Cultural experiences and funny musings by two twenty-somethings living abroad
What does being “happy” mean to you? Usually, it is a fleeting emotion we all experience when something great happens such as a promotion, or seeing an old friend or winning some prize in a raffle. Therefore much like any other, happiness is something that seems to be temporary and only as a result of something else.
What if we were to tell you, that you can be happy in your daily life and you don’t need an external situation to feel a change in mood. All you need is simply a change in perception.
Let’s take a look first at what it is that we call reality. Nobody can argue what is real and what isn’t because we all see things very differently. Each and every individual has a different way of seeing things (what we call perception) meaning that the “same” thing will be seen completely differently by people.
This is one of the most important things you can ever learn in life and something that we usually forget all too quickly. We are so focused on ourselves and what’s going on around us and in our lives that we forget the true reality and objectivity of things. We think that what we perceive is what others see, we struggle to accept others’ opinions and we usually feel more “frustrated” during the day than “happy” or “content”.
Therefore, many start questioning their lives and/or themselves, and instead of riding the waves of their emotions, they feel like they’re drowning in an experience with intense bursts of positive emotions and then negative with seemingly little control of their reactions.
So, when we realise this, the next step we ask ourselves is how do we go about changing our perception? Is it even possible? If what we think and see is not real and if external situations have such a big effect on us, what, if anything, can we do to reverse this hold?
Well, the answer lies in simply having some control of our mind and it is of no surprise that meditation has recently gained in popularity. Through the daily practice of meditating, we are promised to regain more control of our mind, experience clarity, calmness, peace and content, especially when we follow a mindfulness meditation practice.
It is a powerful statement to make, but one that holds absolutely true – you can control your thoughts and you can change your perception. You absolutely do not have to worry or to be doubtful or to be angry and jealous because all that that is, is a thought. The problem for many of us is that we perceive it as reality and so we endure difficulties and hardships because of what is going on in our heads. We forget to look at the bigger picture and we get overwhelmed with our emotional states all too often leading us to think we are not happy and we are having too much of a hard time in life.
Now, for those of you who are put off by the word meditation or associate it with something religious then let’s get this straight. Meditating is a practice you usually do seated and in silence and your main goal is to not get lost in your thoughts but instead observe them. You know how you start thinking of something and that’s it, it’s taken hold. You’re stuck in a story or fantasy and you usually zone out of real-life? This is where we are lacking in mind control and this is why the practice of meditation is one of the most helpful and useful things to do.Through training yourself to be in the present, you are not lost in a story or your thoughts and knowing that what is in your head is not reality – is the ultimate power.
Now, you do not have to follow mindfulness meditation for 45 minutes a day, every day to see these benefits. Especially for beginners, many get really put off by sitting still and in silence and trying to combat boredom, having thoughts, an aching back etc etc.
In fact, many people don’t even realise that many activities in our daily lives can actually be called “meditation” as well. For example, when you read a good book for hours on end – are you in your thoughts? No, you have just escaped from reality and you are focused completely on something else. When you practice a sport and are in a competition, Yes, you feel nervous but when you run for example, are you worrying about something that happened yesterday or are you in full awareness of the present situation? For those who really do want to make a change to their lives but are not too keen on signing up to a 8 week long meditation retreat – just realise that there are plenty of things you can do mindfully that can work just as well. The main point to remember is to see your thoughts for what they are throughout the day and to try and bring yourself back to the present, to your surroundings and to ‘wake up’ again.
Of course, all things external will influence our internal well-being. For example, going to a great concert or getting a promotion will make us feel good. Or, getting your purse stolen or getting fired will result in us feeling down. It is however all in our mind what we perceive as good and what we perceive as bad and whether we think ourselves lucky or not. Really, it is all in your head.
Being present is what makes you appreciate all the richness around you. No matter how bleak the external situation seems, it is through the power of your thoughts (that yes, you can control) which will ultimately determine your state of being.
Nobody can see the reality as it is. No-one. It is all an interpretation and is perceived completely differently by each individual. This is something worth knowing. We will all endure good and bad times – that is how life is – however you can also make your life a happy one by knowing you are more than your thoughts. You are more than what you perceive. Life is full of opportunities and possibilities and if you get into the right mind-set, there is nothing that will stop you being that happy person you have always wanted to be.