The importance of being happy

The importance of being happy

As Abraham Lincoln wisely observed, ‘most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be’. In other words, happiness is a matter of choice and not of chance, because what happens to us is far less important than how we react to what happens.

One may either choose to be the pessimist who sees the glass as half-empty or the optimist who sees it as half-full.

To maintain a happy outlook all the time is by no means easy. It is one of life’s great challenges and to meet it successfully calls for a good deal of determination and persistence. The mature person, however, will take up the responsibility for his or her own happiness, concentrating for the most part on what one has and not on what one hasn’t.

We often overlook the positive aspects of life and slip into a negative frame of mind. Fortunately, there are some ground rules, which, if followed, help us desist from making a habit of this very human tendency.

For a start, let us take up the issue of compliments. When I told a friend the other day that her sari was gorgeous, she exclaimed, ‘Oh, it is a very old and even has a few holes!’ It seemed as if my comment was either an insincere or that she did not care to be appreciated. In truth it was neither, but how much better a ‘thank you’ would have been both for the giver as well as the receiver!

Besides this, most of choose to forget compliments and instead remember insults and rude remarks for years on end. Our minds turn into trash- cans where unkind comments fester and poison our minds. They vitiate our outlook, turning us into suspicious and bad-tempered individuals. We can instead make our minds a private treasure-chest of good memories that inspire and cheer us on.

Much the same thing can happen in day-to-day living. No two days are the same. However take one day where nine proceed smoothly but one meets with failure. At the end of the day, most likely it is the failure that will stay in the mind, rankle and make the person miserable.

There is a good chance that it will be the topic of discussion at the dining table. Much the same outcome is seen when a group of friends get together. The conversation sooner or later turns to things that have gone wrong, of injustice and wrongdoing. Everyone slips into a militant, critical frame of mind and the atmosphere becomes thick with unhappy memories and reactions.

The gloom instantly lifts when conversation moves to more pleasant events and topics. There is no denying that airing problems and giving vent to frustrations is healing, but to allow problems and dissatisfactions to dominate interactions is to invite unhappiness and unease.

The media too has a part to play in the levels of happiness that we experience. Many seek to relax from the tensions of the day by watching films or reading books that deal with violence. It is true that drama derives from the conflict between good and evil, but feeding the mind constantly with pictures of violence will inevitably produce dissatisfaction and gloom.

Our bodies are what we eat. In a similar sense, our minds are the thoughts we put in. Essentially happiness is a personal realization. No person, no possessions or outward success can make one happy unless peace exists within. In that sense happiness is a gratification of the soul. This means being at peace with the world at large and at peace with one’s own self.

It is a deep feeling of gladness, of acceptance and tranquillity. It allows no room for heartache or misery. Epitomized by the poet, the happy person is one who can proclaim, ‘I will be gladdest thing under the sun. I will touch a hundred flowers, and not uproot even one!’