That banal question answered once and for all.
Happiness is our natural emotional-mental state when inner negativity is absent.
What would be a better topic to treat in the very first blog post than the question on how to achieve happiness in life. The question sounds incredibly overused. But could it be that we still don’t get it, and that’s why the same question comes up over and over again? Let’s answer it once and for all.
First we need to define what we mean by happiness?
There are two kinds of ‘happiness’: the superficial joy in the moment, and the profound feeling of deep, constant fulfilment.
When we ask about how to achieve happiness in life, we always mean the latter. We all know how to become joyful and enthusiastic as a reaction to outer circumstances that meet our desires, expectations and wishes. This gives us a feeling of happiness of the superficial type. That feeling wears off very quickly and usually after a few minutes, hours or a day we don’t have it any more.
The profound type of happiness on the other hand is far more difficult to achieve. And frankly, not many people ever really get there. To sort out your life in a way that gives you satisfaction in your personal and professional circumstances takes far more time and effort. And often we don’t really know what we’re looking for and who we want to be. So to achieve the clarity about what would make us profoundly happy is far more difficult than the simple laughter we share in the moment.
However, even if you have your dream job and a dream family in your dream house, it’ still easy to imagine a thousand reasons that could potentially break this peaceful idyll. Everyone knows of someone who had it all, and who broke down due to a depression, personal issues and attitudes. It becomes clear that outer circumstances don’t have to match our inner experience. You can be rich and social and still be unhappy on some level.
There’s lots of funny quotes about wealth. If you google it, you can stumble upon phrases such as:
“Money can't buy happiness but it's better to cry in a Lamborghini.”
“Money can't buy happiness but neither can poverty.”
“Money can't buy happiness but it does bring you a more pleasant form of misery.”
We can smile at them, because we see some truth in them. We realise that money has nothing to do with happiness, yet we strive after it in one way or another. That’s because when we say we care about money, we don’t really mean it. We shouldn’t be too judgmental about ourselves on this issue - no one cares about dirty metal which is what money really is. What we care about is the human experiences that money can enable us to have. Accommodation, food and drinks cost money. But once the mere survival is covered, we still strive after social life – and socialising costs money too. It’s the basic human experiences we crave and money puts means at our disposal to have those experiences.
However, let’s express the most obvious thing: happiness is a natural emotional-mental state when inner negativity is absent. All babies are happy and smile light-heartedly when their basic physical needs are satisfied. They don't even know they are happy - that's just what they are. Everything in nature has its natural state of being. A bee makes honey, a monkey hangs from trees, a dog sniffs - everything has its natural state. The same applies to us humans. If we naturally follow our nature and 'inner vocation', we are happy. If we don’t express our nature, we become unhappy. Each of us has a talent, skill or personal vocation that would make us feel fulfilled if we could express it. This applies to character qualities as well. If we live in loving and caring environments, we develop in the best way possible.
Small children know how to be happy. They don't need to strive after it. That's what they are. That's what we are.
If social and biological obstacles prevent us from development, then our mind creates defence mechanisms and other psychological structures to help us cope with our personal handicaps. We are prevented from expressing ourselves naturally and that’s where our un-happiness starts.
Happiness has nothing or very little to do with materialistic achievements. Either you are happy or you aren’t, and if you are not, you won’t be even if you own all the riches of the world. What you gain with materialistic possessions is a temporary euphoria that dies away very quickly after which you take your possessions for granted or even get bored of them, so that you need another ‘kick’ of some sort to feel anything special – you go and buy or do something else.
You could go on like this for the entire life without getting anywhere in particular or doing anything of substance. Most people would say that’s all there is to life, as they cannot imagine anything beyond their personal materialistic satisfaction. They might even grow disenchanted or just bored over time, because they’ve had it all and now they feel oversaturated.
So what’s higher and more fulfilling than striving after money and collecting possessions? That’s helping others.
service as the real source of happiness
Helping others is a service we do to other people, our friends, family, colleagues and strangers. Striving to be what is commonly called a good person and trying your best to make a contribution to a group so that everyone is helped, is the easiest way to be truly happy – not that superficial type of happiness, but the profound happiness that derives from doing something of substance.
Helping others is a service we do to other people.
Helping people by shifting your focus from yourself to others helps you get rid from a lot of personal burden which for the most part isn’t based in reality. Most problems we encounter in life are self-created conflicts in our heads based on misunderstanding, distorted perceptions and ignorance. We pay too much attention to our faults, instead of focusing on what really matters: to live happy, simple lives together with other people by helping each other.
The one reality is vast, and our little egos are insignificant in comparison to the size of the world. The observable universe measures 93.000.000.000 (billion) light years in diameter and is constantly expanding. Do you think that unimaginable vastness worries about your last quarrel with your boyfriend, or that nasty comment from your frenemy? Or your relationship problems? It doesn’t. You as an individual are unique and important, but your ego isn’t. So do yourself a favour by not taking yourself too seriously and by keeping your life simple. That will make you happier – maybe not fully happy, but a bit happier than before.
The gigantic size of the universe lets us see our trivial problems in perspective.
So next time when your bills pile up, your relationship is not working, the job is getting on your nerves, the insurance doesn’t pay your money and the world around you is crashing down – go and cook a cake for your mum… go buy some flowers for your sister… go and smile at the lady in the shop.
What? You say you can’t do it when you’re feeling down? Excuses, excuses… Well, then it’s time you admit that you’re emotionally weak and there is one solution: go and train yourself to grow stronger and emotionally more independent. There’s no quick solutions, though it’s not that hard either - it’s just a process that takes time. So take all the time you need, but don’t slack off.
This might sound familiar and quite banal, as if we’ve always known this somehow. And what you obviously know, you take for granted until it becomes so banal that you forget it. So let me remind you: indeed, banal wisdom is the way. Now do the most banal thing and go help your dad in the garden.