Vancouver author John Izzo was trekking the El Camino de Santiago trail in Spain when he realized, after 25 years of studying how to find happiness, that the feeling could be the natural human state before outside forces steal it away.
In his seventh book, The Five Thieves of Happiness, Izzo suggests that control, conceit, coveting, consumption and comfort can rob people of their contentment.
Izzo told CBC's North by Northwest host Sheryl MacKay that even while he was lecturing all over the world on the pursuit of happiness, he struggled to sustain the feeling itself, leading him to take a self-imposed 10-month sabbatical.
"All internal suffering is resistance to whatever is happening at any moment," said Izzo.
Izzo hiked in Spain for 29 days and found he was happier when he learned to surrender to circumstances, rather than hooking his happiness to outcomes.
He calls the need for control the thief that "makes us feel that we can control all aspects of our lives and when we can't we become unhappy."
Surrender to circumstance
Izzo warned that control can be disguised as goals or ambition, and stressed the importance of recognizing that feeling.
"Once you see a thief, it really is a lot harder for them to pick-pocket your happiness," he said, adding using a mantra can help reduce controlling urges.
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He cautions against making comparisons to others, particularly through social media.
"We are living the B-roll of our lives, while we watch the A-roll of others," said Izzo, noting how it can be easier to relax after unplugging from technology.
With files from North by Northwest
For the complete interview, click on the audio labelled, Author John Izzo on his new book, The Five Thieves of Happiness