What is happiness?
Happiness is a feeling we’ve all felt, an emotion we instinctually recognise and a word that needs neither a definition nor an introduction.
We all seek to live a happy life and yet we stumble through an unhappy one often in denial either because we don’t know how to handle the subject of happiness or because no one ever told us that it is possible to inculcate happiness into our life with conscious effort.
What makes you happy is a question worth examining so that you can create happiness for yourself rather than hoping it comes your way. It is possible and worthy of both your time and energy.
Let’s begin by deconstructing happiness for the times we are living in. What do you think brings us happiness?
LOTS OF FRIENDS!
Fast friends formed either on social media or otherwise and people you ‘hang out’ or 'chill out' with don’t usually contribute to your happiness. Big friend circles tend to be made up of these.
Some friendships make you feel at home. When you spend time with such people, you come away feeling fulfilled. These relationships make all the difference to how you feel. Choose quality over quantity in friendships.
Success contributes to your confidence, social standing, and bank balance. However, it works a bit like coffee. It keeps you going but can’t sustain you if you don't consume any food during the day.
To sustain yourself, you need to be able to derive some value from the work you spend countless hours doing. The accolades that come your way can convince your mind but your heart craves more aka a sense of purpose to stay motivated.
Wait, wait, is it
Time and again, research done to study the effects of money on people’s happiness has come to the same conclusion: once basic material needs such as food, shelter, clothing, and security have been met, an increase in income has a negligible effect on happiness.
Money is a resource that can motivate you but not fulfil you. Richer doesn’t mean happier.
What is it then?
They are traps that work as an illusion. If fame or a following made us happy, famous people wouldn’t need therapists, drugs, wouldn’t commit suicide, and their marriages wouldn’t break up as quickly as they do.
Additionally, social stature/following brings with it a lot of baggage that weighs people down with unnecessary pressures and expectations.
Or is it FAME /
FOLLOWING / POWER?
Got it, got it! It must be a PERFECT RELATIONSHIP/
Companionship is beautiful because it is a source of emotional support. It gives us a sense of security, a feeling of being loved and valued. However, it can’t help us get rid of our baggage, solve our life problems or the issues we haven’t dealt with.
It may make us think that everything’s good (for a few years even) but like bubbles in a glass of water our issues rise again as time goes on.
Sex is a distraction that doesn’t help either.
If you’re lonely or unhappy by yourself, a relationship isn’t the answer.
Physical beauty works as fame does. It gets us the validation we seek (a deeply ingrained need developed during childhood) but it does not fulfil us on a deeper level. We are conditioned to like and aspire for a certain type of beauty (both men and women) and spend our lives trying to embody it.
Beautiful people smiling on billboards, newspapers, and even in real life are putting their most rehearsed self forward for the world to see. You can do it too but it doesn’t change how you feel on the inside.
I don’t know anymore. Just f**k off!
One sec, is it PHYSICAL BEAUTY?
I’m exhausted! I don’t have any other answers!
Wait, last guess, is it TRAVEL / VACATIONS / WEEKENDS?
Travel can open up your mind and expose you to new ways of living and thinking. It can help you get away from the craziness of your life and heal if that is what you need to do. It can be good for your soul and your mind but it cannot solve your life problems or help you run away from them.
Travel lifts your mood temporarily not permanently. If you’re seeking to live a happier life, travelling can help you find some answers but it can’t help you escape your present life.
Similarly, no weekend can permanently wipe Monday blues off your mind so ask yourself ‘Why does Monday make me feel the way it does?’
A majority of the above are a source of the short-lived feeling of PLEASURE. They give us a temporary high before evaporating into thin air.
Pleasure is a type of happiness. I classify happiness into the following types:
Things that bring us pleasure come and go very quickly. They tend to work as a drug and can be addictive.
E.g. Social media notifications, a glass of alcohol, sex, falling in love.
Happiness makes us feel a surge of excitement because of something that usually takes place over a short time period. It is beautiful while it lasts but it doesn’t have an afterlife. When it leaves, we reach our normal again.
E.g. Physical exercise, accomplishing something difficult, a healthy meal, a good book, spending time with someone you love.
Joy makes us feel grounded, calmer, and even grateful. There’s less excitement involved, its intensity is lower than that of happiness but it lasts longer. Unlike happiness which we tend to feel more physically, it is less physical and more emotional. It leaves us with a feeling of quiet CONTENTMENT.
E.g. Receiving kindness, meaning derived from one’s purpose, spending time amidst nature, a long and fulfilling relationship.
This is the least experienced form of happiness, also the most beautiful. It is a state of happiness in which we remain unaffected by the happenings around us and transcend human struggles. It is a state achieved when I imagine, a person grows spiritually to a level where she rises above human emotions and the trappings of life.
E.g. the closest I've come to experiencing bliss is during meditation which has managed to give me a glimpse of a type of happiness that goes beyond joy.
Create happiness and joy for yourself instead of relying on pleasure to get through your days and nights.