Is Happiness a state of mind, the destination, or the journey?
Dr Jolly Khan has some answers for us.
Happiness, a term often used loosely, is a truly complex emotion that has been the subject of philosophical debates, psychological studies, and countless self-help books. Happiness is not a one-size-fits-all concept. It varies from person to person, influenced by a myriad of factors including our life experiences, environment, and even genetics.
Most of us are led to believe that happiness is a final destination — one that can be reached if we make the right choices, learn from our mistakes, and keep pushing forward. We are taught that, once we finally find it, we’ll be forever satisfied in our lives, and so we live feeling overwhelmed and inadequate, chasing this dream, never stopping to question its validity.
The reality is that it is flawed. “Happiness” is not a destination but a state of mind. It is neither necessary nor feasible to experience it every single moment. Attempting to do so is not only unrealistic but also unhealthy. Life is complex and there’s no straightforward recipe to achieve happiness. Philosophers have spent centuries dissecting the components of happiness, but you don’t need to be a philosopher to understand its importance.
We live in an era where depression and suicide rates are alarmingly high – currently, 300 million people worldwide are suffering from depression. A recent report by the World Health Organisation warns that if no action is taken, depression will be the leading illness worldwide by 2030.
Our modern world is so incessant, unremitting and demanding of our attention, that there’s rarely time to breathe, let alone be happy. We have created amazing labour-saving gadgets, but somehow, we have less time for ourselves. Humans have always craved wealth and power; with the misguided notion it will make us happy. Certainly, the pursuit of material wealth and possessions can be considered the new religion, given the devotion of those who hold those status symbols in such high esteem.
But that is a false narrative. Many studies conclude that wealth and riches do not make us happy. Moreover, more money does not necessarily deliver peace and contentment. This is evidenced by the fact that happiness exists in poorer parts of the world, where societies place greater importance on strong family and social bonds, far more than money and material possessions.
Happiness is not something you can find. It doesn’t exist anywhere for it to be found, even if you feel you were once happy (but lost it) and want to feel it again. It is not a destination. It’s a metaphor that might limit how you think about happiness because metaphors themselves are ways to limit and process knowledge. Searching for happiness could backfire and make you unhappy. That is why people need to actively create their happiness by focusing on emotions, a better quality of life, improved life satisfaction, and overall well-being.
What Is Happiness?
Sonja Lyubomirsky, a renowned positive psychology researcher, describes happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile”.
Happiness is not just about developing positive emotions; it has two other constituent parts: purpose and resilience. Having a clear and meaningful purpose is a key element in sustaining long-term happiness. Since negative emotions are an inevitable part of life, resilience is essential as it enables us to effectively manage these emotions when they arise.
In the Alchemy of Happiness, al-Ghazali begins by writing that “He who knows himself is truly happy.” Self-knowledge involves recognizing that our heart or spirit is inherently perfect but has been obscured by the accumulation of passions derived from our physical and animalistic nature. The essence of oneself is likened to a perfect mirror which if polished would reveal one’s true divine nature. The key to this polishing is the elimination of selfish desires and the adoption of a desire to do what is right in all aspects of one’s life.
Ways To Increase Happiness.
Focus on problem-solving, not just venting
Take time to build quality relationships with supportive people
Count your blessings and practice gratitude
Take time to engage in random acts of kindness
Respond actively and constructively, celebrating when others share good news with you
Attend to others mindfully, and practice compassion and empathy
Be kind to yourself, rather than overly self-critical or perfectionistic
Savour experiences because this will intensify & prolong your enjoyment of them
Set meaningful goals for yourself that provide structure and purpose, give a sense of identity and increase self-esteem
Build intrinsic motivation, rather than just relying upon doing things to please others
Seek healthy challenges, stretching your abilities just a bit beyond your comfort zone to realise your potential
Appreciate what you already have rather than focusing only on what you still desire
Avoid the temptation to complain and reinforce negativity; instead, cultivate optimism and practice positively reframing your circumstances
In conclusion, happiness is a complex, multifaceted state of mind. It’s a personal journey that involves self-discovery, acceptance of life’s ups and downs, and the pursuit of meaningful connections and experiences. As we navigate through life, it’s important to remember that happiness is not a destination, but a way of travelling.