External events may provide short-term happiness, but they do not have a lasting impact. We always quickly revert to our baseline of happiness, even if we win the lottery.
Achieving lasting happiness involves training the mind to cultivate positive mental states while eliminating negative ones.
Compassion is not only a crucial aspect of Buddhism but also lasting happiness.
Compassion is a nonaggressive state of mind with a wish to alleviate others' suffering, and extends to all living beings, transcending personal feelings and attachments.
Compassion also involves empathy, which means actively seeking to understand others' perspectives by considering their backgrounds and finding commonalities.
Research has shown that a compassionate attitude yields both mental and physical benefits, including emotional fulfillment and increased life expectancy. It also helps you to exude warmth and affinity to all individuals, irrespective of social status or familiarity.
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
The Western perspective that deep intimacy is only attainable through romantic relationships can be problematic, leaving those without such relationships feeling lonely and unhappy.
The concept of intimacy has varied across cultures and time periods, and there are numerous forms of intimacy beyond the romantic definition. The Dalai Lama exemplifies this by feeling an intimate connection with a diverse range of people in his life, including cooks and janitors.
By embracing the opportunities for connection with others on a daily basis, we lead happier lives.
Romantic relationships based solely on sexual desire or fleeting infatuation are unlikely to endure without a deeper and more lasting foundation. True and lasting relationships are built on respect, appreciation, and a profound understanding of the other person, which takes time to develop.
“No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century.” - Mark Twain
Suffering is an inherent aspect of life. Eastern cultures tend to be more accepting of this reality due to their proximity to poverty and daily hardships. In contrast, Westerners often perceive themselves as victims when faced with adversity.
When confronted with suffering, one's mental attitude becomes crucial. Viewing suffering as unnatural or unfair fosters a harmful victim mentality.
By accepting the natural existence of suffering, we can analyze its causes, including our own contributions, and strive for a happier life.
We often exacerbate suffering by resisting change and clinging to possessions or past negative experiences. (E.g., purposely mentally replaying negative events or holding on to anger to someone who's wronged you in the past.)
Change is a perpetual universal force. We need to embrace it instead of resisting it.
Negative states of mind (anger, fear, jealousy, etc.) hinder our natural state of happiness and should be considered as poisons. However, positive emotions and behaviors such as love, compassion, patience, and generosity can serve as antidotes, effectively removing harmful attitudes and emotions.
This aligns with the principles of Western cognitive therapy, which aims to identify and correct maladaptive thoughts and behaviors.
By addressing distorted thinking patterns (e.g., exclusively focusing on negative areas and exaggerating them) and focusing on positive aspects, such as gratitude and well-being, individuals can lead better lives.
The process of replacing negative emotions and behaviors with positive ones is gradual and requires continuous effort.
When faced with negative situations, people often have a rigid view that sees them as entirely negative. However, most situations have both positive and negative aspects.
For example, sitting next to a smelly person on a train can be viewed negatively or as an opportunity to practice patience and empathy.
Shifting to have a supple mind means seeing the positives in negatives. It helps to find meaning in pain and suffering, turning obstacles into opportunities for personal growth. However, this shift takes time and effort, so it's important to start cultivating it immediately.
“Although you may not always be able to avoid difficult situations, you can modify the extent to which you can suffer by how you choose to respond to the situation.”
Anger and hatred are the worst emotions for our health and happiness.
They cloud our judgment and make bad situations worse.
Studies show they increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Suppressing them or venting them through outbursts feeds the negative feelings.
Counter them with patience and tolerance.
Developing a mindset of inner contentment alleviates stress and helps to reduce the threshold for feelings of negative emotions.
When negative emotions arise, take a time-out and analyze its source, considering whether it is destructive or constructive.
Negative emotions like anxiety are natural responses, but when they become excessive or persistent, they can have detrimental effects on mental and physical health (e.g., weakened immune system).
When in an anxiety inducing scenario, acknowledge your genuine motives for being in this scenario.
You will be less anxious during a job interview if you acknowledge that you truly want to contribute to the company.
You will be less scared to ask someone out on a date if you acknowledge that you really want to treat the other person with love and kindness.
Excessive anxiety often stems from low self-confidence, and the antidote is being open and honest about one's capabilities and limitations. Those who are accurately self-aware are happier and more self-assured.
Self-hatred comes from extreme low self-confidence. Self-hatred is nonexistent in Tibetan society as it is not considered an inherent part of the human spirit and Tibetans routinely celebrate the immense intellect and potential in us all.
Studies show that being religious positively impacts happiness and health, but you can still be spiritual without being tied to any specific religion.
The Dalai Lama dedicates around four hours daily to religious practices, but basic spirituality can be practiced in everyday life without elaborate rituals. For instance, resisting the urge to respond to someone angrily exemplifies basic spirituality.
Basic spirituality encompasses qualities like goodness, kindness, compassion, and concern for others, accessible to both religious and secular individuals. Embracing these qualities fosters a sense of connection with humanity, resulting in calmness, happiness, and peace.