How To Be Happy In Life: A Roadmap for Lasting Happiness.

mental health philosophy

We are all looking for lasting happiness in life. Every action we take is an attempt to bring us closer to it, whether we call it happiness or something else, be it understanding, peace, fulfillment, freedom, etc.


And yet, this lasting happiness seems to allude most of us. I can count on one hand the number of people I know who claim to be un-disturbingly happy. So what gives? 


In order for happiness to be be lasting, it has to be independent from our circumstances. After all, circumstances are always changing. One day we’re counting our blessings, and the next day we’re adding up our problems. 


If our expectations for happiness lie in our circumstances--as in, I will only be happy if life goes according to how I want it to--then we are setting ourselves up for sure misery down the road. 


But is it possible to find happiness beyond our circumstances? To embrace bad times with the understanding that they are temporary? To problem-solve efficiently in a manner that doesn’t lead to personal distress? To enjoy good times without demanding that they stay put? 


In order to answer these questions, we must investigate what happiness is and where it is in our experience. If lasting happiness is not to be found in circumstances (you mean being rich and famous doesn’t automatically lead to happiness?), then where is it and what is the pathway to it?


How Happiness Works


Happiness is not an emotion like anger or excitement. 


Emotions are a combination of sensations in the body and thoughts that generate a story about what we’re feeling and why we’re feeling it. For example, anger is an emotion. It has a distinguishable sensation in the body, and is contextualized by a series of thoughts and images that explain what we’re angry about and why we’re angry. 


All emotions, whether pleasant or unpleasant, work in this same way. We can’t always be angry or excited or sleepy or frustrated. Emotions, like circumstances, are things that come and go. 


If we expect to experience happiness as an emotion, we are looking for something fleeting, and that’s not what we’re looking for--we are looking for something permanent. 


If that’s the case, we must ask ourselves: What, based on experience, is permanent? 


If you’re willing, let’s take a moment to explore this question based on our experience. By experience I mean the very ordinary, placeless place where all of our thoughts, feelings, sensations and perceptions appear. The screen upon which the movie of our life takes place, if you will. 


Now, back to the question: What, in our experience, is permanent? Is there something permanent there? What is the one element of our experience that has been here with us continuously, without stopping or changing? 


These questions are designed to take us directly to the experience of permanence--of whatever it is in our experience that has never changed, left or abandoned us--whatever has remained stable and at peace throughout the roller coaster ride of good days and bad days. 


Can you discern it? 


It is whatever knows our experience. It is exactly the same now as it was when we were a toddler, even though every cell in our body is different and every thought in our mind has changed. It does not age as our body ages, it has no name, no gender, and no birthday--it exists prior to all of those things. It is as unbothered when we’re excited as it is when we’re angry. It remains unchanged in sickness and in health. It has never been rich or poor. It is present evenly throughout our waking state, dream state and deep sleep. 


Are you with me? (It’s okay if you’re not, this stuff is tough: Shoot us a comment below for a response!)


The common name for this permanence is I: I have been continuous throughout my entire life. I am aware of my experience. / have never disappeared, changed or waivered.   


Lasting happiness requires us to contemplate that which is permanent in our experience, and to know ourselves as that. When we know ourselves as permanent, the happiness we experience shares those qualities. When we know ourselves as impermanent, the happiness we experience shares those qualities. 


Experiencing Happiness


The first step to experiencing happiness is understanding how it works. But understanding by itself will not stop our boss from being less annoying to us, or drivers from making us mad on the road, or dropped plans with friends from bumming us out, or however else we’re configured to drag out our psychological suffering. 


Our existing patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving have been repeated many times and are likely to repeat again in the future, until and unless we know ourselves as that which is permanent. 


Now that we know this, we can start to test how happiness works in our experience. One of the many ways that we can begin is to start paying attention differently to the moments when we’re not happy. 


Instead of paying attention to the content of our unhappy experience, our job is to notice whether we are identifying ourselves with something impermanent, like a thought or a feeling.  


“I am anxious” “I am angry” “I am frustrated” are examples of how we use language to associate ourselves with things that change.


If we were to refer to ourselves in these same moments as something permanent, our language would shift to: “I am that which is aware of anxiety” “I am that which is aware of anger” “I am that which is aware of frustration”. (That, in this case, refers to the permanent aspect of our experience that we were attempting to understand above.) 


Whatever is aware of anxiety (or anger, or frustration, or…) is not touched or altered by it, and therefore isn’t bothered by it. To know ourselves as that is to know ourselves as something permanent and as pure happiness itself. 


If we are able to undertake this investigation when we’re unhappy, we may begin to see the difference between the permanent, ever-present knower of experience (what we commonly refer to as I), and the impermanent, always shifting thoughts and feelings. With time, we are able to discern that which is permanent and know ourselves as that.


Qualities of a Happy Life


As we become more established in happiness, we may still experience unpleasant thoughts and feelings, but thoughts and feelings lose their ability to eclipse the happiness we find by knowing ourselves as permanent. 


In other words, as we become happier, we stop being bothered by our psychological drama, or anybody else’s for that matter. Our drama may continue to happen, but everytime it shows up, it’s a more shallow rabbit-hole, it lasts for a shorter period of time, and we’re less interested in its content. We actually even begin to appreciate the diversity our drama brings to our experience.


After a while, we begin to notice that all sorts of things that used to take us out of happiness don’t take us out of happiness anymore: Being able to enjoy what used to be difficult-to-have conversations, standing alone in a room full of strangers, declining events we don’t want to go to, eating healthy foods without freaking out about what to cook, and so on...


Happiness becomes the baseline for all experience, no matter what curveballs life throws at us. 

Until then, there are no shoulds for what to do next. A good rule of thumb is to follow what we’re interested in, and if what we are interested in is lasting happiness, to investigate the hell out of it. Because ultimately, happiness cannot be achieved through practice or force of will--it can only be achieved by fully understanding who we are and how we work.


Subscribe to our weekly letter--always free--for new happiness resources in your inbox every Sunday. Together we’ll explore where happiness is in our experience and how it works. And if you want even more, I’ve included some additional home learning resources below! 


Happiness Home Learning Starter Kit


We get it. There’s a lot to learn, and it doesn’t all make sense the first time you hear it (or the second, or the third). We’ve been studying happiness through logic and experience for the past six years, and have worked through many different questions along the way, mainly because the education we’ve received from our culture had us totally backwards, upside-down, inside-out. And as a result, we’ve experienced no shortage of psychological suffering. Can you relate? 


Luckily, we’ve had the help of three wonderful teachers, who have helped us uncover gaps in our understanding, beliefs we didn’t know we had, and misconceptions we had about who we are and how life works. The tradition that they teach from (Non-Duality or Advaita Vedanta) is based on logically understanding the nature of our experience, through means that can be verified right here and now. 


My happiness teachers teach for free on YouTube: 

Francis Lucille

Rupert Spira


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