By Sarah Koul
CONTRARY to the original belief that happiness is ‘found’, happiness is a skill we all can work and train for. One important thing to remember is that happiness isn’t a state of constant glee. Instead, happiness is an overall sense of experiencing more positive emotions than negative ones.Our thoughts are involuntary, they have a life of their own and cannot be controlled, thus the notion of ‘positive thinking’, is quite unachievable if not impossible. We have a better chance at controlling our actions and behavior, than controlling our thoughts.
Emotional and mental wellbeing cannot be based on positive thinking but on positive action, practices that induce a sense of happiness and satisfaction. If someone asks us why we had a good day, we would generally list things like, xyz gave me a bunch of flowers or I heard this amazing singer on the road. However, as long as our reasons for why we had a good day are a list of external conditions, we are not going to have a stable sense of happiness. If our happiness depends upon external sources such as people or circumstances, then our happiness will be in the hands of everyone but us.
We need to stop outsourcing our happiness, to stop attributing it to certain people and circumstances- to center ourselves as the authority of our happiness. As long as we are making it the job of people and circumstances to make us happy, or as long as we’re blaming others for our unhappiness, our state of happiness will be very unstable and illusive.
Our job is to actively cultivate a source of peace and happiness that comes from within our mind. If happiness is a state of mind, how do we expect to derive it from outside our mind?
If we have a peaceful state of mind, we will be happy regardless of the situation but if we have a disturbed or agitated state of mind, we will not find peace regardless of how desirable the circumstances will be.
To be able to have a peaceful and satisfied state of mind, one needs to take control of how he views everything around them. We can choose to be happy in every second, by looking around us and letting gratitude seep through our nerves, by being thankful for our health, and for every working muscle and limb in our very own body. We choose to be happy by being grateful for all that is going right rather than wrong- to be grateful about having a car and not dissatisfied about not having a top end model, to be able to observe that there are more people in the world who don’t even get to have a car rather than people who get to buy high end cars. It’s seemingly cliche to say, “one should be content in what he has” but the more we hear it the more we realize that cliches are only cliches because they have been proven to be true time after time. Acknowledging that happiness is in our own hands, to a large extent, is hard because by admitting so we’re holding ourselves accountable for it. Humans feel and encounter a spectrum of emotions- anger, frustration, boredom, loneliness, and even sadness- from time to time and so do happy peopleBut people who are content and happy, when faced with discomfort, have an underlying sense of optimism that things will get better, that they can deal with what is happening. Therefore a constant state of happiness cannot be possible to achieve, but happiness roots in optimism and thus the key is to stay optimistic. To be optimistic is to have hope, and as the famous poet Emily Dickinson penned;
“ Hope is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all.”
Emily Dickinson takes an abstract feeling or idea and likens it to something physical, visible, and tactile. So hope becomes a singing bird, the thing with feathers that is supposed to be high in the sky, singing to us that no matter what, even in the darkest days, light always finds a tiny crack to sweep in through. Similarly, to have hope and optimism that there is happiness in everything around us, even in the hardest times, is the key to attain a happy state of mind. What needs to be incorporated into our lives is the practice of finding happiness and associating it to what we do on a daily basis- having a cup of beautifully decorated coffee which someone crafted with utmost carefulness or to look at the sky and hope it rains if that makes us happy- to be able to find happiness in minuscule things and doing things that induce a sense of joy in us. We deserve to create joy for ourselves, because the more we associate our happiness with others the more is the chance of facing disappointment, but when we take responsibility for our own happiness, we tend to work for it because we can disappoint anyone but ourselves.
Happiness is right now, in the sky, in the sand, during that phone call with your mother, it’s in the iced tea, and the sunshine. Heck, it can even be in the trees while you rush to your last final. Happiness can be wherever we choose for it to be.
- The author is an intern with Kashmir Observer
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