Do we ever give a thought what is happiness to you? What is the functionality of happiness? Is happiness dependent on purpose? How can tell that when are we happy? How does it change as we grow up? Does the emotion change or experience? Or is it our perception that changes? How is it different from the state of bliss? Is it the same as what we feel when we are self-actuallised?
Happiness As An Emotion
Emotions demand to be expressed but are often difficult to express, especially if an individual has to note them down in words. American Psychological Association (APA) tells that an emotion is a complex reaction pattern which includes the elements or aspects of experience, behaviour and physiology. Happiness is not as complex as many other emotions though.
How Do I Understand Happiness?
My therapist often asks such questions that confuse me. In one such session, he asked me to keep a record of my feelings. That experiment failed terribly because, at that time, I was not able to understand what was I feeling most of the time. I only knew what I was not- it was not happiness.
I was not happy. When I did not know what I was feeling, how could I have noted it down? I used to sleep for a lot of hours, which I still do, or I used to wake up till late at night. I couldn’t note the exact details of my sleep schedule in the journal because the option to do so was limited. Therefore, it wasn’t fruitful and this method was changed.
I still have a hard time understanding if I am happy if it is not an emotion that I am feeling very strongly. As a matter of fact, I am able to decipher any of the emotions that I am experiencing only in an extremely certain manner, only when they are strong enough to be felt deeply.
It is an emotion not only felt by humans but animals as well. Plants do not possess the ability to feel happy but easily make others happy by their green colour, which the readers will know more about its how and why when they will read this article further.
Being Happy While Growing Up
Happiness is an emotion that an individual feels when Serotonin, Oxytocin, Dopamine and Endorphins are released in her body. I won’t say that any of them have never been released in my body but I have been happier probably when I was a child, before I turned 5. Endorphins reduce pain.
Reduced pain, obviously, makes the individual feel happier than when in pain. Balanced serotonin helps an individual in being and remaining happy. Happiness is, hence, a chemical reaction in an individual’s body in response to the stimulus that is provided to her.
I believe that it may be because when we are children, we do not understand the complexities that we have to function with, the darker realities of situations and the reality of life. However, many of us grow up faster mentally and become emotionally pre-mature.
As far as I have noticed, premature people, due to their exposure to the various experiences and ability to see things for what they are, are not able to live their lives as freely and being carefree as one may expect a child to be living her life with. As far as I have heard, when happiness is being personified, it is in the form of a free bird or a small child.
What Hinders Happiness?
At times, the unresolved issues in our lives get stored in our unconscious and then keep disturbing us through flashbacks and scary and weird dreams and visions. When these issues remain unhealed and we are unable to let them go, they create stress, conflict and unhappiness and they can also develop into psychological disorders.
Exposure to stressful stimuli also decreases the level of happiness. Hence, it is necessary to stay away from and avoid the people and situations which make us feel stressed or sad, be it in our personal or professional life. Here, stress is also of two types:
- Eustress: This is positive stress. Yes! Stress can be positive as well. One may have seen or heard of people who procrastinate a lot but end up doing better when the actual time of performance comes. The employees of an office often show impromptu presentations in the best of their capacity and excel in that. They may not have even prepared for these presentations beforehand. There are students who read for their exams when the hour comes. If someone asks from them that why do they do this, they will tell that it is so because they can only function to the best of their abilities or that their brain functions more productively only under extreme pressure or stress. This positive stress increases productivity, enhances the quality of work because the mind only focuses on the extremely important points or facts regarding the project or task that is to be done by these individuals at the last moment and gives them their desired result while not wearing them off at all. The sense of satisfaction and no exhaustion that the individual feels while carrying out her tasks gives them a sense of accomplishment or victory. They also have the energy to celebrate these. All of these combine together to make an individual happy and it starts from eustress.
- Distress: One can understand this as bad stress. This stress is bad because it has negative impact on an individual’s productivity, mental health and simultaneously affects all the aspects of an individual’s life. It wears her down and consumes all of her energy which she would have put into her work to produce effective results. It is often distress that takes away the happiness of an individual. It also results in the development of a lot of diseases and hence, an individual gets more exposed to areas like hospitals and clinics, which cannot be assumed to be places that radiate positivity or places which can be considered to be happy places.
