Happiness and Gratitude

Happiness is a choice

For this post to go out on Christmas Day, a time for gratitude, I am reflecting simply and concisely on Happiness and Gratitude, starting with this image, then the thoughts of the Dalai Lama on “Compassion as the source of happiness“, and finally to share with you a quite beautiful TED talk where the speaker explains: “Want to be happy? Be grateful

Happiness is a Choice

So, the image above is from Hugh McLeod of Gaping Void, an artist who often inspires me. This image was featured in a recent daily email from Gaping Void, with these thoughts:

“Buddha once said that “Life is suffering”. He didn’t say that most of our suffering is self-inflicted. Or if he did, that part was mostly lost on us mere mortals. Happiness is not just the result of good fortune and good brain chemicals. Happiness is also part of being responsible for your own experience. Indeed.”

Hmm, I thought. This catalysed a lot of linked thoughts for me.

First, linked to a powerful phrase for me:

“We create the whole of our own reality”

Next, I thought of the Dalai Lama, truly someone who exudes happiness.

Compassion as the Source for Happiness

A lovely page on his thoughts on this at “Compassion as the Source of Happiness“, and a few excerpts:

“Since our goal and the purpose of life is happiness, what is happiness? Sometimes physical suffering can even bring a deeper sense of satisfaction like with an athlete after a grueling workout. So “happiness” means mainly a sense of deep satisfaction. The object of life or our goal, then, is satisfaction.”

“…compassionate human affection is really important: the more compassionate our mind is, the better our brain functions.”

“..compassion and affection help the brain to function more smoothly. Secondarily, compassion gives us inner strength; it gives us self-confidence and that reduces fear, which, in turn, keeps our mind calm. Therefore, compassion has two functions: it causes our brain to function better and it brings inner strength. These, then, are the causes of happiness. I feel it is like that.”

“…we modern people think too much of external development. If we pay attention only to that level, that’s not enough. Genuine happiness and satisfaction must come from within.

“…The basic elements for that are compassion and human affection, and these come from biology. As an infant, our survival depends solely on affection. If affection is there, we feel safe. If it’s not there, we feel anxiety and insecure. If we become separated from our mother, we cry. If we are in our mother’s arms and held tight, warmly, then we feel happy and we’re quiet. As a baby, this is a biological factor. One scientist for instance, my teacher, a biologist who is involved with anti-nuclear violence – he told me that after birth, a mother’s physical touch for several weeks is very important for enlarging the baby’s brain and development. It brings a feeling of safety and comfort and this leads to proper development of physical growth, including the brain.
So, the seed of compassion and affection is not something that comes from religion: it comes from biology. We each came from our mother’s womb and each of us survived due to our mother’s care and affection. In the Indian tradition, we consider birth from a lotus in a pure land. That sounds very nice, but perhaps the people there have more affection for lotuses than for people. So being born from a mother’s womb is better. Then we are already equipped with the seed of compassion. So, those are the causes of happiness.”

Beautiful thoughts, and now, finally for this Christmas Day post, to one of my favourite TED talks.

Want to be happy? Be grateful

I write often about Beautiful Leadership, and David Steindl-Rath is one such human. A monk and interfaith scholar, the theme of his TED talk is that happiness is born from gratitude. An inspiring lesson in slowing down, looking where you’re going, and above all, being grateful.

I share this with you as my Christmas gift and encourage you to take fourteen minutes of presence with David, give yourself that gift, and my you choose gratitude and bring forth compassion for self and others and so happiness on this day.

Also published on Medium.

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