Find Peace Not Happiness

We’re all looking for eternal happiness in our lives, to find that magic formula where every moment is filled with joy. We all know that person who is happy every time we see them, never a time where they seem affected by any sort of negative emotion, the key to life is to find that happiness in everything we do, well I’m sorry to say it . . . . . but it’s total bullshit.

Author: Nicky Forster

We can never find eternal happiness, even for the most positive people there will always be times of stress, worry, concern, frustration, times where we have deadlines, or are running late, or have concerns over our health, days where we have no reason to feel it in a low mode on that particular day, but we just do, and as a result we won’t be completely happy in these moments, why would we be?

Happiness will never be eternally present, our complex moods will demand other emotions at different times, this shouldn’t be depressing, quite the contrary. Recognizing that happiness exists, but that it is only a delightful visitor that never overstays its welcome, may help us appreciate it more when it arrives. Many people live for special moments like holidays, parties, events with families and friends, it’s easy to be happy in these times, but in reality, they account for only a tiny percentage of our year, as little as 3%. If we are basing our happiness on 3% of our life, then we are in trouble. The key to being at peace with our life is in discovering pleasure from the other 97%.

 

We have to understand that there will be times of happiness and there will be other times of emotions. There are, as we know lots of emotions and we will experience most if not all of these at some point. Its ok not to be ok as the saying goes. Understanding this is key to us finding not happiness, but peace in as much of life as possible.

 

When asked to think about happiness, many of us will reflect on the past, or think to a time in the future, and yet happiness happens in the present. Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson “The thing about being alive is that your all in”You can’t relive it, you can’t watch it on catch up, it’s live only once, now.

 

Most of us possess something called the optimistic bias, which is the tendency to think that our future will be better than our present.

 

Evolution has predisposed us to compare ourselves to others, even if that comparison is of us in different forms, at different times, and to criticise our own achievements, to focus on what we are lacking in rather than what we have got or have achieved. To bemoan how far we still have to go, rather than celebrate how far we have come. Social media is harmful as it gives the impression that everyone else is doing amazingly well whereas we are struggling, but that nearly always is not the case.

Happiness can often be confused with peace and pleasure.

Pleasure is not happiness

Neuroscience, Buddhism and Stoicism have all understood that pleasure is not happiness.

Suffering is the constant pursuit of pleasures, the chemical that brings us this pleasure is Dopamine. The problem with if we chase Dopamine, is that it is the molecule of more, it is never content, it’s what drives addiction, all dopamine wants is more dopamine

Seeking pleasure can end up not being about pleasure itself, but alleviating pain in the absence of pleasure

If we can find peace over pleasure, find joy in the challenges of life, then we are more likely to be at peace with all that life throws at us.

Finding happiness in the process of being alive. It is commonplace in Buddhism to meditate on aspects of your life that are not always seeking pleasure and contentment, even meditation on death resulting in a greater acceptance of the fate of us all. The stoic tradition also does this by imagining the worst-case scenario and visualising through all eventualities. Olympic swimmer, Michael Phelps’s trainer famously halted training once and asked for the swimmers googles, only to stand on them and break them, before making him complete the session without the use of goggles, to prepare him for the eventuality of his goggles in the race malfunctioning or becoming dislodged. Should the misfortune occur, he could have become annoyed or distracted in a race, affecting his performance, but to be able to remain calm and accept the misfortune would give him another edge over his rivals.

It worked, he won.

So how do we find peace and pleasure in the everyday parts of our lives?

Well, the theory is easy, the reality harder to do.

We work on ourselves, improving ourselves or at the very least maintaining a healthy level of doing the right things opposed to times where we let ourselves go and enjoy things that over time may not benefit us as much.

If we can understand what happiness means to us, link it to the things we do, we have a better chance of being happy in the present.

 

Socialising for instance, and especially socialising involving alcohol, relaxes us and boosts serotonin release which improves our mood making us feel more attached to those we share the experience with. However, if we are to do this every day, the enjoyment we get from it would decrease over time and it would impact on other areas of our life in terms of health and fitness, we would most likely increase our weight and lose cardiovascular fitness. This would for most impact negatively on our mood.

Exercise is always a great example, maybe because it divides opinion so much, some love it, as I do, whilst others hate it. Regardless of our personal preference here, it is widely accepted to be beneficial to us in many ways, both physically and mentally. I love running, I run every day and look forward to it, whereas my wife, Nicole, hates running, as a result the friction she experiences when contemplating going out for a run is often far greater than I experience. She fully understands that it benefits her physically, improving cardiovascular fitness, improving strength, it even improves joint health contrary to some opinions, as well as the psychological benefits of the effects of hormones such as endorphins and dopamine, reducing stress and making us feel good.

We all know the benefits, but we often still struggle, however, if we can change our mindset from visualising how terrible it’s going to be, how much we are going to struggle, how cold or wet it is outside or how have we let ourself go this far, and focus on little improvements every day, reminding ourselves when we’re struggling out in the cold and rain, that we are doing it for ourselves, of how we will feel when we look or feel better, breaking down the activity into micro goals, run to that lamppost, then run to the corner, then to the post box . . . . . and so on.

Understand that the struggle is part of the process, part of the reward, the achievements in life that take planning, time, and considerable effort, will always be more valuable than those that have been easily achieved.

People often say that it’s easy for me because I am fit,

 

There is a misconception that we’re only living our authentic self if it feels good, but the reality of life is that we won’t always feel good, authenticity is embracing things that don’t feel good like sadness, disappointment, rejection, fear, we need to embrace all of these to be living a true authentic self.

 

Were all in the ‘Game of Life’. Were all playing a different game. Sure, there are crossovers from my game to your game, but fundamentally what we want from life, what our definition of peace, happiness and contentment is, is different from one person to another. That means our game plan has to be tailor-made for ourselves. The more we think about exactly what we want, the more diverse our game of life becomes from the next person, even if they are very close to us.

 

Ultimately, as always, personal growth begins with us working on ourselves dally.

 

If you want help with setting, pursuing and achieving goals, then contact me for information – nicky@nickyforster.com

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