January 24, 2021

Cultivating Happiness

In the midst of the pandemic, I’ve been contemplating happiness.  With the world shut down and access to the plethora of options that not only generate memories but also happiness, I can’t help but wonder where does happiness come from?  Have I always looked outside of myself to find it?  For certain, I find it in travelling, I find it in food, I find it in experiences, I find it gatherings with friends and family, I find it in shopping.  But, when we take all those things away, strip it right back to pandemic mode, limitations left, right and centre…what are we left with?

It’s an interesting question isn’t it?

Let’s start with the definition of happiness: the state of being happy; good fortune, pleasure, contentment and joy; to be delighted, pleased and glad over a particular thing. This got me thinking that perhaps happiness comes from the things that we do for ourselves, things like buying ourselves a treat or treating ourselves to a pedicure. However satisfying these things that we do for ourselves are, the feeling seems to be fleeting.  As if just as we get a hold of it, it is slipping through our fingers again.  Science tells us that we get a rush or a quick hit of dopamine (the happiness hormone) when we buy something or do something for ourselves.  And then the hit wears off quickly, leaving us craving another quick purchase to get another dose of dopamine.  If this science is true, it isn’t any wonder why we are constantly looking for happy outside of ourselves to keep the hormones inside of us flowing. This type of happiness doesn’t last. 

 It’s clear that money can’t buy happiness.

It’s true. We’ve heard it before.  So, if seeking happiness outside of ourselves leaves us on a rollercoaster of emotions, lacking and consistently searching…what is it that we are really looking for?

Just like anything in life, when we shift our perspective, everything changes.  What if instead of looking for happiness, we start looking for fulfillment? The dictionary definition of fulfillment is: a state of fulfilling; completion or realization; to carry out or bring to realization as a prophecy or promise. If I think back to the times in my life where I have experienced the feeling of fulfillment upon the completion of a goal, it was in those times that I was the most happy in my life.  And even just thinking and reflecting on that time in my life, I can experience the fulfillment all over again.  My point is, the feeling of fulfillment is a gateway to happiness.  And dare I say, a happiness that is lasting.  

What if, what we are all looking for lies somewhere in the balance of pursuing happiness and pursuing fulfilment?

And what if, we take it one step further?  

What if that pursuit of fulfilment was found in the act of being in service of others?  I’m talking about living purposefully, intentionally, inspirationally, benefiting mankind.  In his book “Find Your Why,” Simon Sinek ironically says,

“those whose why is in service to others rather than themselves are the ones who ultimately best serve themselves because in the end they experience the deepest fulfilment.”

I’ve thought about this in the context of my own life.  I am passionate about mission work in less fortunate countries. I feel compelled to help, to serve, to support, to love.  I have experienced and witnessed the impact of mission work and know on a deep level how much it is appreciated, needed and welcomed.  The flip side of doing mission work lie the rewards and internal benefits for the mission worker themselves.  We grow, we learn, we find deep satisfaction and fulfilment in our ability to give and serve.  I have said before that I feel like I get more than I give when I am on mission.  I don’t think the recipients would necessarily feel that way, but emotionally, spiritually, mentally I feel full, whole and complete in those moments of service.  I feel a deep joy, a sense of realization, hopeful…fulfilled.  I feel happy.

In person mission work is off the table right now during the pandemic.  But being in service of others, is not.  It’s important to ask ourselves, what can I do today to make a difference in the world?  You might be surprised by your own answers.  Perhaps your answer is as simple as wearing a mask or donating to your local foodbank.  Perhaps your answer is costly and involves donating to a charity that is able to help the broader public right now.  Perhaps your answer lies in your own creativity and ingenious talents to help and support others.  Perhaps your answer is in providing a meal or picking up groceries for your aging neighbor.  The sky is the limit when we open ourselves up to the possibilities of the question itself.

If you’d like to take this concept a little deeper, perhaps spend some time in your journal as you answer these prompts:

  • Where do you find happiness?
  • What does fulfillment mean to me?
  • What can I do today to make a difference in the world around me?
  • How can I cultivate my own happiness?

I’ve brainstormed a few suggestions that may be helpful to get us started on the path to cultivating our own happy.  Feel free to build on this list, borrow from it…and then, go be awesome.  Find your happy:

  • Become mindful of the present moment by savouring flavours and feelings
  • Fall into gratitude for anything and everything
  • Explore nature
  • Purge and let go of things, relationships that hold you back, old beliefs and thoughts that no longer have a place in your life
  • Be in service to others
  • Perform random acts of kindness…and don’t get found out
  • Quiet your mind in meditation or breath work
  • Set some goals for yourself
  • Rest
  • Move your body
  • Hydrate and nourish your body with healthy choices

It lies within.  The happy.  It has always been there.  We just have to remember that the shiny thing outside isn’t the only way to experience it. If only we find the shiny thing inside, we find the lasting and true sense of happy. Pandemic or no pandemic, it is possible.

Xo Juli

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