The Dalai Lama shares his wisdom about happiness in a series of interviews with psychologist Howard C Cutler. His Holiness uses stories as well as meditation exercises to convey his idea of happiness, showing anyone how to feel happier in everyday life through mindset changes. The simple actionable tips allow anyone to welcome more peace into their life.
My key Takeaways from “The Art of Happiness":
Long lasting happiness comes from having the right state of mind rather than external circumstances. Sure, an amazing vacation, party, or simply a phone call from a friend can make you happy for a short while, but you'll know from experience that you soon go back to feeling 'normal'. That's why you must systematically train your brain to be happier. It's a slow process but you'll eventually feel an inner calmness that allows you to find joy and happiness no matter what is going on around you.
Takeaway #1 Compassion
Compassion is key when it comes to happiness. Compassion means being in a state of mind that is not aggressive, one where you wish to see others free from suffering. To truly be compassionate, you wish all people and creatures to live a life free of suffering rather than focusing just on those around you. Practice compassion by feeling empathy for others. If you find this difficult and usually go to a place of anger rather than empathy, consider what you and the other person have in common, then put yourself in their shoes and consider how you would feel if you were in the same boat.
Takeaway #2 Intimacy
In the Western world, we often associate intimacy with our romantic partner meaning that when you're single you feel like something is missing. It doesn't have to be that way when you stop associating intimacy with sex. It's highly possible to feel intimacy with a wide range of people around you from friends, and family, teachers to work colleagues, you just have to connect with them over time, have an appreciation for them and respect them.
Takeaway #3 Religion & Spirituality
To be spiritual you do not have to be religious but being spiritual or religious will lead to greater happiness. Basic qualities such as goodness, compassion, and caring are all basic qualities that people can practice throughout the day no matter their religious beliefs. These acts bring us closer to humanity whilst helping us to feel more calm, relaxed, and ultimately, happier.
Takeaway #4 Suffering
Suffering is a natural cycle of life but unfortunately, we humans tend to enjoy wallowing in our suffering, making it bigger than it really is as we exclaim how terribly unlucky we are and play the victim card. That's not to say that ignoring or avoiding suffering is the answer, instead, we should aim to remove the mental cause of the suffering as fast as possible. It's important to learn not to resist change, not to try to cling on to people, possessions and negative events and thoughts as this only lengthens the feeling of suffering. Accept that life is in constant flux and people, things, and thoughts are always coming and going – When you let go of the pain and anger, the suffering will end.
Takeaway #5 Negativity
Harmful negative emotions such as anger and hatred are poison to our mind and should be beat using love, compassion, patience, tolerance, and generosity. CBT and meditation can help with the process of replacing negative thoughts with positive ones but it's a slow journey that cannot be rushed. Without knowing why you're changing your thoughts and indeed where the negative thoughts came from, you won't succeed in finding peace and happiness long term. That's why it's so important to shift your perspective and find the good in everything, even the most terrible times. Remember, no event, circumstance, or feeling is ever 100% negative.