Cultivating genuine happiness

Happiness is not about getting what you want all the time.|It is about loving what you have got and being grateful for it.
Cultivating genuine happiness

In life, we all have unspeakable secrets, irreversible regrets, unkept promises, unheard requests, irreplaceable losses, unfulfilled dreams, unforgettable first all. Still life is about being happy anyhow because everything in life can be summed up in 4 words: “Life must go on”. And how should it go on? We all are agreed that it should go on happily.

Life, as a wit said, is a notebook; two pages are already written by god, the first page is birth and the last page is death the centre pages are blank. We have to fill these with smile, love and sacrifice and not with ego and false attitude; for happiness is not about getting what you want all the time; it is about loving what you have got and being grateful for it. Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is greater.” But I say unto you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed. (Kahlil Gibran).

Leading progressives in the US Congress recently joined a growing list of world leaders pushing to supplement GDP with a broader measure of human progress, an idea conservatives lampoon as “squishy indeed”. But this movement dates to Simon Kuznets, the Nobel laureate who invented the precursor to GDP to quantify US losses during the Great Depression. Even Kuznets pushed for a higher standard, saying this crude tally of stuff bought and sold did not reflect a society’s well-being. In 1968 US Senator Robert Kennedy said gross output measures everything “except that which makes life worthwhile”, including the health, education and welfare of children. We could safely add “happiness” to this list of intangibles.

We know that in an age of growing distractions, frustrations, and uncertainties, it’s difficult to enjoy and maintain genuine happiness and contentment. But there is always hope! We should know that we have enormous power to lower our stress levels, improve our level of happiness, and be more resilient in the face of adversity. Attitude matters in life. In fact, it is the single most important factor that helps decide whether we are going to be happy or miserable. We could perhaps draw a salutary lesson from the pandemic that has engaged us for the past two years and still does. No doubt that it has been a devastating calamity. It has struck almost every corner of earth without any allowance for the region, religion, age, gender or culture. To be honest, without a tinge of sarcasm, it could be said that the pandemic has been quite socialistic; it has struck the rich nation with greater ferocity as can be seen in the case of USA, China, England and France. The fanatically religious have not been spared either as seen from the blows to Iran. The so called developing economies too have not escaped its tentacles as seen from the happenings in Spain and Brazil.

It could be seen as a stern admonition of nature to humanity in general to change in sync with nature. No, we are not being asked to bring down the moon. Rather we have to give up the mad race for making money in the name of development; we have to change our attitude towards nature and life, both. Let us not be alarmed unnecessarily over the past mistakes, nor ignore these lightly. We may have made mistakes and if we learn from them then these may even prove to be boons in disguise. The message is that we should change our attitude towards life. A positive attitude can really make dreams come true - it did for me. (David Bailey) Excellence is not a skill, it’s an attitude. (Ralph Marston) You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you. (Brian Tracy)

As human beings we owe it to ourselves to make one another happy. Making others happy leaves you feeling content, induces selflessness and above all fills that emptiness which arises from continuous running towards happiness by stuffing things in your life alone. Happiness is a crazy mathematics because it multiplies when you divide it, “Human beings are an ultra-social species - and our nervous systems expect to have others around us,” says Emiliana Simon-Thomas of the University of California, In short, according to biology, neuroscience, psychology, and more, our bodies actually tend to work better when we’re not alone. Experiments have shown that simply holding someone else’s hand lessens an individual’s emotional response to a perceived threat. Research has also shown that people who are more grateful tend to be happier, tend to be more satisfied in their relationships, tend to be less vulnerable to various physical discomforts, tend to be more resilient when it comes to stress and trauma, and are more well-liked by others compared with people who are less grateful, she says. “Make a point of noticing who around you is contributing to the goodness in your life and actually express it by saying thank you.”

Happiness is not about getting what you want all the time. It is about loving what you have got and being grateful for it. That brings us to the practice of gratitude in our daily live. Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity. It can turn a meal into feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. (Melody Beattie) People feel and express gratitude in multiple ways. We can apply it to the past (retrieving positive memories and being thankful for elements of childhood or past blessings), the present (not taking good fortune for granted as it comes), and the future (maintaining a hopeful and optimistic attitude). Regardless of the inherent or current level of someone’s gratitude, it’s a quality that individuals can successfully cultivate further. In practice this will magnify the happiness impact of gratitude. The great Chinese philosopher, Confucius, is often referred to as Master Kong as this is the meaning of the Chinese name Kong Fu Zi. What is fascinating about this is that the surname, Kong literally means “an utterance of thankfulness when prayers have been answered”. Praise and thanks are due to Him for life, health, food, intelligence, society and the whole creation. All the achievements and capacities in life are only possible due to the grace of God. Elements of nature that sustain life such as trees, sun, wind, day and night are all expressions of His grace. Truthful devotees thank God for His grace whenever they pluck a flower or a leaf, whenever they take a bath in any holy river, whenever it rains, when there is sunrise or sunset, when there is good harvest and so on. In every prayer to God the devotee expresses hearty praise and thankfulness to God for his existence and wellbeing.

Human revolution means turning our lives in a positive direction, from unhappiness to happiness. It is the transformation of the tendency to allow ourselves to be swept along by force of habit or feel ourselves at the mercy of the whims of destiny. The incredible power to do this already exists in us. (Daisaku Ikeda) Enhancing our ability to recognize and celebrate the simple pleasures in our day as they occur, goes a long way in making us happy as we keep going about daily routine. Let us not miss woods for the trees. While moving forward to realize our goals let us not forget savoring life’s pleasures on the way, however tiny and small these may be; because when woven together, these bits as they seem individually, will form a blanket that will clad our life with happiness. It will also help banish toxic thoughts from our mind and help to effectively cultivate the flow of happiness in our lives.

In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. Thanks to the mental health experts at Harvard Medical School, who have suggested many ways that can help liberate us from the stress, anxiety and depression by increasing our focus, alertness and mental relaxation; short-circuit the anxiety caused by jealousy and envy; building deeper and more intimate long-term relationships; employing simple activities that lead to happier, more resilient relationships and letting go of such grudges and emotions that hurt us more than they hurt people who may have wronged us; stop beating ourselves up when things go wrong; experiencing the “warm glow” of happiness by re-discovering a universal trait of a life well-lived; developing the resilience to handle difficulties easily and bounce back after dramatic or unpleasant events. And remember, it’s okay to have some “you” time when you need it. We all need time to ourselves to rest, decompress and reflect on whatever’s going on in our lives, Simon-Thomas says. It recharges us for when it is time to face (and embrace) the rest of the world again. To conclude, let us as an example, take the case of milk, which has butter in every drop which makes it very nourishing. If you must see it as a separate concrete entity, you must boil the milk, cool it, add sour curd, and wait for hours for it to curdle, then churn it, and roll the butter that floats into a ball. God is in every being, in fact in every atom of the Universe; we can recognize and enjoy Him. To see God and experience Him, work in the spirit of love; this will lead you on to worship. Work without any regard to the proportion of benefit you derive from it, work since it is your duty, work since you love to work, work earnestly, strictly and sincerely since that is the way you can offer gratitude to God for the skills He has endowed upon you. Then you will certainly experience His Grace and Glory.

Bhushan Lal Razdan, formerly of the Indian Revenue Service, retired as Director General of Income Tax (Investigation), Chandigarh.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK

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