Within the lines of what we are discussing is an interesting fact that Western Civilization had similar philosophies that spoke within Taoism and Buddhism about happiness. You likely read about “stoicism”, whereby you remain centered and neutral to all of life’s events. The pain vs. pleasure, the comings and goings…all neutral.
In ancient Greece, there were a group of philosophers called Stoics that taught in their schools ways to live a life of tranquility, of equanimity. A life free of anger, anxiety, depression, lust, envy, and the other negative passions. This is in line with what Taoism and Buddhism try to encourage as well.
To be able to attain peace in this life, you were suggested to think of “negative visualization”. By engaging and thinking about the worst case scenarios, you could learn to appreciate life and who you were. This would also have the effect of assuaging your grasping for “more”, and thus your greed. Your desires for more money and power and fame and status would slowly disappear, as would your desires stemming from lust and envy.
If you decide you will start on a hiking trip, and you envision yourself and your fellow hikers getting lost and hungry, and possibly hurt, then you are engaging in this exercise. Then, in all likelihood, your hiking trip will be completed without incident. As such, the worst case scenario did not play out, so you would be grateful to God and the Universe. Imagine if you had a teenage daughter and left her for college. Now imagine her failing out of school, drinking while underage, and so forth. Hopefully, these worst case scenarios would not pass just based on simple probabilities. Again, you feel relief and happiness that you did not encounter the worst case scenario.
Most importantly, by doing this exercise…even daily, you will feel a subconscious gratitude for what you do have, and stop taking things for granted. Another example, picture your house burning down your family having to stay at a one room motel or even worse underneath a bridge—then your current modest home will not seem so undesirable and small.
This has been proven in scientific studies to work. When experimenters asked participants to write down on a sheet of paper all they were grateful for, and then write down all they feared would happen but did NOT happen (yet), they emerged from the study happier than before. In other words, at the start of the experiment, they wrote down their worst nightmares, and noticed how each scenario has not yet played out in their lives.
For example, they may have feared being paralyzed in an accident, but yet they are not paralyzed. They may fear financial trouble and bankruptcy, and when they reflect on their current life, there is nothing of that magnitude…yet.