by Leo Babauta
It’s worth taking a moment to consider where happiness comes from. Is it from things like having someone love you, or eating a fantastic meal, or having a great body, or relaxing on the beach, or drinking a good cup of coffee?
No, actually. Those things all are phenomena that happen outside of us, and they don’t cause the happiness. They might be correlated with happiness — they happen, and then we are happy at the same time — but it’s not a cause-and-effect relationship. There’s another event that’s happening at the same time.
That event is what happens in our brain between the external event (a good cup of coffee) and our state of happiness.
What is this event? It’s a process. Let’s take a close look:
- We drink a cup of good coffee
(or read a good book, eat some delicious berries, have good sex, etc.).
- We notice the coffee, pay attention to it.
If we don’t pay attention and are reading or otherwise occupied as we drink the coffee, we don’t get the happiness from the coffee.
- We appreciate the goodness in the coffee that we noticed.
It’s not just the noticing and paying attention — we have to accept it for what it is, and appreciate the good things about it.
- This goodness we’ve noticed causes us to be happy about life.
We are now happy about the experience of living, about life itself, because this experience is filled with goodness — even if it’s just the goodness of a cup of coffee.
So that’s it: Noticing and appreciating the goodness in a cup of coffee causes us to be happy about living. And the more we notice and appreciate about our lives (and ourselves), the happier we are.
So does this mean that happiness is really about external things, like the cup of coffee or the sex or the love from someone else? No — it’s about the process that happens within. And this process can happen no matter what’s going on outside. It can happen even if there are no external stimuli — because there are things inside of us that we can appreciate as well.
Let me emphasize that: All the raw material we need for happiness is inside of us. The good things we can appreciate to be happy — they are always with us, already there. And the tools for turning these raw materials into happiness are within us as well. We just need to develop them.
Remember this truth: Noticing and appreciating the goodness in anything causes us to be happy about living. And the more we notice and appreciate about our lives (and ourselves), the happier we are.