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Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

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'There Is No Way to Happiness; Happiness Is the Way'

Posted: 07/08/2012 10:00 am

Life can sometimes seem like a quest to achieve happiness. Certainly that is an underlying goal in Western and Eastern cultures. Many of us say, "Once I find my soul mate, then I'll be happy" or, "If I get that promotion, then I'll be happy" or, "Once I'm making this or that income, then I'll be happy." Woven within the mere thought itself is a sense of being "less than" you want to be, which therefore makes you less happy than you were before that thought even arrived.

Here's a quote from the blog post "10 Quotes for a Mindful Day" by the influential author and mindfulness teacher Thich Nhat Hanh:

"There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way."

Some might argue that it's not the conditions of our lives that make us happy (although some can certainly help at times), it's the way we relate to ourselves and our lives that provide the happiness. It's the way we walk through life.

In other words, we're always practicing something. If we spend our time wrestling with negative, excessive worrying, or hopeless thoughts, we're practicing unhappiness. If we spend our time noticing and acknowledging these unhelpful habits of the mind, without judgment, we can then choose to turn our attention to matters that walk in line with greater happiness and sense of peace.

In the realm of behavioral therapy, a therapist might say, "What would you be doing differently if you were happy?" Some people might answer, "I'd be smiling more" or, "I'd be riding my bike" or, "I'd be spending giving more to others."

Then the response from the therapist would be: "Now let's put these into action."

Sometimes we need to put our feet in front of our heads and then our thoughts and emotions will follow. We don't have to climb Mount Everest, but if all we can do is take even one step in that direction, it can make a difference.

Try: What would you do if you were happy, or what have you done when you've been happy? Write these things down and start taking baby steps to practice them. Don't take my word for it -- try it yourself and see what happens.

Please share your thoughts, stories, and questions below. Your interaction here provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

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