Happiness. The word conjures up images of fun, relaxation, spending time with family and friends, travelling and any number of leisurely activities. Even though these are the things that most are seeking, we spend very little time doing the things that make us happy. The reason is that most of our time is spent trying to earn a living to support ourselves and our families.
Now, I’m not implying that we cannot be happy in our vocation but studies show that the majority people do not like their jobs and only pursue them for the income. However, can we truly be happy if we hate going to work, especially since work is where we spend the majority of our time?
I’m going to propose that the pursuit of happiness should not be the focus of our attention because we cannot be happy in a job which we despise. So what is greater than happiness? It is fulfillment. Fulfillment is a feeling that you are living up to your true values and pursuing a higher calling or a mission. True happiness can only come out of fulfillment so what we should be asking ourselves is how we can live fulfilling lives.
There are 4 keys to living a fulfilling life.
The first is that we must cultivate stillness. What do I mean by this? What I mean is that we must take time out of the busyness of our day to sit in silence and get beyond our thoughts which usually are negative and just distractions from what truly matters. By sitting in silence and getting in touch with our inner stillness, we experience our essential nature. This can lead us to deeper insights as to what stirs our soul and ignites our passion and put us on the path to finding our true calling.
The second is that we must express daily gratitude. This can be done at the end of the day by reflecting and journaling on what you are grateful for. What this does is opens up the floodgates of abundance in our lives and brings us more of what we desire. No matter how dismal you think your situation might be, you can always find something to be grateful for.
The third is that we must feel all of our emotions deeply and fully. Too much suffering and anxiety is caused by repressing our negative emotions from either past traumas or current difficulties. The fact is that we are meant to experience all the emotions that life puts us through, even the negative ones. If we do not express but repress our negative emotions they become trapped in our body and cause stress and symptoms which can lead more chronic problems. Feeling our emotions fully in the moment is the meaning of living life to the fullest.
The fourth is that we must move our bodies. Our bodies are designed to move and in our modern, technological society we have become more sedentary over time. This is in contrast to our ancient ancestors who were always on the move in nature in order to avoid predators, forage and hunt for food and find materials to make clothing and shelter. Movement is a fundamental need that we all have and that we have lost over time. We must get back to our origins and make movement a routine part of our daily lives.
In summary, if we truly engage these 4 practices, we will surely set out on the path to living a fulfilling life which, inevitably, will lead to happiness, which should be a byproduct of fulfillment and not an end to pursue in itself. Pursuing happiness as an end in itself without deeper fulfillment is sure to lead to a life of disappointment and frustration.
Nauman Naeem MD FCCP FRCPC