A key Ingredient of True Happiness

key to true Happiness

Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to be kind and loving when you are in a happy mood and favorable surroundings? But, how many times have you reacted in a not so loving way when you were feeling stressed and something caught off guard?

You know what I mean, a challenging day; too much of everything aimed straight at you. Then it happens, someone says or does the wrong thing at exactly the wrong time, and you rediscover a side of yourself that you thought was long gone.

Stress has a way of sneaking up on us

Maybe it wasn’t even obvious to those around you. It might have been just a feeling you had, or an unkind thought. However it managed to manifest itself, one thing is certain, it didn’t feel good. Such experiences can also leave us feeling more than a little disappointed with ourselves.

Stress has a way of sneaking up on us and it can happen so subtly that it goes completely unnoticed, for awhile anyway. It just sits there gathering strength without any visible signs, until the wrong button gets pushed.

Hey, we’re all human and life does have its challenges

But what if we could find a way to sustain a positive, loving attitude even under trying circumstances? Wouldn’t that make a sizable contribution to our overall happiness level? How pleased would we feel with ourselves if the people or situations that used to get under our skin didn’t bother us anymore?

The fact is, when we allow ourselves to manifest negative feelings it disrupts our sense of peace and harmony. It’s pretty hard to be upset and feel happy at the same time. So really, it’s to our personal benefit to find ways of cultivating a kind and loving attitude as much of the time as possible because it contributes to our true happiness.

Here’s how it works

Being kind and loving comes from being in a positive and generous state. Feeling positive and generous is the same as being in a state of abundance, and feeling abundant gives us a sense of true happiness. So our personal sense of happiness is directly related to how we feel toward others. Abundance is also a state of resourcefulness, and when we are resourceful we are in a much better position to deal with challenges.

We are all human and life certainly has its moments, but let’s look at how choice is involved. Let’s start with someone way down near the bottom on our list of favorite people. Maybe it’s someone who just bugs us for some reason and we have never really analyzed why we feel that way. Can we love them? Nobody said we have to love what they do or what they say. The question is, can we love them as a fellow human being?

Why do we have to love them to have true happiness?

Remember, it’s the smart thing to do. Our sense of true happiness is directly involved. Are you thinking, okay, maybe I can have a more positive attitude toward them, but no way can I love them?

See what that was? It was a conscious decision to be unloving, to harbor unloving feelings. Wasn’t that what just happened? If we are honest about it we see that it was also a personal decision to be negative rather than positive. It was a choice!

It was a choice to be limited instead of empowered

When we make a decision like that, we might think we are only projecting negative energy toward that one person. But where does that negative energy originate?

If it comes from us, then the negative energy is in us. It lives in the person who is saying or thinking non-loving things. When we express non-loving feelings toward anyone or anything, our mind likes to justify it by concluding that we are giving them exactly what they deserve. That means that we are judging them. Not just their actions, but we are judging them as a person.

When we discriminate and judge, we actually undermine our own sense of humanity. The key to avoiding this tendency is to disassociate the human being from the questionable course of action. Disapproving of their actions is one thing, judging them as a person is another. Ask yourself this:

Have I ever benefited from being non-loving?

Negativity is only destructive and limiting, nothing good can come from it. Why would we ever choose it over empowerment and abundance? Remember, we always have a choice.

We can’t have it both ways. If we want to be happy, we cannot be loving toward those people we think deserve it, and hateful toward those we have judged otherwise. Doing so only leads to feeling joyful occasionally, while feeling miserable or angry much of the time.

This path can never lead to true happiness because we are allowing our sense of joy to be dictated by the behavior of those around us. Don’t let yourself fall into this trap. Don’t make your happiness dependent on the people around you. Make a choice to be happy, make the loving choice.

Do you believe that true happiness involves choice?
Have you experienced joy from making loving choices?
The lines are open!

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  1. Leisa Watkins January 21, 2011 Reply

    It truly does amazes me how difficult it is for many people to separate the value of a person from the actions. You are so right, that inability only leads to unhappiness. Another fantastic article.

    • Jonathan January 21, 2011 Reply

      Hi Leisa, the ironic thing is, we have all acted in inappropriate ways before and we hope that others will be able to separate the action from the person. We should try to do the same for them. Granted, some people’s behavior patterns my be disheartening, but we can hold out hope that it is a phase, or that there are extenuation circumstances.

  2. Dandy January 21, 2011 Reply

    Amen to this. I couldn’t have said it better myself! Everything you wrote is true! Happiness is a choice as is positivity and feelings of abundance. We can choose the energy we need!

    • Jonathan January 21, 2011 Reply

      Hi Dandy, one of my goals is to encourage others to exercise that ability to choose the positive, and to stop focusing on the negative. We have so much control over how we view our life experience. Why not choose the positive?

