I asked a question in my previous post, the first in the Happiness Series, requesting visitors to share with me their definitions of happiness. I also sent out a request on Facebook for inputs on what happiness means to people. Some people were nice enough to come back to me. Interestingly, while I received messages from quite a wide cross-section of people separated by geographies, age, gender etc. the overall tone of every response was nearly the same. I am quoting some below:
My specific happiness is a good health day, full of energy, on a bike in Goa, by the beach, the wind in my hair, my partner driving and my daughter clinging to me and all of us smiling/laughing.
Living with a purpose, being in the moment, being loved, getting to know people/ diverse cultures, leading with kindness and soaking in the treasures nature has strewn everywhere.
The sense of satisfaction or contentment I get from doing things and not that much from achieving objectives.
Happiness for me is diving, the feeling of weightlessness and being a part of the world below for a while. The feeling of awe, and the realisation that I’m just another little speck in the ocean and that makes me appreciate everything even more.
Happiness is time spent with family.
Happiness is to be in the moment with what is. Most things my child does; knowing I am heard, sensing that mom is ok, bumping into an old friend, seeing an extraordinary smile on someone’s face, assisting someone to be independent.
Mountains, obscure village, meeting strangers and hearing their stories.
Timepass with my dog made me happiest. Making others happy, being appreciated and being close to nature also top my list of reasons.
Living a life that’s true to who you really are, not what others expect of you. From my experience when you do this, it’s liberating and infectious.
See where this is going?
Not one person talked about possessions, or a fancy job with many perks, or having a lot of money, or being popular. What does matter to all of these people then and what makes them happy? Spending time with family and friends, being in good health, learning new things, doing things they enjoy (travel, diving, exploring), feeling loved and free and appreciated, and helping others. Most of these sources of happiness come from the person’s own actions and thoughts. In other words, you are responsible for your own happiness.
Why then do so many people look outwards in an effort to be happy? Because popular culture makes us think that happiness is an end to be achieved by collecting. Collecting possessions, achievements, social media followers, and more and more stuff. If only we could get X, we would be happy. If only Y happened, we could be happy. This could not be further from the truth. Happiness is not an end. It is a journey composed of many different moments of joy and small achievements. It is a state of mind, and a decision. As long as you depend on others (things or people) to provide you with happiness, it will continue to elude you.
I have battled depression at different times in my life and have spent hours in therapy. Most people in my life, except a few very close friends, do not know about this. Things only started getting better when I started reading more, and changing the way I think about my life. I realised that I had it all wrong, and that I had a lot of things to learn. This blog is partially an outcome of that realisation, and an effort to reach out to others who might be in a similar situation.
My simple recipe for happiness: Don’t pursue “happiness”. Instead, pursue your interests and the things that give you pleasure. Find out who you are, and be yourself. Take time out for friends and family, as well as for yourself. Do what you enjoy. Do some things you don’t enjoy but need to (it’s not a perfect world!). Let some things go. When you’re upset, let it out instead of bottling it up. Do something kind just for another person’s sake. Have faith.
Happiness will find you.
I would also recommend reading Kris Gage’s post here
Featured image by Cristian Newman on Unsplash