The depth of narrating my story and the responsibility of writing on a sensitive subject such as happiness is never easy; it has raised some vital questions about me such as can I measure my own happiness level or how do I even define my happiness? Although there is a lot written on happiness, I am telling my personal experience so that you get information from a true experience that is unique.
A more scientific term for Happiness is subjective self being and as the term dictates, happiness is different for everyone. Happiness has been a hot topic for debates since ancient times; many have claimed that happiness is the pursuit of pleasure, a state in which someone is distant from their problems and relaxing hence, the person feels ‘happy’, which is a more rudimentary definition. Many have stated that it is struggle to be on terms with our positive and negative side, pain and displeasure while others say it is seeking and experiencing strong feelings that we call pleasure which is deemed as an essential component of our lives – these pleasures are not only associated with sensation but can be about our fundamental needs such as food, it can be monetary or altruistic in nature.
Through reflecting on my actions, attaining balance, embracing uncertainty, being respectful and by being compassionate, Nichiren Buddhism has helped me to empower myself in body and spirit. It is overwhelming to determine what happiness is, it is ambiguous and has many meanings and while our definition of happiness keeps on evolving, it can be described as a transforming emotion that can be related to joy, an experience with successful results, and pursuit of goals and general development of a person. Overall happiness is a mood; it is the absence of negativity and presence of positivity. In my case, happiness developed as I grew and took ownership of my personal strengths, improving my physical and mental health. The paths to happiness are many; could be related to achievements, autonomy, independence and competence or it can be realized by engaging in positive activities that can develop positive habits, qualities or traits in a person. In more simple words, happiness exists when positivity dominates which involves enjoyable experiences and absorbed in tasks that help a person demonstrate their individual virtue in work, relationship and community, rather than paying attention to their weakness. What I learned is that it is not necessary to express happiness; it is an internal experience – a state of satisfaction and euphoria.
While the degree of happiness varies with everyone, it is an effect of a positive mood, if you are positive and happy, you have higher chances of success, you solve problems more quickly, your intuition gets a boost and you live longer. Positive mood is something you can nurture; giving to others in an act of kindness, making sincere friends and having a transparent relationship and you should always improve your social skills, develop good habits, have an optimistic mindset, become self-determined and smile more often. Adequate sleep and volunteering for good causes is also related to happiness, it helps build a strong character, self – confidence and interpersonal skills.
One thing that you should note down and remember is that good things come in small packages, happiness is in everyday life, simple rewards and little thrills such as finding a quarter on the side of the street, hugging a puppy, being a hero to child by buying them an ice cream, exchanging gifts and just having a creative, calm, smart, flexible and productive approach when conflicts strike. Experiencing and cherishing small joys helps in sustaining however we should develop a positive mindset that is permanent rather than chasing after the temporary feeling and climbing mountains after mountains to achieve pleasure that is momentary and fleeting. At this point, we should be aware of our inner happiness rather than confirming to what the society is showing us through social media, billboards and TV.
Many unfortunate times, we tend to suppress negative feelings when we are seeking joy; this is common but unhealthy if it continues for longer time. The reality of life is that difficult emotions exist; we get sick, our relationships and friendships struggle, things break, and life involves pain. I experienced that we should listen to each emotion and never ask ourselves the question; ‘why am I unhappy?’ in the first place because it is a valid and real feeling and it should not be considered unwanted. Sadness is a fact of life, accepting it is good, indulging in it is not, experiencing the full range of emotions is what makes us human, not clinging to them but learning from them. It’s a pretty complicated life; you can be a raging success but dissatisfied with life or vice versa, it’s just that there is no recipe for this cake we call happiness, it is only a journey of self-discovery, it is a cake you bake for you and never expect it to satisfy everyone’s taste buds. I think it’s about gratitude, balance, resilience, being humble, kind and focusing on what matters to you; when life fulfills your fundamental needs, and these are your key ingredients, happiness will surely follow.
Talking and writing on this topic sometimes seems odd to me, like it is a dream in which I am writing on an emotion that was hard to achieve and guiding everyone through a process that took me 29 years to figure out for myself. Happiness is a mystery, it is a phenomenon, and it connects all of us. We all go to great lengths searching for happiness and wondering whether we are living the life we are meant to live. It is a question that everyone struggles to answer no matter what stage of life they are at. What to take home from my experience is that it is hard to define happiness as we are continuously evolving therefore we should identify our personal strengths, nourish them and live in the present.