Ask this question and most people would prevaricate and flounder with their answers. I have observed that people don’t hesitate when they are admitting to being satisfied with their job, life, and marriage. They would readily admit to having fun. But happy in the true sense? Well, it could always be better…a guarded look follows the shrug.
Why is it so hard to admit that we are happy?
The definition in Wikipedia says: ‘Happiness is an emotion associated with feelings ranging from contentment and satisfaction to bliss and intense joy’.
To me all the above mentioned words have different meanings. That happiness is an emotion I agree. But ‘contentment’, ‘bliss’ and ‘intense joy’; all these stand separately for me. I don’t confuse it with happiness. I may feel all this at different stages and varied levels in my life, but this does not define happiness for me. Intense joy is when I see a beloved face. Contentment for me stands for a work done efficiently. I would feel blissful when I watch my garden blooming with newly sprung flowers.
On the other hand, if I had suffered a bad day , was at the receiving end of someone’s misplaced wrath then I would question my emotions of being satisfied, feeling intense joy and of experiencing bliss. Because all these emotions are related to my present mood and the existential circumstances. Obviously the last thing on my mind would be feeling ‘intense joy’ if I had a spat with someone !
But what exactly stops me from being happy? Does happiness depend on my ever changing external circumstances? Or is it true what these New Age gurus keep telling us: ‘Happiness is a state of mind. Happiness is something we can teach and train ourselves to feel.’
Perhaps, what they mean is that happiness is construed by not depending on the verifiable circumstances.
Research does show that even if our external circumstances do not fit into the stereotypical frame of happiness such as, having wealth, success, fame; we can still be happy. Wealth or progress does not automatically translate into happiness.
Researchers also argue that most developed countries are not necessarily the happiest. In a global survey of happiness, the USA came down 23rd in the list of countries. Whereas, this is a land of plenty; with their supermarkets full and bursting, their standards of living high, their parks magnificent and their universities excellent, along with unlimited freedom for expression. They lack nothing and are much ahead in progress from almost all the countries in the world, but the happiness quotient here is still not up to the mark.
So many film stars and rock stars have committed suicide at the peak of their careers. If accomplishments, global eminence, and wealth were the criteria of happiness they should have been the happiest people on earth.
Though opinions are always divided, the acquisition of wealth and fame doesn’t seem to pave the way to happiness. Some well-conducted surveys have showed that people are happiest when they are close to their loved ones, have lesser expectations (not to be confused with lack of ambition, but a certain detachment) and are in good health.
Sometime ago I came across someone’s view on happiness on a blogger website (in fact this particular blog gave me the inspiration to write this article on happiness)
It said, that happiness is making everybody in your life happy. The article elaborated on various relationship circles of a person’s life. These circles contain family, friends, colleagues, shopkeepers, daily help and various service providers and even strangers we come across in our lives. The key to happiness according to the writer is keeping everyone in those circles happy.
Well, this one way of looking at personal happiness and I don’t contest that. But personally speaking, ‘trying to keep everyone happy’ would be a tall claim for me. I know that I can never keep everyone around me happy, because when I tried to do that I suffered from severe ‘energy leaks’. I felt depleted. Spent. I realized that in my quest and struggle of doing so, I was making my self extremely unhappy!
My friend says, “ Happiness is like love. You can feel it but can never define it.” Fair enough.
I also agree that at least one thing is common between love and happiness. Do not chase!
A quote says: ‘Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it the more it eludes you. But if you turn your attention to other things, it comes and softly sits on your shoulder.’ If we chase happiness, trying to find it in money, perfect partner, exceptional career etc. then it becomes an elusive quest. Same doctrine goes for love. You don’t chase love. You just happen to fall in the line, when cupid shoots blindly!
I realized that happiness also changes definition as we grow. When I was 10 years old, riding my new red bicycle gave me incredible happiness. I still remember the exhilarating feeling of utter happiness when I went round and round in the park setting speed goals and achieving it.
The teenage years were more complicated. Happiness was a soft look from my handsome PT teacher (I had a massive crush on him) Happiness was bunked school. A stolen kiss. Finding a love note in my chemistry book.
Now, it is simpler. Happiness is, not having to look for reasons. To, have both sides of the bed.
Sometimes, to just be. Perhaps what they say about lesser expectations is true. The simpler we make our lives the happier we are.
Recently I discovered that happiness is a decision for me. It is a power I give to myself, to choose. If I choose to be happy in the face of all the horrors of existence, who can stop me?
Each morning when I wake up I decide whether to grasp its essence or let it slip by. The decision is all mine.