“Whatever you chase will run away from you.” -Russell Simmons
We all want to be happy. Sometimes, in the pursuit of happiness, though, we lose sight of the full range of emotions that we experience being human, or we overlook the simple pleasures of life, or the blessings around us. Happiness is a short-lived burst, whereas contentment is simple and sustainable.
Sometimes, self help gurus will sell you the idea that you can be happy all the time, but the methods dangerously border spiritual bypassing. Be wary of anyone trying to convince you you should feel ecstatic all the time, or trying to sell you a magic pill that will do the trick. You’re gonna end up in rehab real quick.
The Less You Need, The More You Have
I find that the less I TRY to be happy, and just let my emotions flow, the more I feel happy. Funny how that works, huh? I don’t mean I stopped putting effort into feeling good, because I do. I wear clothes that make me feel good, eat food that makes me feel good, work on projects and exercise in a way that makes me feel good, and spend time with people who feel good to be around.
I still seek a contented life, but I’m not chasing ecstasy at every turn, and because I’m not chasing, I do feel ecstasy (talking about getting high on life here, people) on a regular basis, whether it’s because I am staying in a four star hotel for two star prices and marveling at the view of the water, and a gorgeous fountain changing colors at night, wondering how I got so lucky, or having a mani/pedi night with my nine year old niece and laughing so hard I am crying, thinking about how unbelievably blessed I am, or roller skate dancing to my favorite song along the ocean front, not giving a fuck what people might think of me. In these moments I feel pure bliss, and am high AF on life.
When we let go of the need/idea that we can or should be happy all the time, and instead focus on gratitude, presence, and contentedness, we feel lighter. We feel joy more often. We don’t feel guilt when challenging emotions come up and blame ourselves for not being tough or positive enough. When we let life happen, without resisting all its weirdness, the challenges come and go, and so does the joy.
Now, there’s a difference in seeking out happiness, and seeking out ways to feel good and find joyful moments to each day, whether it’s the perfect cup of coffee or watching a butterfly or sunset. Seek those things every day. Seek satisfaction.
Aiming for contentedness over happiness is going to bring you more happiness in the long run because A) You’re letting go of your NEED for it, and we all know the more we cling to something, the further we push it away and B) You will learn to enjoy the simple moments, even if it’s just doing the dishes listening to a good podcast or singing to your favorite song.
When you’re constantly chasing happiness, the dishes seem like dirty work that has no business in the life of a happy person. Being content, however, means you find satisfaction in your life and all it’s imperfections and dirty dishes. Contentment is about being grateful and accepting life in all its complexities. There is presence in contentedness, calmness, trust, and hope.
Happiness is the Zing! Zing! Zing! dopamine firing off in your brain when you get a text from your crush or you hold your siblings baby for the first time or you find out something you wrote went viral and you MUST dance to express your joy. Happiness is screaming in delight. Happiness is a dream come true.
Happiness is great, but chasing any high involves withdrawal, tolerance, and obsession. Happiness is fleeting, like sadness, or anxiousness, or fear. Emotions come and go, and happiness is no exception.
The law of attraction asks us to let go of our attachment to what we want, and in our letting go of our need for our desire, we actually attract it more easily. The same thing goes for happiness.
“Whatever you chase will run away from you.” – Russell Simmons.
When I first started diving into the self-development world, I was not in good shape, literally or figuratively. As I gained more tools, and began prioritizing living well, and living in the moment, I often found myself feeling guilty if I didn’t feel super happy, like I wasn’t doing this self help stuff right. Funny in retrospect, right? Self help making me feel worse because I didn’t feel happy enough?
This is not to say #DebbieDownersUnite. You can feel sad, overwhelmed, angry, or disappointed and still have a positive mindset. You can still feel gratitude for everything going right, you can still feel hope for the future, and believe things will pass and work out.
Accept Life Exactly As It Is and Remain Hopeful
Life will never be perfect. There is always something we wish we could improve, or something stressful, or not quite “complete.” Learn to accept life just as it is, always in flux.
Keep your positive mindset with you wherever you go. That is something that doesn’t have to fluctuate. Despair doesn’t serve us. For some people, they like to confront the worst-case-scenario, but spiraling down the rabbit hole often causes us unnecessary suffering, or as Newt Scamander said, “worrying means you suffer twice.” If the thing you’re worried about never happens, then you’ve suffered unnecessarily.
You don’t have to chase happiness. Seek contentedness. Accept the ups and downs of life, revel in the simple pleasures of life whether it’s clean sheets, flowers blooming, the perfect bagel, or laughing with someone you love. Bliss will find you, usually when you’re not looking for it.