Ok, what I really mean is: the path to happiness often sucks.
I'm currently 2 weeks into the Happiness Facilitator Training from the Museum of Happiness. I'm learning all about the theories, science and application of happiness so that I can teach this to others. It's a fantastic course and a subject I've been studying informally for years.
After the first week of my training, something really difficult and painful happened in my life. I had to make a very hard decision and for a time I was heartbroken. I distinctly did not feel happy and for a moment I thought I was "failing" at this happiness thing. Luckily, I have a lot of skills to deal with these sort of moments and I was able to catch my thoughts and challenge them. After tending to my painful emotions I was able to get some perspective and remember that happiness is not about being joyful all the time, as many of us mistakenly think.
The two types of happiness:
Hedonic - pursuing pleasure, feeling good, maximising joy and minimising pain
Eudaimonic - sense of meaning, using your strengths, helping others
For a great description of eudaimonia from The School of Life, click here.
Happiness is "a deep sense of serenity and fulfillment. A state that underlies all emotional states and all the joys and sorrows that can comes one’s way” - Matthieu Ricard
So the type of happiness that I'm talking about (and learning about, and trying to cultivate in my own life) is both of the above, but with a focus on the eudaimonic kind.
The Purpose, Pleasure, Peace model is a good, simple way of thinking about it.
What I've had a reminder about recently - from my own experiences and witnessing those of my clients - is that cultivating happiness sucks. It is not a fluffy, easy thing but in fact often bloody difficult.
What you will need if you want to be happy:
1. Self awareness - the ability to know how you are feeling, observe your thoughts and respond not react.
2. Effort & commitment - happiness is a practice. An ongoing lifestyle. You'll need to be able to think long-term as well as spend a lot of time in the present. You will need to prioritise the things that bring happiness to your life and make time for them. You'll need to work at it, daily.
“Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.” - Brené Brown
3. Courage - you will have to make some tough decisions. About where, how and with whom you live. You can't be happy and inauthentic. Authenticity requires vulnerability, and vulnerability and courage are the same thing.
4. Compassion - once we recognise the difficulties inherent in cultivating true happiness in our lives we need to be kind to ourselves and others. We all want to be happy and we're all just doing our best to achieve that.
I'm sure there's more to say than this but I wanted to share my thoughts and learnings at this point. Years of being a counsellor and watching my clients work so hard to grow and flourish means that I know that happiness is hard work. I want you to know that too, and to know that it is worth it. And that I have so much admiration and respect for anyone on this path. I am walking it with you.