“Happiness depends upon ourselves.” - Aristotle
How do you define happiness? For me it is a mental and emotional state where I am experiencing positive feelings and I am content with my life. It is a state that allows me to flourish and enjoy life, where I am able to be positive towards others and do some good that will benefit other people. Happiness is not something that can be bought in a box in a store, it has to be made and the only way to make it is to concentrate on actions rather than things. Creating and building up, giving to other people, teaching others something that I know and which is useful, making people laugh, loving others is what make me happy. What I do influences how I feel, and therefore my actions will be the ones that will determine my happiness.
Think about the last time you experienced the greatest sadness, the greatest melancholy, the greatest depression and the greatest unhappiness. When you broke up with your partner, for example. What did you learn about yourself at that time? What did you learn about life? Did that experience make you change yourself or the way you interacted with other people? Surely, such painful experiences are a valuable lesson and by changing the way we act we can influence future similar circumstances and even prevent some of the unpleasant occurrences in our life.
Think about the last time you were angry over something. Really furious! Indignant, fuming, exasperated… Examine the reason why. Try and think of the deep parts of your feelings that underlay your anger. Was it because of something you feared? Because of something that involved your possessions? Because of the way that you view other people? Because of your expectations? Because of your, yours, you…? Anger is a draining emotion and it can engender so much misery and pain. Last time you were angry, did you flush it all out by talking about it with someone you cared about? It’s only when we dispel anger and fear that we can become happy and we can love freely.
When was the last time you gave something of yourself to someone who truly needed it? Not the money you doled out to a beggar on the street, nor the cheque you wrote out to your favourite charity. Not even the money you gave your kids who needed to buy things for school. I’m talking about time. Sitting close to someone and spending valuable time listening to them, laughing with them, being sympathetic, being empathetic, even crying with them. Being kind and compassionate takes time, often takes courage, sometimes takes audacity or even bravery. Your happiness at the end of that time spent will be almost as much as the person who has been given that gift.
Have you ever felt you were being a coward? Avoiding situations or people that make you uncomfortable? Not doing what your really want to, or many time not having the courage to do what you really must do, what is really right? Weakness breeds fear and fear breeds anger, which makes us unhappy. Make that extra effort to do what you must, what you need to – even if it is unpleasant, or confronting, or challenging, or troublesome. You will feel relief once that is done. You will be happier afterwards.
When you are feeling unhappy, what do you do? Especially so if you are alone, when your friends are not within easy reach… Surf the net? Chat online? Watch TV? Go out? Drink? Eat? Do drugs? Why not reach out for a book and read? Why not read a poem? Why not read several poems? Why not contact a relative? Especially someone whom you have not talked to for years? Perhaps one with whom you exchanged some bitter words in the past? Why not forgive and forget and hold out an olive branch? Their reaction may surprise you and you may feel a lot better afterwards.
Life is hard enough without us consciously making it harder than it already is. To be happy is everyone’s right as long as it doesn’t make others unhappy in the process. It is of such fundamental importance to the human condition that “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” were deemed to be unalienable rights by the United States Declaration of Independence. We all deserve to be happy and being happy is easier than it seems. Especially so if your primary physical needs are taken care of. Look towards the future with hope, live today to your best ability, while remembering the past’s lessons. Concentrate on actions and feelings rather than possessions and things. Give freely of yourself to others and accept gratefully what they offer to you in return, then you will be happy.