  3. Sandra January 21, 2011 Reply

    Hi Jonathan,
    I’m reading this while I’m waiting on hold, listening to the intense recorded classical music which is interrupted frequently to tell me what to do if I’m having a medical emergency. Not exactly a relaxed moment! Trying not to fall into a feeling of stress!

    Was there ever a more true point, the way that stress sneaks up on us and then there’s a sudden trigger!

    I fully agree that we can’t find true happiness as long as our feelings of love are partial. This is a truth that is seldom emphasized. I appreciate your logic, explaining why this is so.

    • Jonathan January 21, 2011 Reply

      Hi Sandra, enduring hold can be challenging, that’s for sure. I am just glad it’s not a medical emergency or enduring hold could prove fatal. I love to get to the underlying reasons for WHY things are the way they are. It’s a strange mechanical aptitude thing where I take everything apart to see what makes it work.

  4. Evan January 21, 2011 Reply

    Hi Jonathon, I suspect I’m about to sound picky.

    “Are you thinking, okay, maybe I can have a more positive attitude toward them, but no way can I love them?

    “See what that was? It was a conscious decision to be unloving, to harbor unloving feelings.”

    I think that was probably an unconscious ‘decision’. We can then become conscious of it, but it started unconscious I think.

    I’m not saying it is bad to make decisions – and making more loving decisions may lead to us and others being happier.

    My point (I got to it eventually) is that we need a way of dealing with the ‘subconscious’ stuff. We are more than our conscious intentions I think.

    • Jonathan January 21, 2011 Reply

      Hey Evan, you make a valid point. Raising our conscious awareness in this case requires that we move that decision making process out of the subconscious and into the conscious. This can be difficult at first as we work to train ourselves to recognize that a decision is actually being made. Over time we develop the necessary awareness that allows us to consciously take over a process that was once happening automatically in our subconscious.

      • Louis August 18, 2012 Reply

        This all makes intuitive sense but what about all the neuroscientists these days who are telling us that we do not have access to the unconscious processes of our brains? That we don’t even have the language to talk about these processes. That since they are unconscious, then , by definition the conscious mind cannot know them and thus they are impossible to control but we can only react post facto. Tara Bennett-Goleman says we have a quarter of a second window of opportunity to catch the emotion before the negative chain of reaction sets in. that requires very sharp and constant vigilance it seems.

        • Jonathan August 20, 2012 Reply

          Hi Louis, because science can’t see something doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Have you ever noticed how the the universe gets bigger every time they get a more powerful telescope? Science doesn’t create reality, they just discover it one piece at a time.

  5. Nea January 22, 2011 Reply

    Hi Jonathan. I try to remember that it is the people who seem least lovable that often need love the most. I also remind myself that, by not reacting negatively, I am doing a favor to the entire Universe.

    Now, I’m not going to say this always works. I am human and there are definitely times when I say or do something unloving (i.e. traffic situations), but I’m able to quickly turn it around.

    It’s becoming increasingly easy for me to look at even the most negative people with love and compassion instead of judgment.

    Absolutely wonderful post!

    • Jonathan January 22, 2011 Reply

      Hi Nea, what a nice, realistic comment. Responding in a positive way to negative or stressful situations is not easy. It does take practice and we have to be patient and kind with ourselves when we blow it. Like so many things in life, we must work at developing the ability to respond with love. For most people, it’s not our natural response in the face of challenging situations. We are all a work in progress.

  6. Marnie January 22, 2011 Reply

    Exactly! I was just thinking about choice being the key to true happiness.

    • Jonathan January 22, 2011 Reply

      Hi Marnie, the more we remind others that their happiness has a lot to do with personal choices, the more likely they are to start exercising those choices in a positive way. That’s my hope anyway.

  7. Shailender January 22, 2011 Reply

    Yes, I do agree that happiness depends on our choice but one thing is for sure that to choose positive over negative is always very difficult. And our tendency is to prefer to choose negative.

    • Jonathan January 22, 2011 Reply

      Hi Shailender, this is one of those cases where or natural response under stressful situations is often counterproductive. So, yes it does take effort, but the rewards are well worth it, don’t you think?

  8. Marty January 22, 2011 Reply

    I’ve been doing this more and more over time. It does take practice. Thinking of very difficult memories that involve how feel hurt by another can bring back that pain. The sense of choosing to love that person can feel abhorrent but as you say, it is separating the person from the behaviour and that IS the secret. It allows us to peel away the labels that do not belong to us and deal with this issue in an authentic way.
    Great advice and thanks

    • Jonathan January 22, 2011 Reply

      Hi Marty, we all carry those negative emotional anchors to some degree, and yes, they can make it difficult to separate the person from the behavior. Sound like you are doing quite well in this regard and that is something to feel really good about. It represents a growing level of awareness and compassion. Very commendable!