Extreme of one’s criticism and dwelling in negative thoughts, believing that we don’t deserve the best to happen to us is self-sabotage in simple words and this is so harmful that it creates a negative self within one’s personality if the issues that rest at the core of it are not resolved. In such situations, seeking professional help aids tremendously. Overthinking, in this sense, hinders or even ruins our happiness. In psychology, if any of the behaviour that we practice stop us from reaching the targets that we have set for ourselves and to reach what we consider growth, it is known as self-sabotage. Not feeling good enough is one such sabotaging belief.
This feeling of not being good enough stops us from thinking positively about the things we love to do. It inculcates in us a negative pattern of thinking towards our hobbies and even what we consider to be our passion(s). It makes our self-confidence drop to extreme depths. Even feeling that one is not good enough or that one doesn’t possess the ability to live a life of one’s dreams is self-sabotage and it takes one very far from one’s happiness.
It also affects our relationships. Relationships, be they romantic, familial or friendly, are an important part of our lives. If nothing, our relationship with ourselves affects many of the decisions that we take regarding other aspects of our lives. It happens so because all of these relations bring happiness to an individual and the sabotaging belief of an extremely critical self makes an individual believe that they don’t deserve the good things in their lives.
Self- sabotage makes an individual push away all the possibilities of being happy and pushing all off those people away who she considers to be their loved ones. It may manifest from a thought that she does not want to make her loved ones suffer when they may be trying to help her or it may also be that the sabotaging self will make her mind believe that she is not worthy to receive their love or care and if someone is taking caring actions towards her, they are doing so merely out of duty.
Happiness becomes a necessity in such a situation. Self-sabotage, when done in extremities, can be countered by happiness and the positivity that the happy hormones release as chemicals in our bodies. Self-sabotage, or sabotaging the situation, can let a good opportunity go by our hands.
Happiness v. Bliss
Reaching the utmost state of happiness is known as bliss. Bliss is a state of happiness but happiness cannot be equated with the state of bliss. They are not interchangeable.
Bliss is mostly used to express the happiness that is experienced to such an extent that the individual starts feels as if she has been blessed. It is often explained as complete happiness. So, with bliss, there is an idea of feeling whole. This state of wholeness, being wholly happy, can be said to be bliss.
Subjectivity Of Happiness
Happiness is very subjective in nature. Its definition changes as per each individual person and its interpretation situation-specific. For example, I am inclined towards art. To me, happiness resides wherever I find relief and to whoever and whatever I can connect to. Happiness is a mood, felt by everyone and expressed through various forms of arts in various ways, as one perceives it for themselves.
Duration Of Happiness
How intensely and for how long does individual feel happiness over an achievement, success or any event depends on how much effort she put in, her intuition towards it and often, how accurate or close the results have been to her expectations if it is dependent on the acquisition of the object of desire and for how long does an individual attaches her happiness to their object of desire. The inability to gain the object of desire generates negative feelings like regret, fear, remorse, grief and even stronger feelings like hatred and jealousy. Even if one believes that nothingness will provide them with happiness, here, the object of desire is the state of nothingness.
Activities That Makes An Individual Happy
- These activities differ according to each individual. Some of the individuals find happiness in creative work while others prefer physical activities more. Some people find their happiness in their work and others, In their hobbies.
- Also, crying may not be an activity but it helps in purging and through that, catharsis is able to happen. Once the burden is off of an individual’s mind, they feel free. Here, we can note that many other emotions lead to happiness. Like, here, grief leads to the feeling of freedom which then is leading to happiness. It may be possible that these emotions cover happiness completely. Therefore, processing grief— whether through purging by crying or writing a journal, recording our voice or talking about it to a counsellor or a therapist—is an important process that removes the hindrances that come in experiencing happiness fully. If the individual finds a therapist or a counsellor and they suggest her to do something, she must follow their advice and catch up on their homework and appointments.
- Rewarding Ourselves:- An individual should reward herselffor her hard work, perseverance, remembering all the times when she brought herself out of a tough situation all by herself. She should treat herself the best she can. She can also count her talents more than what she lacks. She should try to make her brain think positive. She will develop a habit of positive thinking gradually. One can also celebrate by giving oneself treats of food or partying by oneself. This may include anything to everything from traveling to a desired destination or visiting one’s favourite or a new food outlet that has been opened.
