Happy for No Reason
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Happy for No Reason

It is a true happiness -- a neurophysiological state of peace and well-being that isn't dependent on external circumstances.

Happy for No Reason isn't elation, euphoria, mood spikes, or peak experiences that don't last. It doesn't mean grinning like a fool 24/7 or experiencing a superficial high. Happy for No Reason isn't an emotion. In fact, when you are Happy for No Reason, you can have any emotion -- including sadness, fear, anger, or hurt -- but you still experience that underlying state of peace and well-being.

When you're Happy for No Reason, you bring happiness to your outer experiences rather than trying to extract happiness from them. You don't need to manipulate the world around you to try to make yourself happy. You live from happiness, rather than for happiness.

This is a revolutionary concept. Most of us focus on being Happy for Good Reason, stringing together as many happy experiences as we can, like beads in a necklace, to create a happy life. We have to spend a lot of time and energy trying to find just the right beads so we can have a "happy necklace."

Being Happy for No Reason, in our necklace analogy, is like having a happy string. No matter what beads we put on our necklace -- good, bad, or indifferent -- our inner experience, which is the string that runs through them all, is happy, creating a happy life.

When you're Happy for No Reason you're unconditionally happy. It's not that your life always looks perfect -- it's just that however it looks, you'll still be happy.

As the thirteenth-century poet Rumi described it, "Happy, not from anything that happens. Warm, not from fire or a hot bath. Light, I register zero on a scale." Whenever I asked the Happy 100 (the hundred people I interviewed whose happiness isn't dependent on external circumstances) to describe the qualities of being Happy for No Reason, I got the same answers over and over:

  • Having a sense of lightness or buoyancy
  • Feeling alive, vital, energetic
  • Having a sense of flow, openness
  • Feeling love and compassion for yourself and others
  • Having passion about your life and purpose
  • Feeling gratitude, forgiveness
  • Being at peace with life
  • Being fully present in the moment

Matthieu Ricard, a French scientist who became a Buddhist monk over thirty years ago, is often called "the happiest man in the world" by researchers who've measured his brain's functioning both in and out of meditation. Ricard's book, Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill, gives one of the clearest descriptions of Happy for No Reason I've ever heard. He writes, "By happiness I mean a deep sense of flourishing that arises from an exceptionally healthy mind. This is not a mere pleasurable feeling, a fleeting emotion, or a mood, but an optimal state of being."

Happy for No Reason: Your Natural State

Happy for No Reason isn't just a nice idea. It's a specific, measurable physiological state characterized by distinct brain activity, heart rhythms, and body chemistry.

Scientists tell us that every subjective experience we have has a corresponding state of functioning in our bodies. People who are Happy for No Reason tend to have greater activity in the left prefrontal cortex, orderly heart wave patterns, and more of the specific neurotransmitters associated with well-being and happiness: oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins.

Although modern science gives us new insight into the physiology of Happy for No Reason, it's a state that's been spoken of in virtually all spiritual and religious traditions throughout history. The concept is universal. In Buddhism, it is called causeless joy, in Christianity, the kingdom of Heaven within, and in Judaism it is called ashrei, an inner sense of holiness and health. In Islam it is called falah, happiness and well-being, and in Hinduism it is called ananda, or pure bliss. Some traditions refer to it as an enlightened or awakened state.

I've noticed the widespread recognition of this concept around the world. No matter where I go, when people hear the expression Happy for No Reason, it strikes a deep chord in them. We seem to know intuitively that our innermost essence is happiness. You don't have to create it; it's who you are. The rest of this book is devoted to showing you how to get back to that natural state.

So Just How Happy for No Reason Are You?

Take the Happy for No Reason quiz to get a snapshot of how Happy for No Reason you are right now. Though you may have filled out happiness questionnaires before, you may not have noticed that they're usually state-dependent; that is, they ask you to rate your happiness according to what's going on in your life (job, career, relationships, and so on) and how satisfied you are with your life circumstances. Those questionnaires measure Happy for Good Reason. This questionnaire is different; it measures Happy for No Reason.

 

Pick up the May issue of Ladies' Home Journal, on newsstands now, to learn the secrets of true happiness.

From Happy for No Reason by Marci Shimoff with Carol Kline. Copyright 2008. Reprinted by permission of Free Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., NY.

Originally published on Ladies' Home Journal, April 2008.

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