Have you ever thought about how many people search for happiness or question if they will “ever be happy (again)?” Searching for happiness is like searching for the Holy Grail.
No doubt you remember the legend of the Holy Grail. Thought to be the source of mystical power, the symbol of the Grail as an object of search began in the 12th century. It was believed to be a vessel used at the last supper and could make miracles happen.
Here’s why I think the search for happiness is like the search for the Holy Grail. It has the “if only” belief attached to it. The “if only I were in a relationship; if only I had a better job; if only I made more money; if only I had a bigger house, the newest technology, etc., etc., etc.! The quest for happiness is a mythical journey.
Happiness (or joy or love) isn’t an end point in a journey. They are available and present, always. So how does one “find” happiness if it is supposed to be there, available at all times? Focus on it. Instead of focusing on searching for it, place your attention on what happiness is for you.
Take a journey in your mind to times you’ve been happy, truly happy. Where were you? What were you doing? Unpack the experience. What was it about that experience that caused you to feel the emotion of happiness? There may have been others involved, but what was your experience?
Was there a sense of wonder at a life experience? Did you feel awe at the power and beauty of nature? Was there a sense of comfort and familiarity at a gathering of friends or family? Did you experience that tingling feeling evident when you lose your ego self and focus on the connection with another heart and spirit?
I posit that if you unpack your experience you’ll find that aspects of your happiness are more connected to nature, joyous life experiences, human connection, and letting go of your ego self.
So how do you shift away from searching for the Holy Grail of happiness? I believe we need to be present. Notice what is around you. Don’t search for happiness out there in the future, notice it in the now. What are the small incidents of comfort, connection, familiarity, awe, or laughter (or whatever makes you feel happy) available to you in this moment?
Watch children play and re-connect to your own sense of imagination and adventure. Flirt with an infant or toddler. Take a few minutes at dawn or dusk and observe the natural cycle of light and dark.
Observe the changing colors outside your window. Take a walk (without your tunes), be aware of what you see, hear, and feel; the color of spring blossoms, the birds singing, the slight breeze against your skin or the warmth of the sun on your face.
Be on the hunt for funny things you observe, hear or say each day. Write them down and recite them to yourself. Expand on them and create a mini-story. Practice smiling in the mirror. What?! Yes, practice looking at yourself in the mirror and smiling.
Smiling releases neuropeptides that can induce a sense of calm. The neurotransmitters dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin are released when we smile. (They are the feel-good neurotransmitters that are always available to you.)
Did you know that the part of your brain that controls the facial muscles for smiling is in the cingulate cortex, an unconscious response area of the brain? Meaning, that if you observe someone smile, it takes concentrated effort to not smile in return.
It may feel funny or awkward (or stupid) to smile at yourself in a mirror. Try it. You’ll be surprised at what you experience in your emotional state and in your body. Set an intention to smile at everyone you see. They will smile back, and those wonderful neurotransmitters will be released in you and them.
Stop searching for the Holy Grail of happiness (or whatever emotion you are searching for). It resides within you and around you. You just need to be present and available.