The fine art of happiness
Hi folks! Hoping you are awash with contentment and satisfaction. As rightly said by some of my friends, these two feelings are tantamount to happiness. Happiness can be described as peak experiences which come as crests and most of the other times one does not plumb the depths but remains buoyed by feelings of contentment and satisfaction.
I have been having this recurring thought since quite some time and I have a feeling so have you and so am sharing it… . The generation of humans born in the second half of the 20th century has seen it all - from rags to riches success stories, from the pain of scarcity to the misery of affluence, from global boom to global meltdown, from fear of climate change to the menace of antibiotic resistance and now to a world soon to be dominated with Artificial Intelligence.
From a golden age where whatever man touched turned to gold we have reached a sad state of affairs of whatever man touches is literally turning to dust. Metaphorically we are reaping the bitter harvest of leading a hedonistic life characterised by excesses. An unexpected byproduct of a lifestyle of excess is anxiety, stress, pessimism, depression and nihilism.
God is nothing if not fair- it is clear that the ‘haves’ definitely do not have a hegemony on happiness. In fact it can be argued that the ‘have nots’ are actually blessed because it doesn’t take much for them to become happy. You do realise the terms ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ are relative don’t you? One man’s ‘have’ is another man’s ‘have not’. So at any given time we can be either! So it is kind of wise to be grateful for what one has.
It can be said that challenges are an essential ingredient for us to fully appreciate this emotion of happiness. A life bereft of obstacles and challenges can spread out like an arid desert just like a life burdened with insurmountable never-ending challenges.
Research in America unambiguously states that depression soared as the challenges encountered in daily living melted away. In fact it became a challenge to remain happy! As the West peaked the roller coaster of consumerism and declined into pathos, it per chance discovered what we in India had collectively decided to ignore.
The epidemic of stress and pathos in the West paved the way to many new or rather not so new solutions, and now we are fully aware of the merits of meditation and spirituality. The concepts and benefits of mindfulness and yoga have become so mainstream that we Indians in whose land these developed are now fully appreciative of their merits too!
In fact religion is making sneaky inroads into the West garbed in the new term of spirituality while ironically the intelligentsia in developing countries are at pains to stress their atheist leanings. I have no issues with any kind of philosophy, but studies are suggesting that religion too holds the key to happiness.
Funnily, I found that religion actively promotes the very acts mentioned in my prior posts which are conducive to happiness like gratitude, charity, kindness, compassion etc.
Sometimes life during all its twists and turns throws a spanner in our work. Things that just can’t be changed. Losing someone is one such event. Losing a loved one can be achingly sad and it is often impossible to conceive a life without that important person in your life. This is where we have to learn acceptance. In some situations one would like to shout out at all the injustices in life, to protest, to rant and rave, but as a part of mature defences one learns to accept the situation with stoicity and grace.
Such a person learns to accept situations which cannot be changed. Prophet Ayoob of course went a step further. Not only did he accept the ill fortune which came his way he never forgot to express his gratitude and thankfulness towards God. Allah appreciated his attitude of gratitude. After testing him for many years He showered him with abundant blessings. Gratitude is likely to bring higher levels of happiness, and lower the levels of depression and stress.
Compassion is a lovely term. Just like generosity gives rich dividends in the happiness currency, compassion does too. God too loves a compassionate person. There is a hadith of Prophet Mohammad as recited by Shams of Tabrez, a dervish.
Once a prostitute passed a street dog. The animal was panting under the hot sun, thirsty and helpless. The prostitute immediately took off her shoe and filled it with water from the nearest well for the dog and then went on her way. The next day she ran into a Sufi who was a man of great wisdom. As soon as he saw her, to her shock, he kissed her hands. He told her that her kindness towards the dog had been so genuine that all her sins had been pardoned there and then.
A lot of research suggests that there is a link between health and happiness and green spaces. Japanese research has suggested an association between visiting forests and beneficial immune responses, including expression of anti-cancer proteins.
This suggests that immune systems benefit from direct exposure to natural environments or through contacts with certain factors in the green spaces. There is also accumulating evidence that physical activity in green space (‘green exercise’) is more restorative and beneficial for health than physical activity in non-natural environments.
Before I bid adieu I would like to share this beautiful thought which I found on Facebook:
- If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your body, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75 per cent of the entire world.
- If you have money in your wallet and can go anywhere you want, you are among 18 per cent of the world’s most wealthy people.
- If you are alive today and healthy, you are more blessed than millions of people who will not survive this week.
- If you can actually read and understand this message, you are more fortunate than the 3bn people in the world who are blind, deaf or illiterate.
Life is about being grateful.