Most of us would be happy to agree with the above statement of the ancient Greek Philosopher because all living beings (including humans, animals, insects etc) want pleasure, happiness & joy in life but also want to avoid pain. So what is ‘happiness’. Though all want happiness but no one is able to define it. They also try to find long-lasting happiness in short lived things. More strangely, most people would look to external circumstances for their unhappiness instead of taking actions for their own happiness. Before going any deeper let’s try to define happiness.
Happiness, for some, is a feeling of pleasure, joy which is personal, emotional and subjective. For others, happiness is a sense of fulfilment, meaningfulness of life, in short, a matter of soul. As you see, happiness is generally defined in two ways and explained by an individual as per his or her own experiences and preferences in life. Most of world’s thinkers, philosophers, religious proponents etc insist on the happiness being an inside thing i.e. long-lasting peace of mind. Psychology pundits and researchers define happiness in terms of combination of both while agreeing with the latter with regard to long-lasting and deeply felt happiness.
Does happiness depend upon external circumstances, material things; or our own attitude, choices and actions determine our sense of happiness? Our sense of happiness is certainly affected by our heredity or genetic predilection, other people’s behaviour, our physical and financial conditions etc. That is why whenever any want or need of ours is satisfied we feel happy. But it is also true that this happiness stays with us for a very short time. Why? Because these are external things, and happiness is an inside matter. External things are not in our control and we can do very little about them or nothing at all. At the most we can achieve only temporary happiness through them. But we have full control over our own choices and actions which may bring long-lasting happiness.
According to Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, a Psychology professor in University of California, Riverside, U.S.A., an acclaimed author of bestseller book, ‘The How of Happiness’, the 50% of the happiness levels of a human being are influenced by his genetics; 10% by his life circumstances and external conditions; and rest 40% are determined by his own attitude, choices and actions. Thus, we have complete control over the 40% of the factors determining our happiness which in fact is the secret of well-being, success, happiness and joy in life. Even Dale Carnegie once said, “Happiness doesn’t depend on any external conditions, it is governed by our mental attitude.”
So the moot point is – what to do to get the long-lasting happiness? Here are a few easy steps which come within your domain of choices and actions:
1. Find meaning of your life in terms of your talents and genuine interests and begin the process of achieving them.
2. Be grateful for whatever (life, health, family, friends, food, home, education, talents etc.) you have and be thankful to whoever has ever helped you at any stage of life.
3. Be forgiving of yourself and others. Nobody is perfect.
4. Be social and keep company of positive, progressive and successful and happy people. Their effect will rub on you.
5. Physical exercise and rest in proper manner help in boosting happiness levels.
6. Meditate and peep into your soul very often.
7. Help needy people in whatever manner you can. It will definitely give you long-lasting joy. As it has been so beautifully said by Lord Byron: “All who joy would win must share it, happiness was born a twin”.
Thus all the above actions lie in our zone of control. Ancient religious thinkers, philosophers as well as modern psychologists all have a single point agenda: to solve the mystery of long-lasting happiness for humanity. And the secret lies in our own attitude, choices and actions.
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Written by: Ashok Kumar
Photo credit: Flickr