Yale University recently offered a course that’s proved to be the most popular one ever given there. The topic was “Happiness.” One-quarter of the student body—1200 undergraduates—enrolled, requiring the largest auditorium on campus for the classes.

Why so much interest? One student said, “In reality, a lot of us are anxious, stressed, unhappy, and numb.” Unfortunately, this statement is not limited to Yale undergrads. The complexity and accelerating pace of life, heightened competition, and increasing human isolation are robbing us of peace of mind. As a result, people find themselves desperate to find that most elusive quality in life: happiness.

Paramhansa Yogananda has written about what he called the “happiness thieves”—patterns of behavior that steal our joy. Let’s look at a few of these “thieves,” and how we can enlist our “Soul Patrols” to drive them away.

Thief #1: Negative Habits. When we repeatedly express qualities like anger, self-interest, or laziness, they become hardwired in our brain. The longer these habits are allowed to go unchecked, the more entrenched they become. We can, however, call on our Soul Patrol of “Freedom from Bad Habits“ to combat them with energy and will power. By expressing their opposites—kindness, generosity, or dynamic activity—we begin to establish new neural pathways that enable us to live more joyfully.

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