30 Nov 2013

Want to be happy? Be grateful

The pursuit of happiness and even the definition of this simple basic human feeling has long been the subject of debate; theorised by scholars and people from all faiths and walks of life.

'How to be happy' is the title of many life coaching books - we all want to be happy, and the multi-million dollar industry built around guiding us to master this emotion demonstrates that maybe we (as a world) aren't really too happy or content at all. This is despite all of the resources, money and materialistic products that marketing tells us will make us happy, and we willingly consume ten to the dozen.

Or is that just it....we need to simplify things and refocus.

Despite the size and multitude of books on the subject of 'what is happiness', one simple philosophy that really resonates with me is discussed in a great TED Talk by Brother David Steindl-Rast, a monk and interfaith scholar.

To quote brother David Steindl-Rast "the one thing that all humans have in common is that each of us wants to be happy".

This post isn't about religion, nor is it a '10 steps to being happy' article. It's just a simple take on a fundamental philosophy that resonated with me, and I hope you find useful too.

So why aren't we happy?

Well, one simple answer is that we don't take time out to appreciate what we have. We normally focus on something external / in the future that we believe will give us long lasting happiness, and soon after obtaining that something (think new car, ipad, golf clubs, guitar, clothes etc), our short burst of happiness subsides, and we go back to seeking another something that we believe will fill our happiness void. Repeat, repeat, repeat and repeat. But does this help us achieve a long lasting feeling of being happy.....?

David believes that happiness derives from being grateful for things around us. And to be grateful we need to take some time out to appreciate what we have. "It's not happiness that makes us grateful, it's gratefulness that makes us happy".

One of the biggest problems we seem to have in our lives is that we are all so damn busy - with all of our devices alerting us every time somebody does something we get a little too caught up with life, that we don't appreciate the moment, and what we do have 'in the now'; usually intrinsic-non materialistic things like health, family, love, awe, beauty etc.

This TED talk is a short and powerful one that reminds me to try and take some time out every day - throughout the day - to remind myself and be grateful about all the amazing things and opportunities that I do have. Being grateful definitely helps me to feel happy and refocuses my mind as to how once thought BIG problems are actually normally no big deal at all.

One of my favourite quotes that I have used in a few blog posts seems fitting for this topic.

The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, he said:

“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.
Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.
And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present;
the result being that he does not live in the present or the future;
he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

To true. Stop, look about, breathe, consider, be grateful - be happy; life's to short not to be enjoyed.

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."Allen Saunders

About the author
Si Muddell is a Digital Strategist who has worked extensively both agency and client side. Si is fascinated about marketing, psychology & what motivates people, and loves guitar, surfing and travelling.

Get connected with Si on TwitterLinkedIn &

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