  9. Alex Blackwell January 22, 2011 Reply

    Jonathan – this post is spot on. I too believe that happiness comes from a constant, fluid state of kindness and positive energy. We can’t pick and choose who get’s our best, we need to give it to freely to all.


    • Jonathan January 22, 2011 Reply

      Thanks Alex, it’s a valuable life lesson that can totally change the way we respond to others and the way they respond to us. It’s up to each of us to take the initiative.

  10. David Smith January 22, 2011 Reply

    Right on, Jonathan. When we meet hostility with hostility, it just escalates the situation. When we meet hostility calmly, it defuses it. I have some friends that disagree strongly with me on some subjects. They know if they bring up a topic that could lead to a heated argument all I’m going to say is “That’s an interesting point”. If they want to have a pleasant chat there are plenty of other things to talk about. And that’s what we talk about since they know they can’t get me going. Thanks for the post.

    • Jonathan January 22, 2011 Reply

      Hi David, your comment demonstrates another important point. If we “meet hostility with hostility” it means that the other person had control of our emotions and the situation. When we meet hostility calmly and defuse it, that means that we were in the drivers seat instead of being controlled by outside forces.

  11. Daisey January 22, 2011 Reply

    Hi Jonathan,

    Your post has so many dimensions to it. Just what it truly means to love another person can be complicated to some. I love the Latin and Italian ways of defining love – volere bene….to want good for another – the best for another person. To want the best for another in the given moment that they cross our path. It may be just a kind word, a heartfelt smile, letting someone get ahead of you in line etc. So often the smallest of acts if done from an attitude of goodness, kindness, aka love, can actual be life changing moments for the recipient.

    In my experience, the more I have come to know myself, my own brokenness, failings, shortcomings, mistakes, weaknesses etc. , and what all these different aspects of myself can cause others and myself, then, so much more it has become so much easier to look at others with a heart of compassion and love.

    I believe there’s a difference between happiness and joy. Choosing to do good will always bring a level of satisfaction, the awareness of one’s own goodness, an experience of a joyful moment. The more one gives of themselves the more joy, inner contentment. But the feeling of being “happy” can be so circumstantial and fleeting. I believe the choice is really about the level of acceptance one chooses about each given moment and situation. The situation could be far from “happy”, but if one can strive to have an attitude of accepting the present moment for what it is then one can experience inner peace even in the mist of a storm. I believe it is from this stance that one can then make the best choices how to proceed. For example, if something triggers me, say someone with a harsh personality, I may react with an unkind word, or freeze (and look stupid..) or run….. Accepting myself for who I was at that moment and the other person for who they are I’ve learned will bring me back to a place of peace and I can reclaim my own inner joy. Then I can choose to be loving and have compassion on both myself and the other person….

    • Jonathan November 1, 2012 Reply

      Hi Daisey,

      I just wanted to say how touched I was by the depth of your comment. I loved the way you reasoned on the whole topic. Obviously, you put a lot of thought into it and that is really commendable.

      It is so refreshing when someone feels comfortable enough to voice their feelings and thoughts as you have, especially on a subject as involved as this one. I think you made some excellent points here and in doing so you further stimulated my thinking processes.

      Thank you Daisey, you’ve made a valuable contribution to this important conversation.

  12. Chris January 23, 2011 Reply

    I believe happiness is a choice. We are only able to make that choice if we are aware of that moment though. The tendency is to experience our emotions on a sort of “auto-pilot” instead of grabbing hold of the controls and flying the plane ourselves!

    • Jonathan January 25, 2011 Reply

      That’s exactly right Chris, we need to get off of auto-pilot and bring awareness into the game.

  13. Stuart January 23, 2011 Reply

    I reckon happiness is something that we all experience from time to time, and the feeling is so great that we try and get it back as often as possible.

    But to have lasting happiness, true happiness, is to do work. To make the effort to forgive others, be kind and loving, and to appreciate all aspects of life. Most people shun this work, and they only find happiness in glimpses.

    True happiness can be achieved, with work and love, but it will take time. Yet, we can all achieve this state :-)

    • Jonathan January 25, 2011 Reply

      Hi Stuart, thanks for linking the real happiness to requiring some conscious effort. This may sound counter intuitive to some, but our natural tendencies can be very misleading. It takes some work to retrain our mindset and response patterns.

  14. Amit Sodha January 24, 2011 Reply

    Hey Jonathan, I definitely feel that happiness is a decision we make in the way we respond to the events life throws at us. It’s in the evaluation we make of those events. like when my sister passed away, I decided to see it as a gift. And then I saw her death in a whole new light.

    • Jonathan January 25, 2011 Reply

      Hi Amit, I am a big believer that life is 95% perception and 5% circumstances. We have so much to work with if we are just willing to learn the right skills.

