What Is Happiness?

What makes me happy? This question steered the direction of my life. For a long time, the answer to that question determined my actions.

There are a lot of things that made me happy. I was happy when I got new clothes as a kid. I was happy when my parents bought me a computer. I was happy when I saw my kids play as toddlers. I was happy when I got a new phone. I was happy when we got a dog, and so on.

There are a lot of things that made me unhappy. I was unhappy as a kid when my Dad wanted me to stay at home to study for an exam while they went on a vacation. I was unhappy that I didn’t have a scooter in high school. I was unhappy that my dog chewed on my glasses, and so on.

The list of these things that make us happy/unhappy goes on and on, as we go through these pleasant/unpleasant emotions every day. If we observe closely, we are happy when our desires are fulfilled and unhappy when our desires are unfulfilled. So is the trick to keep on fulfilling desires to be eternally happy? But that doesn’t sound like a logical answer because of a) physical and materialistic constraints b) endless list of desires – as we keep fulfilling old ones new desires keep popping up.

Gradually my question shifted from what makes me happy to what is happiness? I started realizing that the same thing which makes me happy at one point in time, makes me unhappy at other times. For example, my dog is a bit mischievous; his mischief makes me so happy sometimes and on some days, the same mischief makes me frustrated and unhappy. Similarly, a movie can make me feel so happy if I watch it on a particular day and the same one does not affect me if I watch it on some other day.

I concluded that happiness is a state of mind. What makes me happy keeps changing based on the state of mind at any moment. So to be happy, I need to make my mind in such a way that I’m happy no matter what. The challenge is how to make that happen.

A couple of tricks I have realized that help is – to entertain a lesser number of desires and to do my best in whatever I’m doing without any expectations or regrets. I feel that diverting the mind to a higher purpose or ideal makes those things happen effortlessly. This is a work in progress for me.

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