Today’s modern world is quite out of balance in many ways but I believe that two of the most urgent imbalances can be remedied by teaching authentic happiness. Happiness is a skill that can most definitely be learned – you just have to know that & to choose to be happy. If you are not sure about making such a radical decision for yourself, then you might be interested to know that such a decision could have a planetary impact too!
The imbalances are as follows:
- Over-consumption of the resources of a finite planet & the resulting negative consequences that affect our environment & many of the poorer people around the planet. We live on a planet with abundant but nevertheless limited resources. If we continually attempt to take more & more in response to our growing populations & increasing desires then we will undoubtedly run out of these resources & cause many environmental & social catastrophes in the process.
- An unhealthy self-focus, where people have become so fixated just on their own (or their own society’s) needs & desires that they act in ways that are harmful both to the planet & the people around them. Much of humanity is caught in an “us & them” world view that promotes distrust, lack of care & even warfare.
However, there are a couple of fundamental yet simple practices that support individuals to live more happily & can also have a profound effect on a more global level if enough people grasp & practice these principles. These are conscious gratitude & cultivating kindness.
The imbalance of over-consumption can be transcended through the practice of gratitude. Excessive consumerism is often based on a sense of lack that we are conditioned to focus on by the advertising & marketing world. Whether it be a lack of ownership, attainment, value, achievement or the sense of just not being good enough, these false & indoctrinated beliefs all make us focus on where we are deficient & encourage us to get caught in a constant craving for things or affirmations from outside of ourselves to satiate our never-ending needs.
However, practicing gratitude & appreciation directly reduces the desire to over-consume because we become much more aware of what we already have rather than what we do not have. We begin to recognise how abundant our lives already are. This results in a greater sense of contentment with our lives & with ourselves which is a state that enables us to enjoy our lives as they are. It also allows us to step out of the cycle of insatiable desire & driven consumerism, thus reducing our negative impact on a planetary level.
There is great value in practicing kindness (especially random acts of kindness) & compassion. It is a powerful way to break down the barriers between ourselves & others & therefore the destructive “us & them” way of perceiving the world around us. In actuality, being kind is not just of value to others but is a very effective way to increase our own joy.
Practicing kindness requires that we develop an empathetic awareness of other people’s needs & suffering, then to act in ways that will help to alleviate that suffering.
One of the great things about acting from a place of kindness is the far-reaching impact that it can have on an unknown amount of people. A kind act will have a positive impact on the giver, the receiver & on anyone who witnesses that act! Everyone who is a receiver or witness to kindness is more likely to be kinder, more trusting & happier. As such, there are ripples of compassion & care that expand outwards any time that we act kindly. It is also relevant to be aware that our way of being can impact our social connections by 3 degrees & this is true of anyone who is affected by a kind act too, which means that kindness can be incredibly far reaching.
Inspiring people to be aware of & to be caring for the people & the world around them can, therefore, reverse the unhelpful & harmful “me, me, me” attitude. Developing a culture of kindness & compassion expressed on whatever level can do a lot to break down the barriers between people & create a more loving, open & peaceful world.
Learning to be happier can be of benefit to the whole planet & having the right practices to open up this potential is essential.
Simple practices to enable you to choose to be happy
So how do I recommend that you could integrate this wisdom into your life? Well, these two simple practices can have a massive impact:
- Keep a Gratitude Journal & write down 3 things that you are grateful for every morning when you first get up.
- Consciously do at least one random act of kindness every week (or day) – these can bring you an amazing amount of joy & therefore, can be quite addictive J
There are more suggestions in my Choosing Happier book to develop a gratitude perspective & a kindness practice, but these exercises are a great place to start.
Random acts of kindness are particularly beneficial – do you have any great suggestions for some brilliant random acts of kindness that you have done or heard about? If so, please comment below.