  15. Frank January 25, 2011 Reply

    Great Question,

    I definately think that happiness is a choice. I also believe it does take a lot of effort and work to do it during a challenging period. Whenever I get stressed I spend time imagining the things that are most important to me in a happy state. The thought of their smiles brings me joy.

    • Jonathan January 25, 2011 Reply

      Hi Frank, that’s a good example of how simple it can be to change our perception of a challenging situations. Admittedly, it can also be very difficult sometimes, but the more we work at it the better we get.

  16. Alicia January 25, 2011 Reply

    I enjoyed this post, however I feel like a natural pessimist. I’ve been surrounded by pessimists in my family all of my life, yet I try to surround myself with positive people to help influence my mind. I don’t act on my negative mind/feelings most of the time, but they are the first to pop into my head EVERY TIME. I want to be positive, but hardly think positive initially. I usually have to go against my own grain and correct my thoughts/words/actions. Is this natural? I just can’t stand feeling grumpy, angry, or impatient all the time. I don’t act upon it, but I get pleasure from my not so nice comments in my head that I put away and replace with insincere positive words/actions because I know it’s the proper/right thing to do. I just want my mind to match my actions. How do I do this?
    Grumpy On the Inside,

    • Jonathan January 25, 2011 Reply

      Hi Alice, first let me assure you that your struggle is perfectly normal, especially if you are surrounded by pessimists. Sounds like you are making a stellar effort and I commend you for that. It can be very difficult to go contrary to the “group mentality” because we are influenced by those we spend time around. You might find it very empowering to start keeping company with positive, up-building, optimistic people. Their influence will support your efforts and reinforce the positive changes you are cultivating. Changing our response patterns doesn’t happen over night, the transition takes time. In my book TRUE SELF there are several exercises that help speed the process but here is something that can help you right now and it is very simple. It’s called Touchstone Triggering.

  17. arina nikitina February 3, 2011 Reply

    So much of the world we move in and the people we move around with are going to cause us reasons to be unhappy. But just because that’s how it works, it doesn’t mean we go with the flow. Being gifted with the power of choice (Thanks to Amit, by the way!) it’s within us how to set our sight on what’s going on around us. So what if there’s war or abject poverty in many regions? Those who choose to be happy would pray for peace, or some would even join campaigns and movements to bring peace and food. Others brave enough, and with resources, would actually be on the scene of “unhappiness, loss, tragedy and pain” just so they could uplift a soul or two. Why do they do it? Because they chose to spread the positives and help those in the negative situation overcome or cope.
    I truly believe as well that they people who say life is one unhappy saga or good things don’t happen to them just need to be enlightened. Should they find the deeper meaning of their existence, have goals and grasp their purpose in life, and be grateful instead of being spiteful because they’re “not so lucky”… they’d be happier!
    To those facing the challenges of despair and unhappiness, CHOOSE to get out of the situation. You’re more than what you think you are!

    • Jonathan February 4, 2011 Reply

      Hi Arina, there is only so much any one person can do with regard to the sad plight of others. It offends our senses to see others suffer because that is the nature of compassion. But allowing such things to turn us negative doesn’t help. Even in our personal lives bad things happen, but it’s how we respond that determines our reality. We always have a choice, even in the face of very challenging circumstances.

  18. Rocket Bunny February 4, 2011 Reply

    Hi there,
    I think love and hate are very close. I could never hate anyone.
    With that said yes I do have people that annoy me but always seem to find the good in people.
    I believe you have to value humanity and all the differences we have.
    If someone is intentionally annoying me, I distance myself from that person.
    Avoiding frown lines.:D

    • Jonathan February 4, 2011 Reply

      Hi Bunny, this was excellent: “I believe you have to value humanity and all the differences we have.” Doing so changes our view of people in a very positive way. Thanks!

      • Jonathan February 5, 2011 Reply

        You are very welcome. I love all your sites and you are one of my mentors. So I thank you.

  19. Josh November 2, 2012 Reply

    Your website has helped me so much lately! Im a young guy of 23 and recently got myself into a dark hole for a good year, or so. Luckily ive been blessed with an amazing girlfriend for over 4 years now. She helped me to become aware of my negative thinking and ive been consciously working on correcting my thought patterns. Unfortunately, anxiety and panic come regularly now. However, I am finally seeing progress in myself! What a ride this has been.

    • Jonathan November 4, 2012 Reply

      Hi Josh and congratulations on your progress toward a more empowering life. It certainly helps to have someone by your side who is supportive and has your best interest at heart. There are some great pointers for dealing with anxiety and panic in this article: How to Deal With Anxiety and Panic Attacks. I think you will find the information useful.

  20. Tammy April 22, 2013 Reply

    I’ve been working on this since I heard about the school shooting in Dec. When something bad happens I remind myself to stay possitive, that way I can be more of a help. You can handle stress better If you are in a better mood. -Tammy

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