Have you ever asked yourself what it means to "be happy?"
You don't need to look it up on google or think very hard to find the answer.
You've been alive for some years and along this journey you've experienced different emotions - joy, despair, anxiety, satisfaction, zeal, awe, fear, disgust, surprise, love, trust, anticipation, and you know what they each feel like.
Happiness is a feeling that is experienced, not an idea to be analyzed.
I can define happiness in so many words and break down the things that make me happy vs. the things that don't but in the end of the day, unless I feel it, I don't really know what it is in that moment.
There are, however, some principles that I can regularly keep in mind to help stabilize my experience of my life through understanding.
What Goes Up Must Come Down
Before you decide that you already know that "what goes up must come down" because it's obvious, give me a chance to help further your understanding.
The law that what goes up must come down is very apparent in the physical world. If I throw something in the air, it will inevitably fall back down to the ground.
It comes down because the object is subject to gravity and thus returns to its center of gravity. Once on the ground, the object isn't mobile unless it's mobilized by an outside force.
In other words, it is neutral in its center of gravity.
Here's another simple physical example: If the body isn't hungry or overly full, it is in a sort of neutral state - it doesn't bother you and you don't bother it.
But when the body gets hungry because it hasn't gotten the energy it needs, it mobilizes us to go and get food. When satisfied, it comes back to its normal state where food doesn't take over our thoughts and hunger doesn't impact how we're feeling.
The longer I go without eating, the hungrier I get and the more hangry I get because my stomach has travelled from its neutral center of gravity to a point where it needs a strong response to mobilize me to eat!
The more overly full I get, the more I think I'll never want to eat again!
What About In The Psychological Realm?
What about in the psychological realm we're each constantly experiencing?
We're not ALWAYS feeling ecstatic and jubilant, and we're not ALWAYS down on ourselves.
We're usually somewhere in between until an event in our life causes a movement, a mobilization, in one direction or another.
After being emotionally mobilized, there comes a point when the pulling stops and everything begins to move back in the opposite direction.
Even in the most difficult of situations this holds true.
Let's say your spouse cheats on you.
Depending on how strong your emotional reaction is, the feelings of jealousy, hate, mistrust, etc. will last for a certain amount of time. The stronger the emotional reaction, the longer it lasts.
BUT, ultimately, whether it takes 3 days or 5 years, the feeling fades. It doesn't mean you don't continue to SAY that you were really hurt by it or tht you hate your spouse, but the actual feeling itself isn't there unless you bring it back to your mind, setting the whole chain in motion again (albeit on a lesser scale that doesn't pull quite as far).
One of the most odd aspects of our psychology is that we at one and the same time take a negative emotion to be a choice - as if we're CHOOSING to be angry, sad, suspicious, etc., AND at the same time we know for a fact we wouldn't decide to be negative under any circumstances if we didn't have to be.
Understanding My Own Center of Gravity
So to understand my own psychological center of gravity, I have to begin to see how events in my life - small and big - pull my emotions with them like a string.
What's interesting is that we're each pulled a little bit differently.
The only real constant is that the events in my life are like strings that pull me with them in a specific direction.
But the direction in which I'm pulled isn't necessarily a matter of law.
If someone cuts me off on the street, I may get annoyed or upset about it, or I may not care. Depending on how I'm already feeling, I'll interpret the situation differently.
So the mood I'm already in determines the way the strings are pulled, and not just the fact that someone cut me off by itself.
I can think of 'the mood I'm in' as my current center of gravity.
My current center of gravity dictates how the events of my life are interpreted, and that interpretation is LITERALLY how the event shows up in my experience.
Ultimately, the emotion and thoughts shift back in the opposite direction until it returns to my natural center of gravity.
You can think of your 'natural' center of gravity as that feeling of just being very neutrally you. No strong emotion in any direction, just being very casual in every aspect of how you're experiencing a moment.
Your neutral, pleasant state of simply being you.
All Of Our Psychological Suffering Boils Down To Identification
Whichever way our psychological strings are pulled by the events of our lives, the only time that a real suffering occurs is when we fail to recognize that this is a temporary psychological event.
If in the moment of feeling mistrust, suspicion or despair I can take responsibility for the emotion, not blame whatever event was the stimulus for it, and remember that this is temporary, I can very quickly speed up the process to returning to my pleasantly neutral center of gravity.
By the same token, if very strong positive emotions show up in my experience and I'm carried very far with them, then when I come back down I can remember not to actively crave that 'high' because it is absolutely lawful for the emotion to be switching the arrow of its direction.
It IS going to happen!
If I'm wholly identified with the emotion in the current moment, extremely positive or negative, I lose sight of the fact that this will end.
When I lose sight of the fact that this emotion will end, I'm wholly identified with what's there and forget that things will get 'good' again (leaving me in constant pain) or go back to 'normal.'
How To Use All of This To Be Happy!
Bringing attention to your current center of gravity means really looking at why how you're interpreting a given life event and how your current mood is impacting that.
Remembering and realizing IN THE MOMENT that how you're feeling dictates how you receive an event psychologically creates a space in between you and the feelings that dictate the interpretation.
That space creates the possibility of a choice.
A choice to move in a different direction both in the thoughts and in the feelings.
If you found yourself in a place where you could CHOOSE to see things in a better light rather than the negative direction you automatically interpreted it in, what would you choose?
Happiness isn't a final destination.
It's a choice that's made in a moment of recognizing WHERE you are inside of yourself.
Choose happy as quickly and often as possible while recognizing that the emotional atmosphere of my life changes very, very often.
You'll see for yourself how much it changes your experience!