Though happiness has remained one of the most attended and sought-after concepts for philosophers, individuals and societies throughout history, it largely remains a mystery.

WHAT is happiness? How does it feel? What are its means and measures? Is it material or mental state? Is happiness a common or a personal attribute? These questions, along with many others, still merit pragmatic answers and explanations.

The unanswered questions are some of the reasons that prevent most of us from qualifying for a contented life. Therefore, in this piece, I am to take a broader look into the contour and characteristics of happiness.

FIRST, humans from birth, are happier beings. This is manifested in the happiness that we experience as children. We enjoy everything, even the things that may make us sad in the years ahead.

This is mainly because of the benignity of preconceived beliefs, thoughts, desires and expectations, as well as the absence of the frustrations that their obsession might cause.

SECOND, happiness, like coldness, which is defined as the absence of heat, is a state devoid of depressing thoughts, or events. Either we are happy or we are sad; there's no third state. If we aren't happy, we are sad, and vice versa.

For instance, a state of satisfaction is a sign of happiness, while stress is a sign of sadness. The sources of happiness aren't necessarily things or thoughts that carry inherent happiness; rather, they are anything that distracts us from the distaste of time, people and events.

The measure of happiness, however, depends on the extent and sustainability of this escape. This distraction makes us happy by allowing us to redirect our energy and attention toward what appeals to our attitude.

THIRD, happiness is not inevitable ; we cannot necessarily remain happy all the time. 

That is because our alignment with people, things and circumstances hardly occur consistently. Additionally, something that brings us happiness often loses its charm, changes hands, or causes our minds to change our perspectives toward it. Therefore, a life of perpetual happiness is a rarity.

FOURTH, happiness can be experienced at the moment. It cannot be achieved by dwelling on past events or in the utopia of the future. Even though a pleasant past event might make one nostalgic, it also adds to our sadness the moment we acknowledge that it is no longer with us.

Moreover, excessive fixation on past events deprives us of the richness of present moments. And while fantasising about the future might momentarily distract us from sadness, it also adds to it in the form of unfulfilled expectations.

Real happiness, therefore, can only be experienced in the present moment.

FIFTH, happiness is a contextual and purely personal experience. Something can be a source of happiness for some and sorrow for others. This is because each of us possesses unique perceptions of happiness shaped by our values, preferences and personal experiences.

Something can bring joy to some while causing sorrow to others, depending on the nature of the experience and the individual's perceptions.

SIXTH, happiness owes little to material objects. Like double-edged swords, material things can bring happiness or sadness depending on how we tend to relate to them.

Happiness is more a state of mind than a tangible quantity, and it mainly stems from the nature of our thoughts and how we link them to things, ideas and people.

Last, but not least, happiness is momentary and contagious. The things or thoughts that bring us joy hardly remain as such, and our perception towards them ultimately changes into distaste. However, we can sustain the joy of things by sharing them with others.

Sharing a happy moment or source of contentment multiplies the intensity and lifespan.

The question of what makes us happy can be answered by identifying what makes us sad. Similarly, we can enhance our joy by undoing the source of sorrow. This way, happiness can be experienced more by undoing thoughts or things than by pursuing them.

Letting go of obsessions with comparisons, expectations, ingratitude, greed, grudges, gossip and external approval would afford us moments worth celebrating.  

The World Students Society thanks author Ali Hassan Bangwar.


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