by Leo Babauta
If external sources of happiness aren’t constant or reliable, we should look internally instead. But what does that mean?
It means finding joy in how amazing you are, in your constant growth and in the learning process, in your appreciation of life and its ever-changing state, in your appreciation of solitude and connection both. These are all awesome things, and they are all within you, all the time.
What are some of the things within us that we can appreciate, that can make us happy? Some examples:
Are you generous?
Do you love? Can you give love?
Do you feel compassion?
Are you good at something?
Are you a good listener?
Do you empathize with the pain of others?
Do you appreciate beauty in nature, in others?
Do you have good ideas?
Are you determined?
Are you good at sports?
Are you creative?
And so on. These (and more) are all internal qualities you might have that you can appreciate, that can make you happy about yourself.
So the happiness process — noticing, appreciating, being happy about living — can be applied to things within us, no matter what’s going on outside. We can learn to notice and appreciate the good things (and the less-than-perfect things as well!) in ourselves, and start to love ourselves.
That’s just the start, though. What’s within us is amazing, but so is what’s in everyone else, and life all around us. These might be external things, but the appreciation for them (and the happiness that results) comes from within.
So the key skill is to learn to notice, accept and appreciate everything around us, and everyone we see and interact with.
Look closely at the food you eat, and the coffee, water, tea, or wine you drink … what do you notice? Is there good to be noticed that you can appreciate, that can make you happy to be alive?
What about the room around you? What about the book you’re reading, or the blog post? What about the nature outside? Are there things there that you can notice and appreciate?
Often if we fail to see good in things or people around us (or ourselves), it’s a failure to pay close attention. If the person near you seems rude or uninteresting, you’re not paying close enough attention to the details: Are they also funny, or talented, or shy but with hidden secrets? Are they in pain and in need of compassion? Look closer, and see what you can find.
Once you begin to pay attention, and to look, you’ll find some amazing things. All around us are examples of beauty, creativity, inspiration, triumph, pain, joy, life.
And once you get good at this, you can start to appreciate the “not-so-perfect” things as well. We judge other people’s flaws, and our own flaws, as “bad” . but what if they’re just a part of being human? Then aren’t the “flaws” a celebration of who we are as humans? Aren’t anger and rudeness and mistakes a part of our beauty as human beings?
I’ve been learning to appreciate the “flaws” in my children, for example, as beautiful, as part of the signature of who they are. My little daughter is loud and bold, while my youngest son is quiet(er) but full of motion and adventure. They are different, and those differences are part of what makes each of them wonderful in their own way. If we didn’t have these “flaws,” we wouldn’t be as wonderful.
And this is true, of course, of ourselves. We all have flaws, and we should celebrate them. Notice them, yes, but appreciate them, and use them as reasons to be happy to be alive.
Once we can do this, we can see the wonder in every little thing around us, and inside us. And then we realize that life is a true joy, in every moment, if we simply pay attention and appreciate it.
Take a minute to think about the things that have annoyed you, disappointed you, angered you, frustrated you in the recent past. How can you find the awesomeness in those things?