- Rest And Take Breaks: An individual should take adequate rest before she feels completely worn out or worked up and try not to work so much that the brain cannot function properly for the few consecutive hours. When an individual sleeps, through dreams, her mind processes many of the issues that are stored in her unconscious and resolves as many of them as possible before they start to bother the individual. These issues can be from her everyday life or her past. Dreams may or may not make sense. If an individual does not get proper rest, the mind will not be able to process and clear what is not needed anymore in the unconscious. One must not feel guilty for taking one’s time.
- Exercise or involve in physical activity. Body movement releases happy hormones or endorphins in our body and is acted upon with the help of the amygdala. Also, the brain works better when more fresh blood reaches it when exercise increases the blood circulation. Since the brain gets more active, the tendency to have negative or sabotaging thoughts, at least around the time when the individual is involved in any kind of physical activity, decreases a lot. The increased physical activity helps in getting rid of sabotaging thoughts.
- Be one with nature. Going out in the nature helps. Even if one can’t do that, one can observe the greenery and nature outside the window. It will also provide us with fresh air to breathe. Being out in nature will help an individual for sure. The human brain associates with the green colour as a happy colour and starts releasing happy hormones. It also has a calming effect.
- Stop consuming alcohol or smoking. The drugs or alcoholic beverages make an individual lose their sense of comprehension and judgement. Often, individuals take to substance abuse to ward off or escape the issues that they are facing but this unhealthy coping method adds on a new problem without solving the one prior.
- Do not over-evaluate: We should try not to overthink in a situation. Observing our thoughts but not giving them the power to bother us helps in being happier. Sometimes, our mind makes up a problem which does not exist in reality. We need to stop our mind from over-estimating any situation by evaluating the present as it is. This takes us to our next point.
- Try to be mindful: Mindfulness is nothing but the ability to live in the present completely. Try not to dwell in the past or to keep looking forward towards the future but make the best of the present. By present, I mean each minute and each second of our day. Know that the concept of ‘making the best of our day’ is subjective and if an individual is being mindful, even if she is just observing the people around her, it may not be productive in the sense that the competitive world understands it but her brain is working all the time and helping her observe and carry out basic functions of her body properly.
- Knowing that we are worthy: The competitive world is such that individuals try to pull each other down rather than lift each other up. This can be done by anyone in any way. This may be verbal or can be done through their actions. If any individual wants to show other people that they are not worthy enough, the person being tried to put down should count all the skills, abilities and talents that they have. Another individual may have the same skills but there will always be something that makes them different from all others. So, as I said, one must not sabotage one’s happiness by believing that one deserves it less than others or that one doesn’t deserves it because she is not special. Every person is special in their own way.
Changing One’s Circle If The Need Be:
The kind of people that an individual interacts with everyday affects how happy she will be because the kind of conversations that are held between them and the perspectives that those people hold about even life in general or towards their work determines the energy that is being exchanged between the people. I have tried this through my journey. I had to cut off a lot of people who only cribbed and complained about everything. Those who couldn’t change their perspectives to positivity never returned but those who could now have healthy discussions with me. An individual’s circle affects a lot more than an individual can imagine or evaluate and a positive circle can actually help her change her life by inspiring her to be happy, confident, thankful and passionate enough to persevere until she achieves her goals.
If an individual’s circle is self-aware, it will help her reflect on herself too. She will want to improve even when no outer force is prompting her to. She will take up good habits of the members of her circle, as is commonly known to happen within circles shared by people. She may also get to know the things that are good about her and they will also reveal the areas in her life that she needs to work upon.
Being Grateful For One’s Being:
The first and foremost way to acknowledge and celebrate one’s being is by being happy and grateful for one’s existence. We should be grateful to ourselves for existing and maintaining our lives in the best manner possible. If retrospection of our lives makes us unhappy, we should try to be short-sighted and look at our present moment. We should be grateful for every small thing that we are doing for ourselves. For example, our bodies are allowing us to breathe. We do not have to make it comparative. We have to come out of the ‘at least mentality’. Weshould stop letting ourselves down by telling ourselves that we have it better than others because that surely does not help but ruins our self-confidence in the long run. This kind of comparison can also be taken as another way in which self-sabotage is practiced by people.
