An interesting piece of research reveals that people who are happy are better off in several ways. They tend to have an increased immune system and recover from illness faster, have greater pro- social behavior and have more satisfying and longer-lasting relationships, and they get promoted more often and make more money. If all this was not enough, happy people on average live 7 years longer! Now, who wouldn’t want to be happy?
But what exactly is happiness? Wikipedia defines happiness as “a mental state of well-being characterized by positive emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.”
Lionel Ketchian, the founder of the Happiness Club describes happiness as “an inner state of well-being that enables you to profit from your highest thoughts, intelligence, wisdom, awareness, common sense, emotions, health, and spiritual values.”
Combine the 2 and you can reach several conclusions. First, happiness is not an automatic outcome of material well-being or wealth. Second, happiness is an acquired state of ‘inner well-being’ and is not something that comes by your way randomly. Third, happiness is good for you!
The single most important factor contributing to the acquisition of happiness is a positive mental attitude. A Live Positively approach to life enables one to face challenges with equanimity and actually see opportunities in these challenges; especially opportunities to do good beyond benefit to yourself. Of course all of us wish to grow and prosper, live comfortable, stress-free lives at the least, and enjoy the good things in life. Here, the question begs to be asked, that being social animals, will we be able to find happiness in this alone, or will there still be an element of doubt, even guilt left that we could have done more for others round us, even while we were ensuring our own well-being?
This is an invisible barrier that we must all cross at some point or the other in our lives, if we are to achieve true happiness. The happiness that results from bringing joy, or peace of mind, or even simply a single moment of comfort in the live or lives of others, is a level of happiness that is indeed exponentially greater than happiness that results from self-appeasement. Many of us manage to cross this barrier and manifest our pursuit of happiness by this definition in a number of ways. These can include contributing monetarily to charities, putting in volunteer time for worthy causes, or in some remarkable cases, devoting our entire lives to the well-being of others, and especially the marginalized and the less fortunate than us. In this regard, one of my favourite all-time quotations on any subject is from Edmund Burke, an 18th century Irish philosopher, author, orator and statesman. Burke stated, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Made over 200 years ago, this statement is eerily true more intensely today, mired as we are in a world of intolerance, negativity and instability.
Co-relating this quote to the pursuit of happiness, one can conclude that it is vitally important for each one of us to share happiness, or put in another way, pursue Open Happiness, a behavior repertoire that promotes positivity in society and leading from it, to happiness for ourselves and for others. To test this at the simplest level, smile at a colleague at work. More often than not you will get a smile in return. The result? Two happy people!
As I said, this is the simplest form of sharing happiness; zero cost, immeasurable benefit. For, can you really put a price or a measure to a warm smile? Does it not create for you that ‘inner state of well-being’ that Lionel Ketchian spoke about?
Getting deeper into the sharing of happiness, I salute all those unsung heroes and heroines in our society that are the cause or the catalyst of shared happiness. Indeed, it appears to me that if it wasn’t for these gentle, caring souls and the silent good work that they are doing, our society would have descended into total anarchy, given the overall gloom and doom that surrounds us and threatens to suffocate civil society in throes of suffering and misery.
Included in this amorphous group of individuals are people from diverse backgrounds and vocations. There are individuals like Naseem Hameed, rising from a very humble background to become the fastest woman in Asia, making us proud, and yes, happy. There are other individuals who have achieved remarkable, world-beating records through sheer hard work and courage, making us happy too at their achievement and success. Then there are living saints like Maulana Abdul Sattar Edhi, who have devoted their entire lives to care for those forsaken by all others. There are still others no one has ever heard of, but who definitely are in the realm of inner well-being, silently and without a desire for recognition working in their respective fields to achieve goals that are a boon to society as a whole.
The challenge then is to cross that threshold that makes us finer human beings, by making us do tasks in our everyday lives that have a positive impact on others besides ourselves, leading to a state of happiness for ourselves that is spiritual in its essence and thus more strongly entrenched than the apparent happiness that is the outcome of purely material comforts.