Some people do not grasp the meaning of true happiness. Others wonder if there is happiness in this world. When you look around, you see a lot of misery and sorrow.
People frequently undervalue happiness due to erroneous beliefs about it. Some people believe that happiness leads to sloth and selfishness, yet this is not the case. I feel empowered when my heart is full of delight. The joy motivates me to perform all my duties without feeling tired. It takes me less time to complete my tasks. I get inspired to write. The joy that makes a person happy acts as a motivational pusher or adrenaline, which energizes them to sing, run, say kind words to others, perform their usual duties, exercise, etc.
Research confirms that happiness improves productivity. For example, Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, indicates seven principles of positive psychology. According to those principles, when people are happy their productivity increases.
In her book, Positivity, Professor Barbara Fredrickson states that when people are happy or positive, they come up with better ideas and are more creative (Coursera).
WHAT IS HAPPINESS?
Every human being has a different understanding or prerequisite for happiness. It all depends on the person’s personality, needs, wants, or desires. That which makes one person happy might not be a source of happiness for another person.
Happiness is defined in different ways for different people: power, wealth, material things, social status, control, leisure, hobbies, family, fame, attention, constant praise, admiration, etc. In my understanding happiness is true joy that makes you smile, fills your heart with love and hope, gives you an inner strength, empowers and motivates you. At times, this joy makes one laugh, say funny things, smile, praise and thank the Lord, express gratitude, and be more compassionate towards others. The reasons behind that joy are elements that make one happy. Those could be family, good people in your life, hobbies, activities such as volunteering, loving relationships--the list is too long to set down here. Happiness is serenity, peace of mind, abundance, love, etc. Living a meaningful life makes one happy as well.
Life itself is a journey, with a destination that most try to get to. Most people pursue happiness or success. Yet Viktor Frankl, in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, said, “Don’t aim at success--the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to other than oneself. “
One should prioritize happiness without persuading it, while making happiness-enhancing decisions and living a meaningful and fulfilling life. Yet, some only care about reaching their destination/goals. They get so tied up with attaining those goals that they are not fully appreciating or savoring the experiences. They don’t pause to enjoy the fruits of their efforts. Some give more time to their career or business than to loved ones; at times marriages end because of this. They don’t take time for leisure. When illness comes or old age finds them, they regret the missed opportunities or not living life meaningfully and to the fullest.
According to Professor Czikszentmihalyi, people are happiest when they are engaged in “meaningful flow experiences.” (Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience/Coursera) These flow moments are characterized by certain features, such as distorted perception of time, lack of self-consciousness, and undivided focus on the present time or activity.
For example, when I work on my book, I feel relaxed. Yet, my mind is fully focused on the plot of my book. It seems as if time passes so fast. If during that time someone asks me a question, I will not hear what they say because I am deeply immersed into typing my story.
These flow experiences enhance the level of happiness because they make our lives more interesting and fulfilling. The state of flow happens when people become immersed in challenging activities, which stretch them to the limit and make them able to meet those challenges.
It is said that compassion can make one happy. Every human being has a need for love as well as a need to give. When those needs are met, we feel good. When people can bring something positive into society, they feel competent, useful, and capable.
When I show kindness towards others, I feel joyful; for example, for some time I had been volunteering at a retirement home. Seeing the residents’ joy because of my presence and kindness towards them made my day brighter. I knew that I was doing something meaningful and good.
Michael Norton of Harvard University organized an experiment where money was given to some students. They were asked to either spend it on themselves or others. Those who spent it on themselves on that day didn’t feel happy, but those who spent it on others did. (The Harvard Gazette)
Kylie Hamlin, Lara Acknin, and Liz Dunn, in an experiment with children rather than adults, also confirmed that givers are happier.
OBSTACLES TO HAPPINESS
As was mentioned before, people devalue happiness. They sacrifice their happiness for something else. For example, a stubborn person will pursue an argument for the sake of being right. This will cause problems in the relationship. At times you just must let go. You don’t need to always be right in an argument.
Anyway, you are not going a trophy for being right!! Keep peace in your relationships!!!
At other times people will choose a higher-paying and stressful job over a job that they enjoy the most. Some might buy something for its monetary value instead of buying what they really like.
