Monday, October 29, 2007

Happiness is a habit

From The Science of Happiness by Stefan Klein

"To live wisely requires the ability to perceive, guide and foresee our emotions. Feelings of happiness aren't a coincidence but the consequence of right thoughts and actions--a concept which modern neuroscience, ancient philosophy, and Buddhism...all agree.

We in the West typically emphasize the value of the correct decision: if only we were to make the right choice at this or that fork in the road, everything would improve. But according to the traditions of Buddhism and the philosophies of ancient Greece and Rome, it is more important to anchor ourselves in good habits, because these form the mind. We should want to change ourselves rather than our circumstances. The rest will come, because with a mind that is prepared for happiness, we will automatically seek out those situations that make us happy.

The importance each of us gives to the conscious choice is in the end a matter of faith. But two things are certain. First, our sense of happiness depends much more on the ways in which the brain perceives than on external circumstances; and second, occasional efforts arent sufficient to change our ways of perceiving. If the brain is to be rewired, repetition and habit are indespensible. And they, in turn, depend on a willingness to make an effort.

People are willing to go to great lengths when it concerns status, career, or their children's development. But when it concerns happiness in everyday life, they can be oddly stingy with their energy. And yet, the way to happiness is quite straight forward: 'The actual secrets of the path to happiness are determination, effort, and time,' explains the Dalai Lama.

To this science can only assent."

"Three insights stand on solid ground and turn up again and again in different contexts.

First, positive feelings can drive out negative ones.

Second, although no happiness lasts forever, we can see to it that we experience more moments of happiness than before and that the pleasure they give us lasts longer.

Third, less important than what we experience, is how we experience it."

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