to an ice cream or enjoy a stroll on the beach or even get a new car or a work promotion. This feeling is reliant on our circumstances and when those circumstances change, so does our mood.
Chasing this kind of illusive happiness is the foundation of capitalism, the source of the epidemic levels of stress in our society and according to the Buddha, the root cause of human suffering.
The other word is lycka – used to describe the deep-rooted feeling of inner peace and contentment that does not rely on outside circumstances. This feeling occurs when we are in alignment with ourselves, connected to our truth and aware of the perfection of All That Is.
This feeling might be rare and difficult to attain as well as hang on to but in my experience it is like a muscle that we can train. The more we cultivate this feeling, the more we learn to conjure it up at will and live our life from this foundation of inner peace, confidence and trust.
In my counselling work I use a process for cultivating true, lasting happiness, using these three main tools:
- Process the Past. We all have unprocessed feelings, thoughts and experiences that are affecting us in different ways. Some of these ways might be obvious to us, but we may not know what to do about it. Some might also be completely unconscious and keeping them hidden from ourselves can drain us of energy as we go about our daily lives. Through talking about our feelings and thoughts we can become aware of how things are affecting us and begin to make our peace with the past. Once we understand how the ways we are behaving today are directly linked to things that happened in the past, we begin to have a choice in how we react to things now.
- Focus on the Future. We all need to have a sense of purpose in life. If we don’t have a real connection to our reason for being here, on this earth, it becomes very difficult to motivate ourselves, day after day, year after year. Life can feel overwhelming and exhausting and we can lack resilience to cope when things don’t go our way. Finding and focusing on our deeper purpose can help us gain a healthy perspective, give us the strength and inner resources to keep going when things are tough. It also gives us confidence and a deep sense of achievement, knowing that we are on the right path in life.
- Nourish the Now. The final and crucial practice for cultivating a deep sense of contentment is through mindfulness and introspection. Using mindfulness based techniques regularly helps us connect to a deeper sense of peace. Taking time to slow down and focus on our direct experience in the now helps our bodies deal with stress, our minds think clearly and our souls rejuvenate. Having a relationship with our innermost selves and whatever our sense is of the source of our being, gives us a deep sense of fulfilment, comfort and true happiness.
In my sessions I use a balance of these three approaches, to help you find your own happiness and inner peace.