When we’re unhappy, we tend to be more self-focused, and socially withdrawn.
When we’re happy, we’re more social, flexible, creative, and tolerate challenges better.
Recently, more than ever, I’ve been adopting the perspective that the purpose of life is happiness.
Many in the Western world might disagree, thinking that happiness is something that isn’t graspable or maintained.
When we look at the origins of the English word “happy”, and how it derives from the word “happ” – meaning luck or chance – it’s understandable why.
I believe the truth is that each of us can, in fact, train our minds, and develop our happiness into something more than it currently is.
By training the mind, I don’t only mean in Western academic terms (be it cognitive ability or intellectual); but instead, in terms of the mind and heart – and in terms of patience and equanimity.
This would include our feelings and inner discipline towards the definite goal of transforming our attitude; ultimately, developing a completely new outlook to life – one that includes happiness.
According to many researchers who study the field, this is a real objective, and there are solid steps to achieve and maintain it.
As with reaching any objective, we must first study it, then do more of what leads to reaching it; and less of what takes us further from it.
In really trying to understanding happiness, I had to accept the idea that each person’s happiness is determined by their own state of mind, and not by external events.
From what I’ve seen around me, our happiness derives from how we perceive our current life situation, and how satisfied we feel with it – our perception and our satisfaction.
In other words, it doesn’t matter too much what situation we’re in; but more so, how we interpret that situation, and how we feel about our interpretation.
So, our moment-to-moment happiness is determined by our overall attitude.
Comparing and Satisfaction
Our cognitive ability to compare has a direct influence on our levels of satisfaction.
The human mind loves to compare; it doesn’t matter whether it’s comparing personally, with something from our past, or with others.
Comparing with others who are smarter, better looking, or have more perceived success, breeds envy, frustration, and leads to unhappiness.
However, when we compare with those who have less, the opposite happens; it makes us immediately more grateful, and it increases our levels of satisfaction for our own life.
When we think of how good we have it, we’re genuinely happier; when we think about our wants, we’re less satisfied and experience suffering.
Happiness in a State of Mind
In an everyday sense, all we need for happiness starts in our state of mind – good health, wealth, and trustworthy friendships in which we can relate with emotionally.
Wealth alone is no guarantee for happiness. Thanks to widespread information, it’s been shown to us repeatedly that even financially developed people have much mental unrest, frustrations, escapism, unnecessary anger, and hate; some even have enough to take suicidal measures.
What good are possessions if we’re mentally unhappy; or, when we throw and break things in frustration, filled with anger?
What use is there holding onto hate or anger, when studies have shown that our health physically deteriorates consequently?
Even our own friends seem cold, distant, and outright annoying when we’re irritated and unhappy.
However, when we’re in a peaceful state of mind, we can find happiness in any situation, even if we’re unhealthy.
There’s a direct relationship to our levels of calmness and our levels of happiness.
If we can cultivate warmth and compassion inside ourselves, we open ourselves to a more peaceful state of mind.
The research shows that it may take some effort on the mental part (inner discipline), but it certainly is possible to achieve happiness, without much concern of external situations.