If I asked you, do you want to be happy, you'd, of course, say yes. We all want to feel happiness, no exceptions. In fact, most of us spend a lifetime searching for meaning and happiness in our lives. Why do so many never get there? Why are so many unhappy? We are all accustomed to the idea that happiness is something that we need to pursue but, ironically, the more we chase after happiness, the further we are from it. Happiness cannot be pursued or chased, because it comes from within and is all a matter of how we think. True, money is important. Let's face it, we have to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. But according to a recent study, after about $75,000 a year, money does not increase or decrease your level of happiness.
We have all heard people say things like, "I'll be happy when I get a better job" or "I'll be happy when I buy a bigger house," etc. I call this the I'll Be Happy When scenario. But what happens when you get that job and you're still not happy? What happens when you finally get that dream house and feel no happier? "Stuff" does not make you happy. It might bring you pleasure for a while, but it can't bring you true happiness. True happiness is a choice and a state of mind. In other words, it can never be bought.
I can remember when I was a little girl growing up with a disability (I was born with cerebral palsy and suffer from bilateral hearing loss)—there were many times when I looked in the mirror and didn't like that girl with the kinky hair and overbite looking back at me. It took me a long time to realize that the little girl I saw in the mirror was just a reflection of my mind. In other words, I was creating her by my own negative attitude. Life doesn't just happen. Life is a response to your way of thinking. Like Edgar Cayce said, our thoughts create our reality. Change your thinking; change your life.
As many of you know, Helen Keller was both blind and deaf, and yet she went on to graduate from college and become one of the 20th century's leading humanitarians. Keller once wrote, "I have for many years endeavored to make this vital truth clear; and still people marvel when I tell them that I am happy. They imagine that my limitations weigh heavily upon my spirit, and chain me to the rock of despair. Yet, it seems to me, happiness has very little to do with the senses. If we make up our minds that this is a drab and purposeless universe, it will be that, and nothing else. On the other hand, if we believe that the earth is ours, and that the sun and moon hang in the sky for our delight, there will be joy upon the hills and gladness in the fields because the artist in our souls glorifies creation. Surely, it gives dignity to life to believe that we are born into this world for noble ends, and that we have a higher destiny than can be accomplished within the narrow limits of this physical life."
Victor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor stated, "Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose." If you believe that life is defined by your circumstances, you will never rediscover the happiness within. Nothing will ever be enough, because you will always be searching for more.
I have both good and bad news. The bad news is our brains are actually prewired to pay more attention to negative experiences. It is part of our natural protective instinct or the body's fight or flight response. But the good news is positive thinking has been proved to literally change the makeup of the brain (a science called neuroplasticity).
One of the ways we do this is by repetition. We are how we think. Focusing on the positive stimulates the growth of nerve connections in the brain, which in turn leads to more positive thoughts.
As an author and motivational speaker, people always ask me, "How do you stay so positive?" Well, to be honest, being happy doesn't mean we are never unhappy. Let's face it, bad things happen. What it does mean, however, is that we acknowledge the bad but still choose the positive.