Every bookstore offers stacks of books about happiness. But what is being happy? And what do you have to do to become happy? Kevin talks about it with Vanessa Verheyden.
07-10-2015 - by Kevin Van der Straeten
Every bookstore offers stacks of books about happiness. But what is being happy? And what do you have to do to become happy? I talk about it with Vanessa Verheyden.
Hi Vanessa, welcome back in our studio.
What is being happy?
It's a very difficult question, because you could ask a hundred people: "what is happiness?" And you could have a hundred different answers. Lots of times you hear people say that when they will buy a new car they will feel happy, or: "when I graduate, I will feel happy", "when I have children, I will feel happy". So each time, usually they say that they will feel happy when they have something. Or they want something and then they will feel happy. So you just need to know that by wanting things, connecting that with happiness, you will be really unhappy losing all those things. So happiness is not something that you can find outside of yourself. But something that you need to go and search for inside. So with finding happiness outside, you will never find happiness, because it's all about wanting. And if you're going to start looking into yourself, then you will find happiness because our true nature is to be happy all of the time. But the biggest problem is that we have a mind. And this mind is like a drunken monkey, stung by a scorpion, possessed by demons, because it's there all the time and it's giving you thoughts all of the time. And so if you have lots of negative thoughts, you will be very depressed. If you have lots of positive thoughts you will be a really positive person.
But how do you change that?
I think there are two ways to do that. The first one is using meditation and mindfulness. For example by really calming your mind down and having no thoughts, that's what we talked about... In the previous episode. In the previous episode about meditation. There you will really work with this 'no thoughts', and you will feel your true nature. I always compare it with a mirror. If you look at yourself in a mirror and the mirror is completely broken and filthy, you will see yourself as a really broken person. But if the mirror is really crystal-clear, and it's a really perfect mirror, you will see yourself perfectly. So here the mirror is the mind. So if your mind is really calm, then you will see who you really are. And you are perfect in your imperfection, but you are perfect. So here the first key is to really have the mind under control. Because if you have your mind under control, you have your life under control. And if your mind is running around, then your life is running your life, and it is not you who is running your life. So that's one of the examples. The second example is a really practical one. I'm going to give you a little example so you can understand. So for example: each time you have a negative thought, you immediately change it into a positive thought. And how do we do this? Lots of people start very well in this practice. You have a car accident and it's really severe. You come out of the car accident and everyone says: "I was really lucky. I'm not wounded, it's only my car". But then the complaining starts: "oh my god, it costs so much money. I didn't have an insurance. What do I need to do?" You could change it by saying: "okay, I have a great job. I earn good money, so I can buy myself a new car, a new model, a beautiful colour". So look at it at the bright side. "Okay, it costs money, I need to work for it. But I can have a new car. Let's say that you don't have any work. Then you could say: "okay, I lost my job, but I live in a system where I could have unemployment benefits. And that will help me to find a job again and to buy a new car. And in the meantime I'm using a bicycle, or I live in the city where I can use public transportation". So you can really work with your mind to always look at the half-full glass and not the half-empty glass.
If you do it as a kind of training, at the same time you need to believe it. Because if you just say: "okay, my car is broken, it will cost a lot of money". And then as a kind of trick say: "okay, but I'll buy a new one and I can afford it". How do you make it real, so that you can also believe it?
It's a very good question. I think that believing is something really deep inside of yourself. You need to convince yourself that you can do it. Like you said, if you're always all the time... It's with everything. If you take a medicine and you don't believe you're going to be cured, for example any cancer you have, you can have a very small form of cancer... You can take the best cure but if you mentally don't believe that you're going to be cured, you are going to get sick again. The same, on the other hand: I have this beautiful example of a friend of mine. I went to a course once and there was this lovely lady. She was diagnosed with cancer stage 4, and she came to the course and she said: "it's my last resort because I don't know what to do anymore". And she started living her life day by day, trying to find... She even made a farm called 'The Feel Good Farm'. And day by day she only started to live. And not day by day, it was about minute by minute. Because life is hard when you have lots of pain. And in the end a miracle happened. Because they thought that it would be the end and she goes to the doctor, and the doctor says: "you are pregnant". And they couldn't believe that she was pregnant. And they said: "we don't think the baby will last long", but now she's about 8 months, and it's going very well. So in the end I think it's an example of someone who really just tried to find happiness in the daily life things, and then believed in it so much, or wanted it so much, but it was a hard way because there are lots of moments when you feel angry that you feel sad; "why me?" And all of these things happening, but now there's something positive coming out of it: because of the pregnancy the cancer is reduced to 33%. So miracles can happen, but you just need to believe in it and just take it day by day. Minute by minute. Don't go too far thinking that happiness is something that you can't reach. I think it's important because you can sit and find it inside of yourself. But for example it's important as well to have a useful life, to help others. Let's say that you find happiness within yourself. Then it's lovely to help others. For example, if your neighbour’s wife is sick. Just make some extra food. Go and bring it to him. Just listen to them. It can help a lot. Charity is not something that you need to go do in a third world country. You can do it if you want. There's no problem with it. But charity starts at home in your family, your friends. And then the neighbours. And little by little it spreads out, and it's so contagious this happiness that...
In our society we're not used to do things like that anymore.
Yes, but I think that Rome wasn't built in a day as well. So I think that if we give the example, if we start today by doing something, by being kind... For example, what I did the other day... I needed to pay the tollway. So I paid for the person who was behind me. It was a little something, it was not big. I couldn't see his face. These are just little things, and it made me happy by doing this for someone else. And you can do so many things. Society's about 'I', 'me', 'myself'. I sometimes work with children and it's a lot about 'my iPad' and 'my mother'. So it's all about 'me', 'me', instead of sharing things. If I said to them: "if for example someone has just broken his leg and you're helping him carry some things, how does it make you feel?" It makes you feel good! And thinking only about you being selfish all the time makes you feel sad. It doesn't fulfil you. You always want more and more and more about 'me'. But doing something for someone else is as well... Gives a fantastic feeling.
Okay Vanessa, let's try that. And you at home: thank you for watching our show. I hope to see you next week!