Is happiness the meaning of Life?
What is happiness? What makes you happy and why is it the single most sought after state of being? It is hard to measure, although some have tried using surveys, questionnaires and models. Being able to measure someone’s happiness is like being able to count the grains of sand on a windy beach. Some research indicates that our level of happiness is a combination of our genes, life experiences and the how we internally process information.
Is happiness knowing that we have enough of what we need to survive?
Is happiness being at peace with oneself and the world?
Is happiness being able to enjoy the simplicity and beauty of everyday life?
Is happiness having the freedom, good health and ability to help others?
Is happiness being able to give and receive love unconditionally?
Is happiness a state of consciousness where all the senses are fully aware?
Is happiness knowing who we really are and being at peace with ourselves?
Whatever our definition of happiness, it certainly means a lot of things to different people. Research and polls that question what people think is the most important thing in life, consistently report happiness as the most popular response. For most of us it seems, happiness is our primary goal in life. Yet for something so important it seems that many people cannot find happiness. While the study of happiness is definitely increasing most research in the past has been focused on negative states such as depression, anxiety, phobias and stress. It seems strange that the very thing people want most from life receives so little attention. If we had to choose one thing from life, be it success, fame or fortune, there would be an overwhelming majority of people choosing happiness as the single thing they desire over anything else. There is nothing else that comes close to happiness. Other things are nice, but without happiness everything else is irrelevant. We can be financially well off, yet not be happy. We can be famous or influential and still not be happy. This elusive thing we all crave, happiness, is the cornerstone for everything we do. Everything.
What is Happiness?
“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence” – Aristotle
According to Wikipedia “happiness is a state of mind or feeling characterized by contentment, love, satisfaction, pleasure or joy.” Happiness is something we feel, it is an internal experience of consciousness. Happiness is part of our awareness, our consciousness. It is a state of being. The Dalai Lama possibly one of the foremost advocates of happiness says “happiness is not a luxury it is the purpose of our existence.” He may well be right.
The simple fact that everything we do correlates in some way back to happiness, makes it the single most compelling explanation of the human experience. For the vast majority of us, everything we do in life, we do to make ourselves happier. We go to work and earn a living in the hope that we can build a life that will make us happy. We enter into relationships in the hope that they will make us happy. We have career aspirations because we think the achievement of these will make us happy. We have a family, as we think that this will bring us happiness. We have relationships with others and engage in social interaction hoping this will bring us happiness. All these things we do, we do as a result of wanting to feel the emotion of happiness. There is no point in having a wonderful career, success and relationships if they don’t make us happy.
Happiness vs. Pleasure
We must understand that pleasure and happiness are two completely different things. Pleasure is of the senses and lacks any kind of meaning. One can find pleasure in many different forms. From smelling a flower, sitting in front of a fire on a cold day, eating our favourite meal or doing a multitude of different physical activities that make us feel good. Happiness is dependent upon meaning and can be felt even if negative external circumstances exist. Happiness is more durable and persistent than pleasure, which is often short lived and fleeting. We could be playing our worst round of golf ever, yet still be happy. We could be involved in an accident and injured, yet still be happy. Our various internal circumstances have not changed, the only thing that has changed is our external environment and circumstances.
Happiness, the Dalai Lama believes, is something that can be developed over time. It is like anything we set our mind to. With careful practice and patience we can build a solid foundation of happiness. It is important we consciously make this decision to be happy.
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