Unlocking the happiness within

Lessons from watching a Youtuber battle cancer.

Last week, I shared a video of a South Korean woman, Eun Chan, who filmed a goodbye video to her Youtube fans before passing away from cancer. She was diagnosed in April 2019 and her battle ended on May 6 this month. Even through the pain and struggles with the disease, she mustered the energy and courage to leave her Youtube fans smiling. Even in the face of death, she was upbeat, smiling, and compassionate for others.

2019 vs 2020

If she can still smile and get through the day, knowing what’s coming, we can surely be happy, even with what we are going through right now. It’s all a matter of perspective.

First, what we affirm becomes what we accept.

As soon as we utter the words “I can’t…”, this becomes our state of mind and being. When we tell ourselves “I can’t stay in isolation any longer”, the indoors become intolerable. When we tell ourselves “I can’t be alone”, time alone becomes a pain. And when we tell ourselves “I need X to be happy”, we keep happiness away on our own accord.

Instead, we must affirm what we are truly seeking. By telling ourselves, “I am happy/healthy/content”, as sappy as it is, we shift our action and attention towards this new narrative. In a documentary by Derren Brown, those who believed that they were lucky were more aware of their surroundings which led to “lucky” encounters. Those who believed otherwise were ignorant to good fortune, even when money put right in front of them.

Second, our own happiness can only be cultivated by ourselves.

We often look for feelings of happiness, contentment, and love from our romantic partners, families, and friends. When what we choose to feel (feelings are choices as much as they are responses) don’t match with what we expect to feel, we are sad, disappointed, and rejected. Instead of reflecting on ourselves, we blame our dejection on the folks closest to us. And instead of moving on, we try looking for it in other folks to only be disappointed again.

Not only does our definition of happiness change throughout our lifetime, but the actual feeling itself is also intangible and impossible to describe. How do we expect others to truly understand how to make us happy?

Third, what we practice today is who we become tomorrow.

We are so impatient with ourselves, especially in happiness. After reading a book, watching a movie, or attending a seminar, we hope to be radically transformed overnight.

Feelings are like plants. To nurture the ones we want, we have to first plant the seeds in the actions we take today and wait for them to take root. We must also take care of the weeds of other emotions like anger, jealousy, and greed to make room for what we want more of. And just because we don’t see any growth doesn’t mean change isn’t happening. It just takes a bit of time and energy to develop the garden we have always wanted.

Life is hard during this unprecedented time, but what we do today will be the story we will talk about for years to come. In changing our perspective, we have the opportunity to enjoy the happiness that has always been inside of us waiting to be unlocked.

For many folks like Eun Chan, being able to face adversity is an opportunity in itself to practice happiness and making the most with the short time that we have.

I host a podcast called Yellow Glitter, mindfulness through the eyes and soul of a gay Asian. You can find it on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, Overcast, and TuneIn.

Along with a bit of weekly mindfulness, I send out my favorite things I discover each week on my email newsletter at Mindful Moments.

Thanks for reading! Until next time.

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Steven Wakabayashi

Creative unicorn with an avid curiosity of life. Regular dose of mindfulness, social commentaries, and creativity: mindfulmoments.substack.com