How to Be Happy


I recently cashed in some frequent flier miles for some magazine subscriptions (use them or lose them). I ordered Wired and GQ was bundled with it. I really don’t care much about men’s fashion and the articles in GQ are mainly about things I couldn’t care less about, but then as I was flipping through an issue, I came upon an article about happiness which caught my eye.

Click here to read article online.

It was about a Buddhist monk who teaches the keys to happiness. In fact, the monk, Matthieu Ricard, even wrote a book called, appropriately, Happiness. Anyway, the article was written by a person who went to Nepal to meet Ricard and discover the secret to happiness.

“Happiness is a skill,” he wrote. “Skills must be learned.”

This kind of surprised me. I had always considered happiness to be a response to things internal or external, so the idea of happiness being a skill piqued my interest, because I can certainly learn new skills.

In the wake of recent events, I have made a commitment to try to turn off the external noise and focus on the positive. It seems that I am not the only person feeling this way right now.

…these past months had raised a bevy of stark questions about our own humanity. In Paris and Orlando, Nice and Istanbul, the center could not hold. We’d been tossed headlong into a new maelstrom of violence, both physical and verbal. I wanted to know: How could happiness flourish in a sucky world? And how could we find it again?

I have thought about this a lot recently, and as such, have limited my access to news, filtered certain people out of my social media feeds, and recommitted myself to regular meditation. Ricard affirms that this is the right way to improve my overall happiness.

“The search for happiness is not about looking at life through rose-colored glasses or blinding oneself to the pain and imperfections of the world…. It is the purging of mental toxins, such as hatred and obsession, that literally poison the mind.”

The author of the article cites some dismal statistics from the WHO:

The World Health Organization claimed that people in wealthy countries were more depressed, at eight times the rate, than counterparts in poorer ones. Living in affluence seemed to mean you never had enough. Professional status was one more ego-feed, and as useless as the number of likes garnered for posting a picture of your kid playing a piece of celery in the school play.

So does this mean our society is doomed, condemned to a permanent state of unhappiness? It seems that the answer is “No.”

But, I wanted to know, were we changeable, or doomed, in the end? Matthieu flashed a smiling impatience. Of course, we were changeable! We contained molecules of greatness, the possibility of enlightenment!

I am tired of feeling fearful, stressed out, anxious, and unhappy. This is not what life is about. And while I am not going to stick my head in the sand and ignore the world around me, I can make the conscious decision not to feed into the negativity that seems to flourish and instead spread some light and joy to those around me. Hopefully, that happiness will spread to others.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope your day is filled with happiness.


Filed under Non-fiction, Spiritual

4 responses to “How to Be Happy

  1. Interesting, Jeff. I had a similar discussion with my students the other day. The overall conclusion was that affluence never guarantees happiness. Also, there is no bucket list with stuff to tick off. It should come from within and needs emotional clearing first. Have you heard of the global happiness index? Denmark is the leader of it followed by Switzerland. As you know, I’m Polish which gives me “the gene of mysery and complaining” but since living here I think I have managed to soak in some of that Swiss positivity.

    Have a happy weekend


    • Hi Monika! Sounds like you are doing well. I will have to google that index.

      It’s been a tough few months for me. Things had gotten me pretty down, but I’m working to shift my perspective. If I think about it, my life is pretty good, in spite of all the insanity spinning around me. I’m reminded of the saying: “Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm.”


  2. Thanks for sharing this Jeff. I too have been working on how to wrap my mind around this unexpected change in the direction our world seems to be moving, and the anxiety it has produced in me. Tuning out certain voices and newsfeeds has helped, but my curiosity gets me to reading headlines of things that I wish were not happening. I’d never thought of happiness as a skill either, but I can see how it might be. For me, practicing the long-view has been helpful, and it is a skill to do that, to not get caught up in the magnification of current setbacks. Anyways, these reminders are always helpful, so than you for that.

    • Hi Deborah. I’m glad that you found this post helpful. It’s important for us to support each other in these strange times.

      I hope you enjoy your weekend.