Doing What Makes Us Happy, Even If Just At The Moment:
It is not that change will never occur in our lives, even when we have aimed that we will stay in a state of mind or if we want to experience a good time in our lives for a significantly longer period. The competitive and economical world presents everything by attaching an idea of permanence with it because humans are pursuing it but permanence is a false belief and change is the reality. In every moment, there is something changing in us and everything around us. So, why do we not just accept this reality and then, move forward with a new mindset?
Merging Work Life With Happiness:
Not everything will bring money to us. Monetary benefits help us reach and earn the things that we want for ourselves and those things can make us happy for a while. One can try to earn by doing what makes one happy.
Changing The Routine Life:
Any person can get bored of her life when it becomes redundant. Routine helps in getting organised but it is not effective for all. However, if an individual is a person who is prone to following a routine and is not happy with her everyday schedule, she may opt another routine that is completely new to her. This will change the patterns in an individual’s life which was making her life before the change boring.
Trying An Altogether New Field Or Occupation:
An individual may try to find a new zeal altogether, completely different from the patterns of life that she had been following prior to that. This will give her a new drive. The novelty will unload the burden off her that she had been feeling in her life before. Again, the duration of happiness cannot be guaranteed but the novelty will give a fresh start to the mundaneness which the individual was living her life with.
- Reminding Oneself To Be Happy: Some brains are inclined to think negatively whenever presented with any situation, especially if the situation is new. The first thing that comes up in the mind of these individuals is always negative. For example, if these individuals are asked to make a presentation, they will assume on the first mistake they make that they are not fit for the task or that they just cannot do anything properly. In other words, they believe that they cannot carry out any task as it is expected to and will always ruin the work. Sometimes, this leads to serious mental disorders like anxiety and it gets even worse if medical help is not sought to. However, anxiety is not equivalent to getting stressed or nervous and cannot cured by ‘just being happy’ at all. These individuals who always think negative as a first thought to anything can put up screensavers and wallpapers in their devices of motivating quotes or can paste them wherever their gaze is usually prone to go. Individuals must say one good things about themselves to themselves looking in the mirror. They must remind themselves when they have a self-talk everyday about how good of a person they are. If it is something new for the individuals to explore, they must say these positive phrases to themselves by assuming that they are saying these positive things to motivate another person. Here, they need to talk to themselves like they would talk to another person who they are conversing with an intention to lift up their spirit.
- Following Inspirational Pages On Social Media And Reading Positive Writeups Online: There are pages and groups on social media which are especially designed to promote positive thoughts and inspirational quotes. Some of them are intended to lift individuals’ spirit. Following and reading more of such content
Foods That Can Make An Individual Happy
The kind of food an individual eats affects their whole mood. Some foods make you sleepy and less productive while others get your recharged. However, a balanced diet is a must to have because a healthy individual will be a happy individual and the balanced diet will help her in being both of these.
Water, possibly the best suitor:
Water flushes out the toxins in an individual’s body. It clears the blood, hence, it helps in maintaining the blood circulation throughout the body. It contains oxygen within it, without which the blood circulation may stop altogether and many of the blood cells in the human body may not function properly. As is a known fact, 70% of a human body is made up of water. In spirituality too, it is one of the five main elements which a living being is made up from. So, an individual should not devoid herself of her basic needs and gulp a few glasses of it down her throat.
Dive Within The Depths Of Chocolate:
Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, is made up from the seeds of cocoa. It is also suggested for students, especially the high school or senior school students, to have a chocolate whenever they are studying. It contains chemicals like phenylethyl alanine and theobromine, which comes from cocoa plant and not only help the students from falling asleep but it also releases endorphins which makes the individual happy.
The Happy-Happy Tumbler Of Tea:
The tea leaves, like chocolate, contain theobromine and hence, helps in releasing more of happy hormones in the body. Apart from habit, this can also be seen as a scientific reason why some habitual consumers of tea do not feel happy until they have a sip on it within their day.
When Life Give You Lemons, Make A Lemonade. No, seriously!
This citrus fruit, among many other health benefits like making an individual feel refreshed, releasing toxins from the body, helping to flush out extra carbohydrate from some foods while cooking also contains amino acids in higher amounts, which again help in regulating happy hormones in an individual’s body.
Proteins And Fiber:
These foods help in regulating weight while boosting the metabolism. Carbohydrates must not be avoided but proteins are known to boost energy. The foods rich in them are pulses, beans, broccoli, spinach and many more.