Another element that affects a person’s happiness is the desire or pursuit of superiority for the sake of being powerful, wealthy, and/or famous. To my mind, this is a misguided notion. Do you think famous people have a peaceful life? They are always being bothered by others. They have no privacy. At times their safety is jeopardized.
It is not unusual for people who are feeling lonely and depressed to become avoidant. They avoid social interaction and become lonelier. This leads to psychological problems such as deepening of the depressed state, insomnia, obesity, etc. Avoidant people lose connections with their friends, which is not good. They keep their issues to themselves instead of trying to get emotional support or comfort.
To combat this, the best cure is to surround themselves with understanding and supportive friends. This is sometimes a very difficult thing to do, but it is highly recommended. Gratitude for the help of these friends should be expressed strongly. They must also practice self-compassion by being kind and compassionate to themselves.
Neediness affects the level of happiness as well, as opposed to healthy relationships that make one happy. Needy people put themselves in wrong situations. In some cases, they weaken themselves by building relationships with another person who does not really care about them, such as narcissists. They get attached quickly and yearn for love and attention. They might become psychologically damaged if those needs are not met.
Learn to love yourself, but not in a selfish way. You don’t need to be in a relationship to feel happy or loved. Take care of yourself emotionally and physically. Get involved in activities that make your day brighter. Parents, nurture your children with love and keep them safe. Don’t forget to encourage them and give deserved praise and affection. Hug them and spend time with them. This way they will not become needy, and will have the self-esteem that will prevent them from running to the wrong people for affection.
Another obstacle to happiness is being over-controlling. This approach/mentality is moved by a desire to control situations, outcomes, and people--and when things do not go their way, they get angry, depressed, or feel miserable. This affects their health, relationship with people, and the quality of their decisions. This type of people doesn’t accept views or input from others.
Avoid being over-controlling. You are not God. Therefore, you cannot control all outcomes. Go with the flow and let go of this poisonous mentality. Learn to trust, and give people the ability to express their own views and ideas. Let it go before it affects your life and relationships, both at home and in the workplace. No one wants to be controlled.
Professor John Helliwell studied happiness levels in other countries. He concluded that the more people agreed that others can be trusted, the happier they were. Therefore, there is a correlation between happiness and trust level. Trust is an important tool in building healthy relationships.
However, at times people who trust a lot get hurt or used by others. According to Helliwell, we should trust others in a way that maximizes our benefits. At the same time, people should minimize the chance to get hurt. (https://brandgenetics.com/Coursera).
One must take personal responsibility for one’s own happiness. This will lead to development of internal control, removing the need for external control. Internal and external control are compensatory forces. It means that when someone has internal control, the desire for external control diminishes. However, when people don’t feel good internally, they seek external control that negatively affects their level of happiness. Those who believe in God have a strong internal control, because their faith that God will help gives them hope and something to look forward to.
As you wake up every day, thank God for everything and PRAISE HIM. Expressing gratitude will improve your mood. Try to practice mindfulness by being aware of your thoughts, feelings, and senses without judging them, instead of thinking about the past or future.
There are many benefits to practicing mindfulness. It decreases stress, enhances the ability to deal with illnesses, and decreases depression symptoms, anxiety, and fatigue. It helps in the struggle to stay focused, and reduces high blood pressure. Mindfulness enhances creativity, and improves emotional intelligence, heart health, and the health of the immune system.
Here is one way find joy in life: every night before you go to sleep, write down two or more things that made your day better or gave you joy. If there is nothing good to recall, then write down three things that upset you and if something positive came out of it. For example, you might feel upset because it rained, and you couldn't meet your friends. Yet because of the rain, something positive happened. You were able to stay at home, relax, or do something that you couldn't do before. Maybe your house got cleaner!!!!
People are frustrated right now because of the Covid pandemic. Quarantine, death, restrictions, poverty, and job loss are taking a toll on everyone. However, even in this situation there is something positive. For example, those who had never taken time to get involved in personal activities are now spending more time with their children and their partnerships. Some have found time to read, remodel the house, etc. Others (like me) have taken up gardening.
We have learned to appreciate what had been lost and have started doing things differently. That is a positive thing.
Therefore, always look for positiveness even in difficult moments, instead of feeling sorry for yourself or being depressed. You will find a reason to smile. Most importantly, practice humility--and be humble and kind towards others.
Author of Broken Chains , A Hell For All Seasons, My Twin Sister And Me and Caribbean Tears.