“To experience peace does not mean that your life is always blissful. It means that you are capable of tapping into a blissful state of mind amidst the normal chaos of a hectic life.” ~ Jill Bolte Taylor
I was fifteen when I first noticed I was depressed. That was also when I became seriously interested in happiness.
How can I get my hands on it? Where does it come from? Why does it seem so natural to some people?
I wrestled with those questions for quite a while.
Fast forward to ten years later and things look a lot different for me. Happiness is now a default instead of a rare state. What a relief.
A few key lessons have made a world of difference. I’d like to share the most important one today.
Two Kinds of Happiness
One kind comes with positive experiences. It’s conditional. It comes when good things happen and it leaves when bad things happen.
The other kind doesn’t depend on the occurrence of any particular event. It is sustainable and unconditional. It exists underneath both desirable and undesirable experience. It is the canvas on which other emotions are painted.
It’s also the kind with which most of us are unfamiliar. Why is that?
My theory is that most self-help, personal development, and psychology resources focus on the first kind of happiness.
They tell us how to make changes to our habits and routines that improve our lives. They talk about the role of thought and point out that if we change our thoughts we have a different experience.
There’s nothing wrong with these strategies. I feel fortunate I found them when I did; they got me out of my initial funk and gave me some breathing room.
And yet, my current experience shows me that there’s something even more satisfying on offer.
Happiness that doesn’t require work or practice. Happiness that doesn’t have to be learned or earned. Happiness that emanates from a part of us that is untouched by negative thinking, bad habits, or traumatic events.
The kind that is synonymous with peace and follows us around wherever we go.
So… How Do We Get There?
The difference between conditional and unconditional happiness is how we get there.
The path to conditional happiness is self-explanatory: certain conditions must be met. It depends on completing your morning routine. On having situations break in your favor. On achieving success. On thinking positively.
Thinking positive is great. But trying to make it an ongoing habit can be incredibly taxing and neuroticism-inducing. Sometimes positive thinking is as stressful as the negative thinking you’re trying to escape! Controlling thoughts is hard.
Thankfully, in the second approach, we don’t have to.
That’s because unconditional happiness is independent of the type of thoughts you’re having. Tapping into this state involves seeing the way our minds and thoughts work together to create our experience. Positive change comes naturally with insight into this system.