I can vividly remember the first time I was asked this question.
As I was trekking to Everest Base camp in Nepal at the time. Basking by the glow of a blazing fire in a cozy tea house while a blizzard raged outside. Surrounded by great company which consisted of trekkers from all parts of the world and local Sherpas. It was difficult not to feel an intense form of bliss. I surveyed the scene and thought how lucky am I to be playing cards on a side of a mountain in one of the most picturesque places on earth.
My moment of bliss was interrupted by the words of a gentleman who had been observing me. He hailed from the Netherlands and was part of our group who were playing cards.
‘Why are you so happy?’ he asked quizzically, while continuing ‘ you have the perfect look of contentment on your face’.
He said this in a way that suggested such contentment eluded him. I was surprised by the question. I pondered from a moment. Then I thought about where in the world I was, what it had taken to get here and I replied
‘How can I not be happy?’ ‘Just look at where we are!’
We succumbed to the relaxed atmosphere of the house once again. Raucous laughter filled the air, genuine smiles lit up the faces of those around me. No TV meant that people conversed, played and formed genuine connections. It was comforting to witness.
This was not to be an isolated incident. I found that as I continued to travel I was repeatedly asked this question.
In Tasmania, during a dinner with some friends I was introduced to a distant relative of the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw. His name is Sandy Shaw. Hailing from Ireland and with a deep love of literature I found this tremendously exciting. After christening me as ‘Tinklebell’ due to my constant laughter over dinner Sandy asked ‘Why are you so happy?’ with that familiar quizzical look.
This question continues to plague me as I traverse Australia.
Recently I acquired a job in hospitality where I work in a number of areas including reception and the restaurant. I have been bewildered by the sheer number of observations made regarding my happiness, smile and Irishness.
Does this suggest that most people are not genuinely happy? I don’t believe I am some bizarre specimen that exists in isolation. I will admit that it has been a struggle to get to this point and takes work to remain authentically happy. Of course, I am not always happy. This would be impossible. I have days where I get fed up, feel disheartened and want nothing more than to retreat to the safe haven underneath my blankets. However, I find that I can now jolt myself out of these states quite quickly and resume being a happy human.
Being asked ‘Why am I so happy’ throughout my travels has prompted me to try and figure out what actions I took to become a happier human.
Action 01: Practicing gratitude on a regular basis
I became more grateful after I began to practice yoga on a regular basis.
The act of consciously breathing deeply helped me to become a calmer being. I began to practice it during my everyday life. If I started to feel stressed or overwhelmed I would pause and focus on my breath. During times of stress I tend to take quick shallow breaths and forget to breathe fully. This technique helped me slow down my thought process.
Once I slowed down my thoughts, I began to observe the world around me much more deeply. I took time to observe nature and marvel at all the miraculous things that occur in the natural world. This prompted me to be more conscious of living in the moment and be grateful for the things I had in my life.
Gratitude stems from wanting the things you have rather than continually chasing what you do not.
Action 02: Don’t take life too seriously
Sometimes I can get too wrapped up in the stress of work and life.
I used to stress quite a lot about work and found it difficult to transition between work mode and personal mode. Often I would remain stuck in professional mode for too long. This achieved little except draining the life energy out of me.
It is important to be able to switch effortlessly between the two modes, interject laughter into my day and leave any work stress behind me once I clock off.
Action 03: Practice the technique of loving kindness
This technique was pioneered by Chade-Meng Tan, a software engineer who previously worked at Google.
The technique is pretty simple. Look or think about a person and say to yourself “I wish for this person to be happy”. That is it. An exercise that takes less than 10 seconds.
Alternatively, I can try variations of the technique such as:
Once an hour randomly identify two people walking past me and secretly wish for each of them to be happy. Or incorporate this technique into a meditation practice. Simply sit with a certain person or two in mind and wish them to be happy.
Try it and see what effect it has on you over a week.
Action 04: Self-acceptance and self-love
This is perhaps the most important action and can take a long time to conquer, as it may never be possible to conquer it fully.
It is only when I love myself that I can truly begin to love others and show them true compassion and kindness. I am in a better position to help others if I have already tended to my own needs. The first step towards helping others is to first help yourself. It may seem selfish but is it the kindest thing I can do. It is important that I make sure I am ok first. I believe that this is the stepping stone to creating a better world.
After first being kind to myself, I am more likely to extend the same kindness to others.
I rarely know what another person is really going through. Case in point I have a friend who was going through a depressive episode in his life. One day he mustered up the energy to leave the house and go for a walk. This is no easy feat when caught in the grips of depression.
While on the walk, a group of youths egged him. This story broke my heart.
So be nice.
Treat others as you would like them to treat you. If I can be a happy human it creates ripples of happiness which extends to others and encourage them to also be better humans.
Do you have any habits or steps you take to become a happy being? I would love to hear them!