When a person is asked what they want most in their lives, the most popular answer is ‘happiness’. More than 2,300 years ago, Aristotle wrote that “More than anything else men and women seek happiness.” As humans, we all want to maximise our pleasure and happiness and minimise our pain. However, happiness means different things to different people. Everyone has their theory as to what joy is and how to attain happiness. Some people think that it’s a state you reach after you have accomplished certain things in your life. They believe that you are entitled to happiness only after you have secured that double degree from a reputable university, landed that high-powered job you had worked hard for and acquired that property you had dreamed about. Only then will you be magically transported to that place where happiness can reign.
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Measure of Happiness
The term ‘happiness index’ is used to measure the collective happiness of a nation. The concept was first used in Bhutan. In fact, the term ‘happiness index’ was coined in 1979, when the then king of Bhutan, said during an interview, “We do not believe in Gross National Product. Gross National Happiness is more important.” This index is now generally the yardstick used to measure the general level of happiness in a country.
At the same time, I believe happiness is a very subjective emotion. A person cannot be happy by the standards imposed on him by society or through preconceived notions planted in that person’s mind by the society he/she lives in. Such a person is basing his/her happiness on the actions and reactions of others, which are factors entirely out of your control. So, don’t do what makes other people happy; do what makes you happy.
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We are all in search of happiness. But how many people find it? Are we complicating the search for happiness? The media pounds us with advertisements and stories of people who have found happiness. Invariably they’re all happy, rich and famous. So, what is the shortest route to finding happiness? Let us examine the ways.
The price of Happiness
Can money buy happiness? We have grown so used to buying the things we want or need that it’s natural to start with this idea. In fact, we even believe that expensive purchases are more valuable. But is happiness quantifiable?
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Joy and laughter don’t have a price tag. That friendly banter and laughter you share with your friends and family cost nothing. But doesn’t it give you more happiness than the expensive watch you splurged on? So admittedly, happiness requires nothing.
A Future Goal
If you think, “I’ll be happy when…”. Then happiness will elude you for the rest of your life. Such people are always wishing, hoping and waiting for things to happen to them. I knew someone who thought that she would become the “happiest person alive!”, if she became a parent. Her wish came true in 1998 when she became a parent. She honestly looked like the happiest person, when I met her then. Fast forward to 2018, and I cannot find that happy person anymore. She’s now always complaining about the daughter who gave her so much joy as the “most ungrateful person alive!!” When that “when” happens, you’ll see that it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be and you’ll change the end of the sentence.
Amazingly, waiting for future events to bring you happiness appears to be a chief cause for unhappiness. Why wait to become a millionaire to be happy? There are millions of miserable millionaires.
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So why not just live in the present? Because, when you miss out on living in the present, you truly miss out on life. In the English language, the word ‘present’ can mean ‘now’ or ‘a gift’. Happiness is a gift you give yourself by living in each present moment of your life to the fullest, and not by waiting for things to happen in the future. So, happiness isn’t something you wish for. It’s always there for you.
An Evasive Goal
Then there is another class of people, who feel that despite all their attempts to find the happiness they have never seen it because happiness is always cheerfully evading them.
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They tell you stories of how they tried so hard to land that dream job, which was supposed to make them happy, but once they reached that point something always went wrong. The boss was too demanding, or the set-up in the office didn’t provide the right fit, or the job wasn’t everything it promised to be. So as a result of all these happenings, this person feels cheated of his chance at happiness.
An idyllic spot
I even know of people who travel to idyllic holiday spots to discover a place they can retire to and be happy with their partner or family. They believe that if they look hard enough, they will find Utopia tucked away in some part of the world and when they find it they will live there happily ever after.
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Again, this rarely stays true, and they feel disillusioned with their lot in life! So, stop searching outside.
The Inner Search
All these expectations in finding happiness outside oneself have led me to conclude that happiness does not lie outside but already exists within each one of us. One of the biggest life lessons I’ve learned is that nothing outside of me is going to make me happy. Once you decide to be satisfied, you see the world differently and your attitude to life changes.
A State of Mind
You don’t have to chase happiness if you choose happiness. You have to find that place in your mind where you have already decided how good today, the rest of the year and the rest of your life will be. No one’s found that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow by chasing after the rainbow. You can only find it when you choose to close your eyes and visualise it. A good starting point would be to close your eyes and reflect on the question ‘What makes me happy?’ This is one method of connecting with that place of inner happiness within yourself.
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Try this exercise:
• Close your eyes and sit in a comfortable position.
• Relax all of your muscles and be still.
• Clear your mind.
• Take a few deep breaths.
• Now go to your private happy place in your mind. See, hear, smell, feel yourself in your happy environment.
Through regular practice, you will discover happiness. So just be happy, and don’t worry!
Happiness must be just like that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. No one can find it until they close their eyes and visualise it. To get yourself into this state of mind, you have to develop daily habits that don’t hold you back but instead help you to meet obligations with ease and lie down at night with a smile on your face because everything’s headed in the right direction.
Last updated on July 2nd, 2019.