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Natural Awakenings Boston

Happiness is an Inside Job

Most of us have encountered the flood of social media posts from personal development gurus agreeing that happiness is an inside job. I love that we get to explore this topic more in depth this month in Judith Fertig’s feature story, “Happy All Day: Simple Daily Practices for a Happier Life.”

It dumbfounds me that as human beings we can be so entrenched in patterns of thought that even after years of self-examination and peeling back the layers of beliefs that aren’t serving us well, we still have so much to learn. For many, including me, it sometimes takes drastic events to open our eyes and lead us to understand that we are the only person in the universe that can make us happy. I’m not concerned that it takes awhile to arrive at such “aha” moments because learning the hard way seems to deliver the most lasting life lessons. Even if we must get slapped upside the head, at least we can eventually learn and grow. A favorite mentor observes, “Words don’t teach, life experiences do.”

I’ve been blessed with a dear friend that exemplified contentment from the inside out. I had trouble understanding how anyone could be so independent of the need for the presence of others. It allowed her to carefully choose those she wished to be around simply because it felt good. I’ve come to more fully comprehend and appreciate the ability to support others without sacrificing our own sanity and well-being through her example. Truly happy people don’t need anyone or anything outside of themselves to make them happy.

Insight into the crucial difference between “need” and “desire” helps. Pausing to consider each one separately, I realize that the energy of the words alone differs; the first carries emotional weight and the second, weightlessness. Maybe that’s because fulfilling needs may seem outside our grasp while desires rise up with hope and expectation.

Figuring out how to be happy from the inside out isn’t easy. If it were, we wouldn’t have so many self-help books and websites by the plethora of experts devoted to showing us the way to making happiness our default state of being. I’m no expert but I am learning three practices that have helped me more consistently dwell in a happy state.

Abandon negative thoughts. The moment we recognize a negative thought, we can replace it with a better one. It’s not necessary to hash out every hurtful thought or emotion in order to release it. We get to choose.

Live and let live. When we let others be who they are without the weight of our personal expectations, life becomes easier.

Meditate daily. Quieting our mind is powerful medicine active and on tap when we’re tempted to express less-than-stellar characteristics; we are able to reign in and quiet them.

We all deserve to be happy from the inside out. I hope this finds you there now.


Maisie Raftery, Publisher