Isn’t happiness what everyone really wants? If so, wouldn’t be a good idea to take a closer look at what it is? How can we get more of it? How can we hold on to it? Let’s take a look.I often ask peopleĀ  this question: ‘How do you know when you’re happy?’ Very often, the response I get is a stare that suggests they think I’m some kind of an idiot for asking such a silly question. Pressed further, the answer is often something like, ‘I just know it, that’s all!’ That answer is not good enough – not for the purpose of this exploration, anyway. Happiness, like all other emotional states, is mirrored in the physical body. You feel different when you’re happy, compared with when you’re sad, for example. Or, when you’re frightened, or, angry. Each and every emotion has a corresponding physical state in the body. And, a person’s physical state is simply a certain pattern of physical sensations associated with that particular emotion. For example, we often talk about fear as having a ‘knot in our stomachs’. Fear, for most people, probably results in the physical sensation, among others, of tension or tightness in the abdominal region of the body.

So, we’re back to one of the first questions – what is happiness? Let me offer this definition: happiness is present when there is a relative absence of tension or stress in the body. Now the kind of happiness I’m talking about is not the kind of ‘whoopiee – I won the lottery’ kind. I’m interested in the deeper kind of happiness – a kind of deep contentment, serenity, or peace of mind kind. If you were to look deeply within yourself, you would likely see that at times when you feel this way, there is a relative absence of tension or stress in your body.

This might be a little more understandable if we think about what a dog looks like when it’s happy. The tail is wagging – in fact, the whole body is wagging from side to side. You can see that the dog’s whole body is loose and relaxed. In contrast, when the dog is threatened – when it’s unhappy, it’s body is relatively stiffer. And so it is with us.

Mindfulness has been referred to as the ‘Art of Happiness’. Why so? There are a couple of reasons. First of all, Mindfulness is a stress reduction technology. And, as stress decreases, contentment and well-being (happiness) increases. A second reason is that awareness increases through the practice of Mindfulness. With increased awareness, we begin to see the programming (beliefs, memories, judgments, etc.) from our past, that creep in to destroy our happiness. Making these patterns visible, is a first and powerful step in not allowing them to control us and take away our happiness.