Happiness, Let's Talk

'Depression: Let's Talk,' a year-long global campaign by the World Health Organisation (WHO) took off on 7 April, World Health Day. WHO estimates that over 300 million people suffered from depression as of 2015, so the current numbers are likely to be higher. This information should be an alarm bell for us which should make us pause and ask if we are doing enough for our mental wellness, which is also directly connected to emotional wellness. If we are experiencing stress, anger, anxiety, fear, hurt, jealousy or insecurity, our emotional health suffers. Basically, we get ensnared in these negative emotions in the pursuit of that seemingly elusive feeling — H.A.P.P.I.N.E.S.S.

First things first. Where have we been looking for happiness? In all fairness and for what it is worth, we humans begin chasing our dreams right since our childhood and never stop, often not even pause, for decades on, until we have ticked off items on our wish-list.

The biggest, the most detrimental, and the blanket belief that propels us towards our dreams, is that our happiness is tucked behind everything we acquire — that happiness is a byproduct of our belongings. So, we sought happiness in our accomplishments, possessions, and relationships. We couldn't have been more wrong! Let us quickly separate the wheat from the chaff. Therein lie the tenets of happiness.

When we realize what all we have blended happiness with, we can sift it out. Here are our popular belief systems along with their repercussions —

1. Accomplishments make me happy.

Whether it is examination grades, qualification, designation, or status — our goals tell us where to head and what to achieve. For the sake of this discussion, assume I am a working professional who figures out that it will take me two years to get to the next designation, the managerial cadre. So, now I channelise energy on performance, project deliverables, work ethics and rapport with colleagues. But from time to time, my own conditioned thought reminds me, "I will be happy when promoted as the manager." So I am not happy today, and cannot be for two more years!

Suppose, I foresee a setback because of my own incompetence, undercurrents with team members or a change in business needs. I create stress, anger, and anxiety because they are not just hindering progress but hitting at my happiness. Who knows, I may resort to unscrupulous means to get that promotion. I create, experience and transmit negativity to everyone around me. I am emotionally fallen, bruised, stressed, in pain for two years. Now, when I get elevated as a manager, will I be elated? Add to that uncertainty, another possibility — this happiness will be short-lived, because I will soon set my eyes on the next designation, and then the next!

Happiness is not meant to be postponed until the goal is reached. It is in our way of thinking along the way, while working towards the goal.

2. I can buy happiness.

Assuming that I condition myself to believe that buying a new car gives me happiness, I make the huge purchase and own the most expensive car loaded with features. Essentially, I have bought physical comfort. Now sample this — while enjoying a long drive, suppose I get a phone call conveying an unpleasant or unexpected news, then my happiness fizzles. If the car had truly given me happiness, my happiness would remain intact, regardless of the phone call and regardless of anything else for that matter. Even after the phone call, my car continues to give physical comfort, so my physical body is comfortable. But my happiness is an emotional comfort, so when 'I' the being (who is looking for happiness) went into pain soon after the phone call, my happiness disappeared.

As we know, it is always mind over matter. Why do we feel happy upon buying a car? That happens when we create a thought that goes, "Wow, I bought my dream car!" This thought generates a feeling of happiness. So we basically used an object (car) as a stimulus to create a response (positive thought).

Let us not purchase objects seeking happiness in them. Everything physical is designed to give physical comfort. Happiness is an emotional comfort.

3. Family and friends give me happiness.

Oscillating between territories of acceptance and expectations, the quality and credibility of our relationships have suffered big-time. With the benefit of hindsight, one can see how we got increasingly interested about what we got from people in our field of relationships. What we gave (if we did) to them went unchecked. Our relationships have blossomed regardless, but our list of expectations from each other bloated. We accept people when they think like us, speak like us, act like us, obey us — because we are right!

If I equate my happiness with others' degree of compliance towards me, the risk is that such happiness cannot last, because no sooner than the person obeys me the first time, I hand out the next expectation. Happiness leaves me at this juncture, only to return if (and only if) the person complies again. Else, I am an unhappy being. The off-and-on show of happiness continues, with every impending expectation standing between me and my relationships. I need to take a step back and realize that individuals behave per their definitions of rights and wrongs.

No one can make us happy or sad. Happiness is our emotion, our internal creation regardless of relationships in response to peoples' behavior.

To be happy, be resilient.

Stress in science has a simple formula — Stress is pressure divided by resilience. Higher the resilience, lower the stress. Sadly, we ignore the denominator and embrace the conditioning that, stress equals pressure.

Let's face it! Pressure will always show up as deadlines, exams, relationships, or situations. But if we up our resilience, our inner strength to face that pressure, we will never succumb to stress. Being stress-free implies being stable and hence being happy! Each of us can create happiness of our free will and transform from a state of helplessness into gloriously happy beings.

In that direction, we shall talk more about how happiness can be an uninterrupted emotion, over the next few blogs on this space. Let 'being happy' become our mantra, our way of life!

You may reach BK Shivani at bkshivani@awakening.in