Happiness is not something we can buy. And it’s not something others can give us. Can we learn to be happy?
Happiness is about being connected
If we learn to be more deeply connected with others, we become happier. There are ancient Buddhist teachings called the Four Noble Abodes which focus on learning how to connect. The four abodes or modes of being are loving-kindness, compassion, gladness, and equanimity. These four mind-states can be cultivated and lead to more happiness . Let’s take a look at first of the Noble Abodes, loving-kindness.
Loving-kindness makes us feel happier
Loving-kindness is a heartfelt wish for happiness and well-being. When we are loving and kind, we tend to be more patient, tender, gentle, and generous. You can see that loving-kindness is the perfect antidote to dislike, resentment, hatred, fear, and bitterness. And there is a clear connection between loving-kindness and happiness. As Sharon Salzberg points out:
Great fullness of being, which we experience as happiness, can also be described as love.
Let’s take a look at the practical consequences of such a thought. Are there people in your life that you dislike? What about your boss, your ex-partner, or your noisy neighbor? Quite simply, if you think that only your own well-being matters and everyone else can go to hell, you will not end up particularly happy.
Are you kind to yourself?
Maybe you are a person who is kind to everyone, yet is still unhappy? If so, let me ask you: how do you treat yourself? Are you kind and loving? Do you forgive yourself for mistakes? Do you encourage yourself? No? There you have it then.
The first step toward more happiness is to be kind to oneself. That’s why most instructions on how to practice loving-kindness meditation (metta) suggest focusing on oneself at first. A simple way to do this is to say silently on the out-breath: “May I be happy and at ease.” If you find it difficult to access a feeling of loving-kindness, you can try two things:
- gently place you hand on your chest region as you say this
- remember a time when you felt tenderness (maybe for your favorite pet?) to access the feeling of loving-kindness. Which one works best for you?
Metta is a wonderful medicine. Take it often as possible. Notice how happiness increases when you practice loving-kindness. After all, happiness is not an individual matter.
We’re all in this together.