There is an old Chinese story about a man who goes on a long pilgrimage to learn the secret of happiness. After a long journey, he finds a wise man at the top of a mountain and asks for the secret of happiness. The wise man tell him that he is looking in the wrong place and that it matters not how long and far he searches he will never find what he is looking for. The pilgrim asks him to explain.
‘Happiness’ explained the wise man ‘comes from inside you. Some unhappy people think that happiness can be created by external actions and belongings but without changing yourself inside you cannot find what you seek’.
How many of us today are unhappy and hope that by changing our job, partner, house, car or lifestyle we will become happy? How many more think to themselves if only I had this or that thing or more money they would be happy? Admittedly, enough money can make misery more comfortable.
I have worked with and for people who are immensely wealthy and I saw no indication that they were happier than me. In contrast, I have seen people living in poverty who have been joyful about the smallest pleasures in life.
I think I am happy most of the time but when I am not I search for the reasons inside myself. When a tragedy or a problem in the family needs healing or a worry about money needs considering or a concern about health needs action, I act. Once I have acted and done whatever can be done I then choose to relax and say that’s the best I can do I’m going to put it aside and go for a beer – I will watch a film, go for a walk, sing a song - try to be happy.
In our modern world, we are constantly bombarded with information by the press and social media. Almost all of this information is superfluous. We don’t know the country, the place or the people concerned. Once we have received the information we are helpless to assist, helpless to change anything, we are informed but disenfranchised. The same media tells us to deal with our feelings of helplessness by sending money to a charity. Once we have sent our donation, we return to the original source of our problem and receive more ‘news’ about another disaster somewhere else.
The world’s problems cannot be resolved by our unhappiness and guilt. To find happiness we must turn off the bad news, turn off the speculation and turn off the feelings of helplessness – in other words turn off the news!
I have recently rationed my time on News Channels. Once every few days is the best I have achieved. I am limiting my time on social media by taking their apps out of my telephone. I sometimes leave my telephone behind when I leave the house but that one is more of a struggle. I have discovered that I am happier inside when I have less input from outside. I am happier when my problems are my immediate problems and not someone else’s. I am happier because I don’t hear about brexit, terrorism, war, starvation and climate change every day. Happiness isn’t out there it is wherever I am now.
It isn’t that I don’t care, I do! It’s just that for most of my life I want to enjoy the good bits, I want to laugh a little. Switch off the news, watch a film, chill, have a Kit-kat!