6. Eat Nuts:
Eating walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts, when taken with proper diet, help in satiating the hunger of a person.
Happiness And Self-Actualization
Once an individual becomes self-actualised, which is the fifth among Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, she feels completely aware of all of her potentials and practices all of them with proficiency. Once the four needs prior to this are met, the individual works towards achieving the fifth and the highest need. The individual passes through and lives all of the four stages but leaves the fixation over any one of the needs because doing so is necessary so that she can keep moving and keep growing. Once the fifth need leads to the individual reaching the best of their potential and since all of their needs are met in the levels prior to this, the individual finally reaches the state of self-actualisation. Through this experience, the individual only gets to know the reality of her potential. She still is unaware of their reality and the realities of the cosmos, its dualities and more about how she connects with the system of the cosmos.
Happiness And Spiritual Awakening
Once awakened spiritually, the individual becomes sensitive to her reality and the various realities that exist around her. The spiritual awakening is extremely painful, confusing and terrifying. It also breaks down the belief systems and structures that are now not needed to be taken forward in the journey of an individual’s life anymore.
Hence, spiritual awakening is never easy or as they call it, ‘sahaj’. Every person’s spiritual experience is different but if the spiritual awakening is extremely easy and does not feel as if all of the reality around the person is demolishing for the new reality to emerge, the individual has never experienced a spiritual awakening. Things just don’t remain the same and one cannot persist with one’s old ways any longer once one has undergone spiritual awakening.
Due to possessing the extreme sensitivity to new information and highly active sensory organs, it is a commonly known fact that those who are truly on a spiritual journey experience anxiety and depression. Happiness does not come easy to them. They are open to their hidden talents, which often takes them to the depths of their own and the mysteries that have long been declared to be unravelled. From dreams to numbers and colours, everything becomes a symbol of their journey and if they leave their life purpose, they feel derailed, lost and completely purposeless.
Happiness And Spirituality
Spirituality is not confined to spiritual awakening. If not happiness, in spirituality, people are content to face the reality. It brings the answers that the individuals had been looking for their whole lives. In this way, it brings contentment. Since happiness and its interpretation is subjective, for a few people who are consciously on a spiritual journey feel at peace by finding the answers to their questions.
The heightened sensitivity makes one more observant and this observation brings in answers. These answers can contain within them new questions or answers to such questions that one never knew that one needs to find the answer to. Spirituality brings answers about the existence of the soul in a human body and enlightens on the origin of everything. It clears the confusion between facts and myths and their misrepresentation.
It brings the answers of their existence to the ones who questioned it and felt lost. It clarifies why a human being is feeling derailed, lost or afraid. When an individual who had been searching for these answers since a long period of time receives them through spirituality and when she is traveling on a spiritual path, this brings them peace, which is follow by happiness.
The internal conflict that had been going on within the individual seeking the answers ends with receiving them and she is not fighting within herself anymore, she reaches a peaceful state and later, she achieves the state of bliss, which we have discussed about in this article in one of the sections above.
Relief and Happiness
Sometimes, it is the feeling of being understood that brings a sense of peace, satisfaction and relief to an individual, followed by happiness. Relief is a reaction of not receiving the undesired outcome that one was anticipating. It is felt when our anticipation that something wrong is going to happen turns out to be false. Therefore, relief is dependent on the situation. It is the feelings of satisfaction and relaxation that one feels when the anticipated situation does not happen in reality. In other words, relief is when the scary thoughts regarding a situation do not manifest in reality. Therefore, in such a situation, an individual gives out a sigh of relief.
Happiness is perceived by the society in a way that it seems to be depending on other factors but as people have started to realise finally, it is a state of inner being. However, it is affected by the stressors around an individual. Unlike relief, where the external factor determines it, happiness is a manifestation of the inner state that an individual is in and is affected by the thoughts, feelings and emotions that the individual is experiencing at any given point of time in her life.
So, these are the various ways in which an individual can try to remain happy. We also read how is it different from the other states of being. Happiness is most sought to. Sometimes, an individual needs to put in effort and uncover it beneath the load and dust of all the worldly matters and stressors that overpower it and hide it, making it almost invisible. It is not gone, if the reader is the feeling so. It is settled beneath, ready to be unleashed again.