Habits. When you say the word 'habit', what does it make you think of? A learned pattern, right? Often, with a negative connotation. But, what if we can make a habit out of happiness? 

The human brain likes patterns. It is built off of patterns! Patterns of proteins, thoughts, etc. So, you can surmise that one thought leads to a similar thought, which in turn is the same thought; this is inertia.

Let's take for example body image. Often times the language around this is, "I'll be happy with my body when I reach that number on the scale." This means you are not happy right now. How are you supposed to be happy later if you are not happy right now? This philosophy of realities of present and future can be broken down in so many different ways, but today we will stick to habits. If you want to be happy later, you have to start practicing now, creating the habit of happiness and breaking the habit of unhappiness.

How? More money? A majik pill? No. These are sensations of pleasure. Knowing the difference between pleasure and a state of happiness is the first step. See, because money and a pill and even your weight are just temporary. Even if you hit your goal weight after so much effort and you become happy, the happiness is only for a few moments duration. Because wasn't it the harsh effort that was so upsetting to begin with? If you want to keep the goal weight (if you are even satisfied by the time you get there), you must continue with the harsh effort. Or, you let go and you're right back at the weight that 'made you unhappy.' So, how can we find a state of happiness where if you gain a little weight, or have a 'cheat meal', if you get sick and can't work out for a couple of days, you are still in that state?

With the exception of some diseases, if you are in a state of happiness and bliss, your weight wouldn't be an issue, whether it's over or just right. If you were in a state of bliss, you would only put things in your body that made you feel blissful without rigid effort and in moderation. It would come natural. It would be a habit that came with the habit of being in a happy state. Because it just is. And therefore, the habit of anything dissolves. 

Ok, so we've determined the difference of a pleasurable sensation and a happy state. A pleasure might get you through the day, where a state of being is a state of consciousness. Now, let's create a new habit. You can only create a new habit through practice. With practice and experience, the habits dissolve. Even your new one and it simply just is. Because even the notion of a habit promotes thoughts of holding on and desire for something else, which can take you back to the layers of years of mind afflictions. 

Meditation puts you in this blissful state. Quieting the noise in the mind of years of thought patterns, lets you see the blissful state because the blissful state is our true nature. When a baby is born, they are here. It is our true nature. Practicing this will allow the blissful state to grow and the old thoughts to pass by with out any judgement and ultimately, lessen. Not only would you be more accepting about your body image, but you will care less about it and you would be more happy about everything, because this state allows not only for happiness, but acceptance of your abundant life and then there is a realization that the universe is quite large and this concern for a temporary body that shrivels up and dies anyway, is almost silly. There is so much more. 

And so, you find yourself in a situation where things are not that great, where there is the experience of loss. How can you be happy, even with all the practice in the world? You are right. No, you can not find a state of happiness when a family member leaves us. So, we have to drop the term 'happy' and sit with peace. As hard as it is to believe and as insensitive as it may seem, each one of us has the power within to be in a state of peace when ever we want. Take it from Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl:

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.” 
― Viktor E. Frankl

It is more than easy to fall back in to old patterns, just like any habit. That's why there has to be a major element of patience, experience and practice. 

Want to know if this is something for you? Ask yourself, right now, is there something to fix? Then yes, this is for you. Because these mind afflictions quite literally age your brain. So, if for anything, while the human life span is ever growing, keep your brain as strong as you can for the remainder of your life, creating a connection to your Self and attaining wisdom. 


Click here for Mattieu Ricard's full TED Talk on The Habits of Happiness

Click here for Mattieu Ricard's full TED Talk on The Habits of Happiness