When I was caught in the thicket of high anxiety, constantly fearful I would soon be run over by a panic attack, I remember cherishing rare moments of happiness. Not surprisingly, my usually brief feelings of happiness coincided with rare moments of calm and peace of mind. The lesson to me was I could never be truly happy until I totally overcame my fearful feelings. My happiness had to come from within and at the time I didn’t know how or where to find it.
Where is happiness? What is happiness? How can I get me some?
In desperation I figured out I had to create little ways to make myself feel happy while smothered by fear. Luckily, I started a pottery habit at age 22, which not only gave me a way to relieve anxiety, but also gave me happiness. I couldn’t always be in a studio, though, so I had to invent other things to do at a moment’s notice to give me a sense of calm and therefore happiness. I taught myself to draw, which provided me another mindful, calming activity. Producing things always brings my anxiety down, but I needed yet more ways to find that calm, centered, focus on now.
I discovered group therapy while in graduate school, and the experience, while not always comfortable, gave me a sense of peace because of the intimate connection with peers. I also formed some good friendships as I became an adult and obtained happiness in that way. My career as a journalist was also a source of happiness. Despite all, though, I found myself very unhappy much of the time – depressed and distraught over my ridiculous condition of agoraphobia. My medication (alcohol) wasn’t helping, of course.
It took a long time for me to find the final key. Once I learned about meditation and was able to go to that calming place, I had the final tool and was able to put all my happy-making skills together to escape my 30-year-long fear of traveling.
I designed the recovery program in Un-Agoraphobic around all I learned over those years, and include a myriad of ways to arrive at a calm state of being where happiness rules and fear is vanquished. The reader engages daily in research, writing, visualizations and imagery, skill learning, meditation and other activities designed to balance and heal the person. I also include practices for maintaining relationships and succeeding with work or school. My idea is to build one happy-making experience onto another so there can be a continuum of pleasant, calm, “happy” feelings. The more ways you have to achieve your bliss, the better off you are is my philosophy.
I read a good article recently by blogger Steve Rose that explores the origins of happiness. “Does Happiness Come from Within?” he asks, and answers that there’s more than one way to achieve the desired state of mind. His discussion begins with the state of inner peace and what amounts to happiness that comes through meditation. Blogger Rose claims, however, that happiness coming solely from within is not enough for the Western mind, and pointed out the opportunities to find happiness in families, friendships, work and spiritual practices.Happiness, he concluded, is a journey, not a destination.
It’s a good read and I hope it will provide you with insight to your own version of happiness. Here’s the link: