The last few years of travelling and constant change of scenery, jobs and people around me has made me think a lot about happiness and what it takes to feel fulfilled in life. There certainly isn’t a specific place or demographic you can pinpoint this to and it proves happiness can be found in all walks of life.
Travelling opens your eyes to different cultures and witnessing the spectrum of happiness, sadness, depression and addiction that exists everywhere. The more you move and live in different places, it becomes clearer that it’s not your surroundings that make you happy but your outlook on them.
There are people with few material things living a basic simple lifestyle who are happy, and there are people who have families, high achieving careers and an abundance of wealth who aren’t happy or fulfilled. We strive to achieve but can only be fully happy if the outcome doesn’t define us – who are you underneath if it all disappears?
One of my biggest inspirations is Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk that started a peace movement during the Vietnamese war, which seems to be a paradox that someone can find peace at huge time of suffering.
Of course, not having shelter, food and water – the basic essentials to survive, does impact happiness.
Beyond this baseline, the three key things that strike me the most are: purpose, love and positivity.
It’s common not to know your purpose, and this doesn’t need to be a profound idea or even your ‘life purpose’ but a purpose for today. Whatever your job is, do it with a feeling of lightness and put care and effort into it, all jobs are important. Your job may not be paid, it might even be housework, a hobby, or something creative.
Listen to what you’re drawn to and explore it, we aren’t all born knowing our purpose but a part of life is to figure it out, so try not to become frustrated with this concept. Trust that you’re on the path to uncovering it.
When you know your dream take mindful action towards achieving it, and let go of the outcome of those actions. You can’t control the outcome and it’s not a reflection of your own worth. Take action with love and effort, the more love we give the more we receive through living a fulfilling life.
I think most of us are seeking love in some capacity that could lead to a relationship, marriage or creating a family. It’s common to put a big dependency on these things to fulfil us, but ultimately we may not have a choice if we fall in love or can have children – does that mean we can’t ever be happy or fulfilled?
To feel loved, stop looking for external things or people to love you, start putting love into everything you do and people around you. When someone tries to help you or give you love, let them. Love doesn’t need to just come from a partner or family member, it is all the same love. To give love is to receive it, and to receive love is to give it.
Finding positive thoughts in any given place or time. There may be situations when the only positive is that you’re still breathing, and there you can center your attention.
Being happy and positive isn’t about avoiding or masking emotion, or thinking you should be happy all the time. It is observing and feeling emotion as it comes up, letting the emotion be there until it is time for it to leave. Continual negative thoughts can escalate and prolong the suffering, notice if your thoughts are feeding your emotions.
It is only through suffering that we can truly know happiness. There is no life we can live without suffering, we have to transform the suffering through positivity to find happiness.
Fulfilment is being at peace with your life – accepting your past, where you are on your life path, your health, surroundings, career, friends and relationships.