Wanting to be happy is pretty universal. But, maybe, what we really need to do is to work at just being content.......
To me, happiness needs some sort of outside stimulus to exist - being with other people, watching TV or the cats' antics and even reading a book will make me smile or laugh out loud sometimes. I need such stimuli to be truly, what I'd call, "happy". And such happiness doesn't last very long once the stimulus is gone, if I'm not content "inside".
Happiness is like sadness, good times are like bad times. None of these will last very long. Everything has to change. All the time. Even depression is cyclical and burns itself out eventually. You can't stay happy or sad forever. It's just not possible,
Contentment, on the other hand, comes from within. And it lasts. I don't need anything to be content. I can be content with whatever I have right now - and from contentment comes something really peaceful and much deeper and calming than the transient thing we call "happiness"
From that contented place it's also possible to accept yourself for exactly who you are. Warts 'n' all. And you can do the same for others. It can be incredibly freeing. But you have to work at it, usually against the strong tide of your ego and others' expectations.
Kids seem to achieve this with ease. They are just as happy playing with a cardboard box, than with the expensive contents. They don't discriminate against others until they're taught to do so. As long as they're healthy and have food and shelter, they laugh and they cry and they get angry and they forgive easily. And none of this lasts long, because kids live in the moment and are generally content with what's happening right now.
We were all that child, once. But somewhere we lost our way and starting wanting more. More of what, though? And why?
Here's a wonderful article by Mark Sisson about 16 things we used to do as kids that we should still be doing as adults. Things we might've forgotten we loved doing. Playful things to help us stay in the moment, lose our inhibitions and just be content with being here. The comments afterwards are a great read too.
And here's a great post by Leo Babauta that I found on the subject of how to be more content with life as it is right now.
I met someone recently who'd been on a week's retreat at a Buddhist village in the Dordogne, here in France. It was the first time she'd done anything like it and she loved it. Apart from learning to meditate, the one thing she was taking away from the experience was the first thing she'd been taught to do when she woke up every morning - smile.
To put a really big cheesy grin on her face, lying there in bed for a few minutes as her brain got into gear. She said it made a huge difference to how well her whole day went.
I reckon it's a pretty good place to start.....
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