One question that has been on our minds for some time is why some people find it easier to find inner peace and be happy than others. In this article we will explore if there is a shortcut and what you have to do, to reach this state.
When I (Gerald) studied psychology, I criticized early on that we should always give people a label: “You have this disorder, or that disorder, this can be read from this catalog.” For the people who don’t know this, there are catalogues like the ICD-10 and DSM where someone can look up the symptoms and if enough apply, they make the diagnosis. People then go home thinking they have disorder XYZ. Of course, it’s not quite that simple, but that was my subjective feeling at the time.
The problem of labeling: Language creates reality
It felt wrong to me because language creates reality. If we feel that we are “sick”, then we are. This is one of the biggest criticisms I have of the current healthcare system, at least in Germany. However, there are now enough studies to show that our perception of reality is particularly important for our health, our aging process and our well-being.
It is certainly true that some people need exactly this kind of help, but we think it is wrong diagnosing the majority of people who seek help in this way. As we once read in an article about Pablo Pineda, a Spanish teacher (educational psychology), actor, author and the first European with Down syndrome to have a university degree: “Individual limits shouldn’t be set by society, but by the person themselves.”
Dealing with ourselves is counterintuitive
We live in a world where no one has to be bored anymore. We can let ourselves be permanently entertained. A moment of rest or break? Unbearable. Better to scroll through Instagram again. Or watch another Youtube video.
Problems falling asleep? Rather watch another episode of Netflix, or music, or listen to a podcast until we can’t anymore because of exhaustion. The ride to work, or even jogging, is a great way to listen to audio books. Going for a walk somewhere alone? Better to talk to your best friend on the phone.
We quickly fill every moment of rest with a distraction. According to Statista, a person in the US currently spends 3-5 hours a day on the smartphone on average. Let’s hear someone say they don’t have time for the things that are important to them. But it’s not surprising, because our brains haven’t really evolved over the past millennia and our dopamine-driven reward system isn’t used to today’s sensory overload.
We aren’t made for inner peace by nature and we have to train it, to know how it feels. But keeping busy with yourself and enduring boredom feels infinitely harder than picking up a fresh dopamine kick from an app or series. This brings us to the second big aspect:
Being happy ALWAYS starts with a decision
If we simply give ourselves over to the stimuli presented to us, our system gets out of balance. Our brain is constantly traveling in time. Either we make plans for the future, or we wallow in the past. The present moment seems most of the time boring or not good enough.
But this is exactly where the key to a happy life and inner peace lies. When we activate our senses in the present moment, it automatically produces alpha waves in the brain, which are important for a relaxed and content state.
But this boring present moment does not satisfy us, and we need to spice it up with something fun. But is it possible to be happy by always having fun? We have already written an article about this. The short answer is no. Fun is always linked to an activity, while being happy is a feeling from within.
People love shortcuts. But there is no shortcut to inner peace
The problem is that our brain is not naturally designed to be happy. It evaluates negative events as more important than positive ones. This is true for every human being. We first have to teach our brain to see this differently and there is no shortcut to this state. However, people love shortcuts and therefore fall for all kinds of advertising messages that promise them the desired feeling.
The neural connections in our brain, we like to call them highways, have been developed over years. To assume that these no longer exist with a snap of the fingers is simply not true. The positive effects of meditation, for example, are measurable after only a few weeks of regular practice, but it takes years of practice to be able to change your mood in the way you want at any time.
Very few people want to invest these years of practice and therefore again look for shortcuts. A new approach, a new system, a new device. In contrast: The path to contentment and happiness is often easier accessible than expected, but it takes time and dedication. It is not a steady line and there will be setbacks. But one droplet after another will make a lasting impact.
From what does our subconscious mind want to protect us?
It is important to realize that this has nothing to do with lack of willpower, or weakness. Most of us have experienced trauma on our way to adulthood. Since our child brain and nervous system was overwhelmed with the situation, our brain now tries to protect us from another painful experience. An area has been created in our subconscious mind that is sometimes no longer consciously accessible to us.
But if we don’t constantly flood our brain with new information, it can happen that our brain brings up exactly these repressed experiences again. To prevent this from happening, our brain sabotages moments of rest. Because that’s how our brain is. If no stimuli come from outside, then the stimuli come from within. The so-called carousel of thoughts and over thinking is the opposite of inner peace and so unbearable for many people.
To confront ourselves with our deepest and sometimes suppressed feelings is of course sometimes painful and also the reason why some people have negative experiences when they start meditating. It may be the first time in their life that they consciously observe the thought processes that take place inside them. That is why we always recommend that people who know they are carrying a heavy trauma should meditate only under guidance!
But it is so worthwhile and in our opinion, there is no more effective way to long-term satisfaction than to start the journey to yourself at a certain point in your life. The best way to do this is to establish a habit, just as you take care of your body you should also take care of your mind. And you take care of your mind through moments of tranquility and mindfulness.
As the Buddhist monk Amaranatho once said to us about his stay in the monastery: “All those people came to us who had already tried everything without success. At our place they found the healing they had been looking for so long.”
We compare ourselves with the whole world
People have always compared themselves to each other. That is completely normal. But before the internet and social media became so popular, it was neighbors, work colleagues, friends and family. Today it’s the whole world. Many of us have the permanent feeling of not being good enough, because it feels like there is always someone in the world who can do one thing better than them. Always visible and in reach.
The trick here is to get a certain “intentionlessness” into your activity. For example, am I the best author that ever existed? Certainly not. However, I do enjoy writing. If someone else finds themselves in the texts, then that’s nice, but first and foremost I write for myself.
Detaching yourself from the thought of wanting to achieve something and finding joy in the activity itself is very helpful to take the pressure out. Don’t let the quality of your work be defined by other people, but by what you are feeling about it.
What if you know all this already and still feel blocked
Especially in the case of fears and deeply rooted traumas, hypnotherapy is an effective and very well proven method to dissolve blockages in the subconscious mind. An experienced hypnotherapist can trick the protective mechanism of our brain and help you to remove the obstacles that block your way. We like to say that someone else can show you the door, but you have to go through it yourself.
In the end, it always comes down to the fact that we are afraid of our own deep-seated decisions. We are afraid of upsetting people who are not good for us or of feeling bad, afraid to change our situation because we might bring insecurity into our lives. And we are afraid to realize our dream because we might fail. It is always a conflict between what we want deep inside and supposed dependencies and reasons excuses not to be able to do it.
The more often you ignore or numb this inner voice, the worse off you will be in the long run. To do the opposite requires courage and perseverance. However, if we apply all our courage and all our perseverance to just this aspect of our life, everything else will follow. In this, we wish all the strength we can.
Conclusion: For inner peace focus on the process, not the result
There is no shortcut to happiness and inner peace. At a certain point, we have to start the journey into our inner selves, even if it feels hard. Life can only be lived in the present moment, not in the future and not in the past. Only the present moment is real. Lasting happiness can only be found within ourselves, never outside. Not through material success, prestige or influence.
Remembering this again and again, and coming back to this moment again and again is always a conscious choice. For example, by actively training our senses or mindfulness meditation. This sometimes feels harder than being permanently distracted. Therefore, it is helpful to establish one’s mental wellness as a daily habit. Sometimes it is necessary to seek help along the way to release deep-seated blocks that sabotage our behavior.
Finally, don’t focus too much on the outcome, but create a daily routine that brings you joy. Here and now. The process will then automatically lead you to your desired result. In the linked article we have listed some books to find inner peace and happiness, that have helped us.