Are we really happy? Do we really know what happiness means? When I search for “Being Happy” on Google, I got 874,000,000 results which means there are already a lot of articles on the internet on being happy. I feel this world will be a better place if everyone in this world is happy. Through this blog post I plan to share my experience and perspective on being happy, so before you jump to conclusions I want to start off with some disclaimers.
First disclaimer: I have a lot of flaws (probably more than a lot of you reading this article) but one thing I can tell you is I feel happy most of the time and a lot of my friends & family will agree to that. That doesn’t make me a happiness guru. The reason for writing this article is so that we can all benefit from knowing how to be HAPPY. After all we are all seeking HAPPINESS, aren’t we?
Second disclaimer: I am not saying happiness is the lack of disappointment, frustrations, despair or sadness but in fact the opposite. The reason we know what happiness means is because there is an abundance of things that make us unhappy.
Third disclaimer: This is not a cookie cutter approach of being happy which means not everything here will apply all the time – there will always be exceptions.
Enough disclaimers, let’s get to the point…
Let it go
In my opinion, forgiveness is the best medicine to be happy. Most of our unhappiness comes from the fact that someone (including you) said or did something wrong. It is okay, let it go, forgive him/her and most importantly forgive you. I know people who sulk and remember something someone said or did years ago (that too not intentionally) and then wait to take their wrath out at some point of time. If you do wrong to a person because of what they did, then what is the difference between them and you? Do you really think holding a grudge and then lashing out years later is going to make you happy? I doubt it, but in my opinion (based on personal experience) forgiving will definitely make you happy.
True forgiveness is when you can say, thank you for that experience. – Oprah Winfrey
Imagine, if every nation on earth forgive each other right now (just a pipe dream), there would be no war and we would have world peace overnight 🙂
Pleasure v/s happiness!
Most of the times, we try to look for happiness outside ourselves when it is within us. I have heard people say drinking alcohol makes them happy. That’s fair and that’s individual choice. I don’t drink and that’s my choice because in my opinion, all these are temporary pleasures that probably make you feel good (I disagree) but definitely not HAPPY. Don’t get me wrong, we definitely need some pleasures in our life but we can’t keep on jumping from pleasure to pleasure assuming we are HAPPY. In my opinion, the real issue with the world today is the constant struggle to differentiate between pleasure and happiness. An easy way to differentiate is that the thought of a pleasurable activity makes you feel good instantly but not quite like that with happiness. Happiness requires some tough choices and work but yield long lasting results. This means, the more “happy” choices we make the happier we will be, simple! For example, it is easy to grab a beer, sit on the couch, eat pizza, watch TV than do something productive like learning something new related to your profession. Nothing wrong with it but it will only get us closer to unhappiness. Second indication that we are indulging in pleasure v/s happiness is, we typically want to justify our actions. For example, when I eat a large pizza I feel good temporarily but later feel like justifying my actions – it’s okay to indulge once in while, after all I am a human being, only one pizza wouldn’t hurt, I have worked hard for it.
Everyday, I constantly struggle with – do I watch television or read a book with my daughter, do I take a quick nap in the evening or go to the gym, do I read a nice book or spend my time on social media, do I eat a pizza/cake or a salad, do I hold a grudge or let it go. I know the more wrong choices I make everyday the further I will be from happiness!
Finding True Purpose
Getting busy doing something you are passionate about to accomplish a goal is a great way to be happy and continue to stay happy. That’s why people who find their purpose in life are happier than people who haven’t yet. I am still in the second category, but striving to get into the first category to find my true purpose. We have all found our short term purpose at least a few times in our lives. Did you recently work on something that you worked harder than you thought you could, but didn’t feel tired after finishing it? Did you compete in a sport and felt awesome after wining even though your body hurt. Did you stay up all night to finish up an assignment or a presentation, so you could get ahead in your career. These are all short term purposes that we have all experienced that made us happy. I remember studying for hours/days at a stretch during the final exam week/month because my purpose was to get good grades for a better future. It wasn’t convenient but made me happy. I have worked hard after hours at my job to forward in my career. Any management/leadership/self help book you pick up will also tell you, find your true purpose and get busy doing it.
“Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it” – Buddha
This is an instant happiness booster. I am guilty of not being as grateful as I should be but whenever I am grateful I instantly feel happy. Think about this perspective – With all the things you have going on that make you unhappy, would you trade your life with a person who doesn’t have an arm? How about trading your life with someone who is a millionaire but on a wheelchair for last 10 years? Would you trade life with a person who is better looking than you but suffering from an incurable disease? Probably not, which means that there are millions of people in the world who are living in absolute misery and would love to trade life with you. If you take the time, you can easily come up with at least 100 things to be grateful about right now. Look yourself in the mirror, do you have all body parts in decent condition then be grateful. Most of you reading this article have shelter, decent clothes, good food, job/business, caring family, decent car, safety, good friends, peace of mind, sound health, money, correct? Then be grateful.
Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” Oprah Winfrey
Complaining is just the opposite of being grateful and only attracts more things to complain about. In my opinion, there is absolutely no benefit in complaining other than gaining sympathy from other people. I have heard people say, the government is bad, the TV show is horrible, the food doesn’t taste good, the weather is terrible, my car is so old etc. If you don’t like where you are right now, try living in one of the slums in a third world country for an hour and you will stop complaining for the rest of your life! I have made a rule for myself, I will not complain! Period. Try it out for 24 hours you will feel better.
Never tell your problems to anyone…20% don’t care and the other 80% are glad you have them.” ― Lou Holtz
Who are “they”?
A lot of times, the reason we are unhappy is because we are too busy trying to impress other people. Haven’t you heard people say – What will “they” say? My question to you is who are “they”? Can you to make a list of all “they” in your life. I bet you will only come up with at most two names who probably criticized you or laughed at you in the past. You are probably giving them more importance in your life than they deserve. In fact, most of the times “they” have enough going on in their lives that “they” don’t have time to think about you. It’s okay if you are not dressed the best once in a while, it’s okay to ask a question and sound dumb in a meeting, it’s okay if you don’t have a luxury car or own a home yet or you recently lost your job. Who are you trying to impress? I hope it’s only YOU! Because, you can’t possibly please everybody, can you?
Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.- Dr. Seuss
Know what makes you unhappy
Knowing what makes you unhappy is equally important. Many a times our mind is so used to thinking in a certain way that we continue to do the things that make us unhappy and don’t even realize it. For example, we constantly compare our situation with a person who has been blessed in a certain area of life. Haven’t you heard people say – she has a much better home, this guy has a better job, she is more intelligent than me or I wish I was as good looking as him. If you happen to compare yourself with someone compare every area of life not just the one you are lacking. You will soon realize that you are richly blessed in other areas of life that the other person is not.
When I was a kid, I wasn’t the tallest one in the block (I am still not) and would constantly compare myself to other tall kids. I thought the taller you are the better you are and that would really make me feel miserable inside. At one point, I realized that I was blessed in a lot of other areas of my life and stopped comparing myself to others. Not only did it make me feel good inside, it also took any jealousy or ill feeling out of me.
There are a lot of other trivial things that make me unhappy. Have I completely mastered them yet? Absolutely not, but at least I know what makes me unhappy, so it is easy to avoid it as much as possible 🙂
Who do you hang out with?
I can’t stress enough on this. I know some really unhappy people in my life that after talking to them they make you believe that this world is the most unhappy place. I don’t want to judge them if they are going through a negative phase but some people are just purely unhappy and ungrateful inside even when they have nothing wrong going on in their lives. I choose to hang out most of the times around positive, happy people and that is a choice you will have to make as well. I am not asking you to break ties with all your friends and family who are unhappy in nature but you can certainly limit the time you spend with them whenever you can. This is sensitive topic and probably you may not agree completely with me, but it’s a fact. Hang around unhappy people and you will be unhappy, hang out with happy people and you will be happy.
Make others happy
I will be honest, I haven’t implemented it as much as I should in my daily life. But I do know that whenever I put a smile on someone’s face, it makes me happy. One cold winter night, I bought a coffee for a police officer and that made him so happy that it automatically made me happy. My last blog post helped someone who was going through a rough patch be motivated and happy which in turn made me happy. Giving to charity without expecting anything in return makes me happy. My goal is one good dead a day, be it as simple as holding the door for someone behind me, saying thank you as much as I can, letting someone ahead of me in a long queue, giving away my seat to someone or just giving some money away to someone in need.
I believe a 100% in my heart that happiness is an inside job. I would recommend stop looking outside and start working on yourself. The only person who can give you long term happiness is YOU 🙂
Hope you find the HAPPY YOU 🙂
– Aniket Gadre