Happiness and Peace—How to Maintain a Life of Serenity
We all have people in our lives who seemingly know how to push our buttons—they are somehow able to get under our skin and threaten our peace and happiness. There may also be circumstances that invariably make us tense or irritable. Rather than denying that this is happening or resigning ourselves to these unpleasant feelings, we can use a variety of tools and perspectives to help us identify these conditions and address them. We can also make ourselves less susceptible to being impacted by these conditions. We can build a foundation of serenity through practices that stabilize our emotional reactions and make us aware of how we interact with the world. We can also be proactive about the elements in our lives to which we consistently have negative reactions. Finally, we can look inside ourselves and try to truly understand why we react the way we do and use that knowledge to mitigate our negative emotions.
Tools to help us stay positive
In order to maintain serenity and happiness, it’s important to understand where these feelings come from and to identify and learn to use tools that can support the achievement of this goal. One of the most effective and proven methods is meditation. Meditation helps the practitioner to move from the macro surface level of being to a deeper, more nuanced level of being. People who meditate becomes less impacted by unwelcome or unpleasant experiences because they’ve established an anchor in a deeper level of existence. Studies have shown that meditation is highly effective at minimizing anxiety. It also shows benefits in the short term—in as little time as two weeks—and allows practitioners to maintain these benefits over the long run. To the uninitiated, meditation may seem like a waste of time or something unfathomable. However, it is quite easy once we get our feet wet. The trick is to be disciplined about our practice as it is not as effective if we practice it inconsistently. See this article for a description of several studies regarding the benefits of meditation. There are also other tools we can use to protect our desired moods and outlooks. For instance, exercise, a good night’s sleep, and gratitude. The more intentional we are about learning to use these tools and being disciplined in practicing them, the better we’ll be able to establish and protect our lives of serenity.
How bad is it really? When we get anxious or irritable, it’s necessary to identify the source of our irritation and spend some time reflecting on that source. We can verify that the thing that seems to be bothering us is really what is bothering us and determine how bad its presence is in the grand scheme of things. It’s natural to deflect responsibility for our moods to others or to zero in on a particular person or behavior when it’s really something else that is damaging our peace and happiness. For example, we may see an annoying coworker disrupting the flow of a meeting and blame that person for our lack of progress on a task or project when, in reality, we’re frustrated with our own degree of progress or contribution. Having some perspective on the true sources of our moods and outlooks is necessary if we are to begin addressing those impacts.
We also need to keep in perspective the reasons why the person or condition impacts us so much and to consider the overall context of our current reality. Whatever disrupts our moods and outlooks in life are never the entirety of our existence. We need to keep in mind that we are also employed, well-fed, sheltered, healthy, loved, active, and engaged. We have to remember the vast breadth of good in our lives and the fact that we have the power to work on making our lives better. Even if one of these elements is lacking in our lives, we can start to improve our lives. We have the power to address the elements, decide what we want from them, and work toward those goals. Of course, some people truly have trouble in these areas or other parts of their lives. I don’t mean to minimize that here, but even in the most trying and challenging circumstances, we should look to those parts of their lives that have good in them and try to maintain balanced perspectives.
Honesty and choices
A lot of anxiety, irritation, and other unpleasant emotions stem from lack of awareness about something in us or the lack of the will to act on that awareness. While it’s important to use our tools to maintain happiness and peace in our lives, we have to be realistic and honest with ourselves about what parts of our lives threaten our happiness and peace. We might have to face unpleasant truths or change our opinions regarding people we’ve been close to in the past. The first step in this process is honesty. This means reflecting on those parts of our lives that threaten our happiness and peace and really digging deep into the aspects of those situations that have this effect. It involves being open-minded about causes that we haven’t thought of before. It is helpful and, in some cases, vital to have some help with this step. We can talk with a therapist or someone whom we really trust and explore our feelings, how they arose, and the triggers.
Once we feel we have an honest picture of the circumstances that take away our happiness and peace, we have to decide what to do about it. We may have to make some hard choices about the people in our lives or some of the things we do. These choices may not always mean staying away from these people or circumstances. We may decide that the people are worth it and use that perspective to better deal with those situations. Some of the decisions we make might include
- Staying away from certain people. Some people may just always get under our skin. We may decide to stay away from them or at least establish some parameters to minimize their impact on us, for example, only being with them when we are obligated to and only for limited amounts of time.
- Choosing to have the hard conversations. When it is not possible or feasible to avoid people—family, for example—it may be necessary to have some hard conversations. If the problem comprises certain topics of conversation, like politics, or certain personality quirks, it’s possible to respectfully make them aware of those sources of tension and work together to avoid them.
- Staying away from certain circumstances. Sometimes the circumstances associated with certain situations cause unpleasant feelings. Crowds cause some people anxiety, while loud noise or the presence of alcohol provokes others’ anxiety. Whatever the circumstances that might take away our happiness and peace, we need to come to terms with them and look for ways to avoid them.
- Choosing personal change. It’s not always external forces that impact our emotions. Sometimes the stress, anxiety, or anger comes from within and is based on past experiences, neuroses, or prejudices. We can choose to acknowledge those internal forces that impact our happiness and peace and intentionally work to address them.
Looking within ourselves
Our first step toward finding a solution should be looking inward, which we do when facing any other challenge. We may feel anxious. We may not be happy. We may not be at peace. Regardless, the world continues to turn. Certain parts of that cycle break into our psyches and affect who we are. We need to take the time to know ourselves well enough to understand what is happening. If we are sufficiently self-aware, we will be able to see those aspects of the world encroaching upon our happiness and peace long before they have any significant effect. Sometimes, our attention will be completely wrapped up in the exigencies of the moment and we will not have the time to reflect on our moods and see the red flags coming. But, with practice, we will get better, and even if we find ourselves in situations that are damaging to our peace and happiness, we will be able to handle them better and better as we get to know ourselves better.
The key to being happy and serene and staying that way is awareness—awareness of what is happening externally and internally, awareness of the tools available to us, and awareness of our perspectives on what is happening. If we are intentional in our awareness, we will be able to maintain lives of happiness and peace.
My Triumphant Three
Who is that now, approaching the gate
Testing my defenses, overwhelming my senses
I can’t allow them to get inside,
I must protect at all costs what I have.
I can’t allow them to take it away from me.
What is it I have they’re trying to damage
They’re trying to steal, it seems so real
that I can’t let them,
I won’t let them – whatever it takes!
What is so valuable that I protect at all costs?
I’m led astray, and I push them away and out of my life.
I sit back and consider what means so much to me,
and find its value was great, but it can’t be my fate
to let anyone touch it or even see what it is.
What is it really? What is its form?
What makes it the norm,
to be so afraid and defensive and selfish.
I find it’s me, the good side of me, that I protect
but in protecting I am the one who is damaging it.
It’s happiness, peace, and serenity, my triumphant three,
that I strive for and live for, and will never be free
From their hold over me.
So I change my perspective, my path is elective
and allows me the freedom to choose
—choose whom I let close, and cherish the most.
It’s these I find who are creating my treasure—my triumphant three.
The others had the power to damage, but I find
It was me who gave them, that power of mayhem.
It wasn’t theirs, it was always mine and I gave it away.
My power to protect, is not in the battle
with those whom I view as a threat.
By staying away or changing the rules,
I have the power, which grows by the hour,
along with my triumph three,
which will always be safe and protected and strong.
They will as long, as I see the world as it is.