For a long time now, Happiness is conditioned as an external object. Like an exterior, measurable thing. People have been chasing it for so long. People are constantly leading life seeking pleasure and trying to satisfy themselves with intellectual, social and physical needs. Apparently they are not succeeding.
We search something, try to get something, achieve something when we feel we don’t have it in the first place. And this is what appears in the case of happiness. If it was something exterior to us and we could really go out and get it, there wouldn’t be much trouble for mankind. Depression wouldn’t exist. People wouldn’t suffer. ”Go, get it!” could be the mantra to make them happy. But clearly that’s not the case. Nothing exterior seems to satisfy humans. Wealth, good health, family in spite of having all of these people are miserable. Substantial number of people are. No one can deny that.
What is happiness to us?
When we ask this to ourselves, do we have clear answer? Can we really make cognitive judgement of happiness? Our definition of happiness involves objects of happiness. We never think of happiness as our subjective truth. We humans are entitled to happiness inherently yet we feel entitled to pursue happiness. We talk of having enough money to go to foreign lands, buying new car, gathering family and friends to find happiness, to be happy. And these short lived happiness vanishes with the object it was attached to. It vanishes quickly. And our quest for happiness begins again with new objective. Sometimes we do things. We act, we sing, we write, we play. We keep us engaged with creativity and activity. And often, this activity is followed by validation. Singing isn’t enough. Unless we have the audience to appreciate the act, we won’t feel contended. So that very act of singing or playing or acting becomes objective reality with both ends seeking happiness. The doer seeks happiness through validation and the seer or the audience seeks happiness through entertainment. This is very dangerous situation. Specially for the doer. If not inferred this dilemma consciously, dust of dissatisfaction begins to gather. Clouds of doubts begin to appear. When doer is not doing and seer is not seeing, this vacancy of act puts them face to face with their existence. Boredom appears as depression. Reality strikes like a bolt of lightning. Now this thunderstorm was there already. We were in the shelter we had created out of various acts. And when we have to go out of shelter, we are afraid of the questions we have been long avoiding and answers of which we are unable to find easily. And we succumb to the options easily available. Depression.
What is happiness really?
Happiness is subjective. Subjective life satisfaction is crucial aspect of happiness. I simple words, ”Happiness is a response by humans to their life conditions as they see them.”
Our search for a way being that is complete and everlasting is beyond reach. but, despite this, we can actually experience positive emotions and overall satisfaction. Yes, we are capable of it. And hence we are deemed to be happy however. Happiness is an adaptive function. Through our conscious efforts and cognitive judgement, we can be confident enough to explore our environment and approach new goal. Which would increase likelihood of us accepting the reality and dealing with it.
More or less
It’s just a change in me
Something in my liberty
Lucky Man (The Verve)
What change? What liberty do we have?
As explained earlier, our objective happiness is a result of positive outcomes such as better health, improved performance, ethical behavior or better relationships. We need to make a slight change here. Happiness is not the result of these objectives. It actually precedes them and causes these outcomes.
We believed this:
Good Health, Wealth, Better relationship -> Happiness
But the truth is:
Happiness -> Good Health, Wealth, Better relationship
To be truly happy, practice contentment. Practice compassion. Practice love. Work hard. Love deeply. Help generously. Slowly, but definitely, it will bring contentment in our life needs. And you will be surprised to see that it was already there inside of you. In other words, true happiness, is internal.
There are tools which can help you realize this inward locus. Acceptance and appreciation. A truly happy individual accepts reality for what it is, and what’s more, they actually come to love ’what is’. This acceptance allows a person to feel content. As well as accepting the true state of affairs, real happiness involves accepting the fact that change is inevitable. Another aspect of real happiness is an appreciation of the people in an individual’s life. Strong relationships characterize people who are truly ’flourishing’.
”Those who prefer their principles over their happiness, refuse to be happy outside the conditions they seem to have attached to their happiness.” - Albert Camus