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Chasing happiness? Here is something special you didn’t know about being happy

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Being happy and to feel happy is one of my higher goals in life. To me it is so clear happiness involves a feeling of high energy, a cheerful feeling, joy, even euphoria. But for one half of the people on this globe this isn’t so obvious. They like to be happy too. They have an idea of how they ideally would love to feel. But their perception of how happiness feels like is totally different than mine, and than yours probably too. Let me give you a total new view on ‘what is happiness’. 

I think ‘this other’ perception of happiness is one everyone should know and integrate in their life. Since the benefits of it are massive. Especially in this stressed out world, where lots of people experience stress, exhaustion, and find themselves in a tiring rat race to keep up with the neighbors, society and even people they don’t like. It is a very simple insight. But a potential life improving one. And that is why I like to share it with you.

Keep on reading to learn what I am talking about. Here is the happiness insight of the year including four amazing benefits that come with making this insight a part of your life.   

Living for the rush, to feel happy 

Plenty of people in the so called western world thrive on adrenaline. The adrenaline rush feels so good. Party till you drop on a festival. Giving everything for your deadline. Kicking ass at your job. Work hard, play hard. Keeping all the balls up in the air. That gives a feeling of great satisfaction and intensity. It makes you feel alive. 

In contrast to this world view, the wisdom of Buddhism warns us for adrenaline and these so called high intensity emotions. According to the philosophy, the moment you become aware of a strong emotion you should pause and breath deeply. And hereby return to yourself. Following this logic, a strong emotion is perceived as losing yourself. Which is the total opposite of something that you should aim for. 

What is happiness to you? 

I think this is so interesting. Whereas people growing up in a Western context welcome the feelings of euphoria, ecstasy and bliss, this ideal is equal to a red flag from the perception of Eastern philosophies. 

In the book The Happiness track, Psychology professor Berkman describes a research related to happiness. The researchers asked people how they ideally would love to feel in daily life. It is another way of asking about happiness perception. 

There appeared to be an eye-catching difference between two groups. The ones in the group that grew up in a Western context were aiming for high intensity emotions like delight, enthusiasm and euphoria. Persons from Asian cultures on the other hand, highly valued the low-intensity emotions relaxation, serenity and calmness. Two groups, with two very different perceptions of desirable emotions and happiness.

Redefine what being happy is – and become more happy 

I want to broaden your definition of happiness. To not only welcome and chase the good feeling of adrenaline in your life, but also to make positive low intensity (happiness) emotions a structural part of your life. It starts with recognizing those – not so spectacular – feelings as feelings of happiness.   

4 Reasons to embrace calm emotions

What can ‘we’; people from a Western context, ‘we’ – adrenaline seekers and dopamine addicts – learn from this radically different life attitude? Why should we welcome calmness in our lives? What is the benefit of feeling serene on a regular basis? I will give you four convincing reasons to explore what it is like to make low intensity emotions a big part of your life.     

Reason #1 to embrace calm emotions > more balance & more peace  

By living on low intensity emotions you are much more balanced. The high is less high and the low is less low. You oscillate less between one extreme and the other. More balance stands for more peace, less stress and better energy management.  

Reason #2 to embrace calm emotions > less tired and more effective on the long run

JD and I were hiking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. It is a stunning route around the Annapurna massif and it brings you up to 5500 meter. One day we did a side hike to the Ice Lake and it required us to gain 1200 meters in altitude in one morning. Full of confidence we started to climb, laughing in ourselves about the slow snails we were overtaking on the way. Every now and then we had to stop and regain our breath. To go full on again. At the end of the morning we couldn’t ignore the ‘snails’ were still around us. Slow but steady they kept on going to the top. While we really needed a break and the day felt long… they were much fresher closing in to the top.   

This anecdote nicely illustrates a disadvantage of high intensity emotions. Emotions of high intensity – either positive or negative – such as enthusiasm but also anger for example, all cost a lot of energy and make you feel tired. 

The story also shows the sustainable and effective character of calmness. On a basis of calmness you will be able to keep on going, without getting too tired and reaching your goals at the same time. With high intensity you can go fast on the short term, but you won’t keep it up long. That is why a calm happiness is more sustainable than an euphoric happiness.  

Calmness is a consistent, stable and energy-efficient energy. And therefore a sustainable recipe for dealing with all kind of challenges, and for …. living your life.  As Berkman puts it in The Happiness Track: “Cultivating calmness keeps you happy and helps you consistently achieve your goals, doing your best work without exhaustion”.

Calm may not look so cool from the outside, but it’s the smarter choice. Guess who reached the summit first?  

Reason #3 to embrace calm emotions > profundity & depth 

Life filled with adrenaline rushes and based on high intensity emotions is fast. One thing quickly alternates the other. There is a lot of action and commotion in your days. 

Living from low intensity emotions means more simplicity and is calmer. 

The third reason to welcome this different state of happiness in your life is about profundity. You might discover that positive low intensity emotions have much more depth than the more superficial high intensity equivalent.  

Living on low intensity emotions boring? Come on, no! There is a whole world to explore there. Start to feel and experience the richness of simplicity. To use JD’s and mine favorite quote from a commercial to promote India: “The stiller you are the further your reach”. 

Reason #4  to embrace calm emotions > the downside is more bearable   

All positive emotions have their downside, which feels less pleasant. The downside of low intensity positive emotions is easier to deal with than the high intensity one. And that makes up for reason #4 to open up to a different kind of happiness.    

Be still and reach further 

In short, you have read four good reasons to explore another state of happiness. There is not one way of being happy, and there are several good reasons to explore a different way of being happy. One that is more sustainable, more calm, prevents you from over-exhaustion, is more effective in the end and perhaps also more interesting. 

Because in the end the stiller you are the further you reach.

Enjoy the fulfilling and stable peace in your life. 

You might start to address this state of being with the word ‘happiness’ not far in the future. 

Please let me know what you think in the comments below! And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly newsletter to receive our stories in your inbox. 

We struggle, you benefit. 

Marleen & Jandaan

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