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Where to Look for Lasting Happiness

While we all want lasting happiness, there are about as many different ways to go about getting it as there are people in this world.  So, we’re going to narrow happiness down to two main sources: external or internal.

When we look externally, or outside ourselves for happiness, it’s called object referral. When we seek it from the people in our lives, the possessions we have, the positions we hold, or any other circumstance we desire, our happiness is determined by how well these things are going according to our plan for them.  These things naturally come and go with the ups and downs of life, and so any external source of happiness is temporary and transitory.  These factors are beyond our control, and so our happiness is at their mercy. 

When we look internally, or within ourselves for happiness, it’s called self-referral. When we like what we see there, accepting and appreciating who we are, we feel happy no matter how things are going.  In yoga this is called santosha, or contentment, and is a state in which we take responsibility for our own emotional well-being.

Turning inward for happiness requires practice and growth.  While it’s natural for our happiness to be influenced by external factors, when we redirect our search inward, we begin to release our grip on our need for things to be a certain way. 

Turning outward also implies that we lack something that we need in order to fulfill us.  It’s conditional on filling some perceived deficiency. It also justifies our right to be not happy because something didn’t go our way.  By seeking internal, self-referred happiness, contentment exists unconditionally. 

It’s been said that the key to happiness is managing expectations, but perhaps it’s having no expectations at all. It’s not ‘I’ll be happy if …”. Or, ‘I’ll be happy when …’.  We are worthy, and capable of lasting happiness right now.