The pursuit of happiness is one goal that’s common to almost every single one of us — perhaps it’s only very young children who are able to be truly happy without being conscious of the emotion. The psychology of happiness is not easily understood, because each of us is unique, and what makes one person happy need not necessarily induce joy in another. But there are a few things in life that do bring happiness universally — a loving family, supportive friends, a job that you love, a nice pay packet, an understanding boss, a great relationship, passionate sex and burgeoning romance, healthy and smart children, achievements in various activities like sports and performing arts, and so on.
It’s simple enough to figure out why people feel happy when they have one or more of the above-mentioned aspects in their lives on a continued basis. What’s quite hard to understand is why some of us need to feel extreme thrills (like bungee jumping) or near-the-edge experiences (like adventurous sports) in order to feel happy. And what’s even more difficult to grasp is the idea that some human beings have brains so perverted that they take pleasure in hurting and torturing others.
Happiness is an elusive concept, one that varies not just according to the kind of person we are, but according to the kind of mood we’re in. It’s a common enough reaction to find pleasure in the antics of a child when you’re totally relaxed and feel equally irritated by the same actions when you’re in the middle of an important discussion that’s not going too well.
There are many people who believe that happiness comes from doing something for others — altruism is said to be a great mood elevator, but from what I’ve seen, people who help others often expect something in return, even if it’s just gratitude. If you help someone out and they’re not openly grateful to you, you’re likely to feel slighted and irritated that you’ve “wasted” a good deed on someone who did not deserve it.
In my book, there’s only one way to be truly happy at all times and in all situations — and that is to have no expectations at all and be totally content with what you have. When you don’t expect anything, you cannot be disappointed that it hasn’t happened. And when you’re satisfied with what you have, you don’t feel sad when you try to gain something more and fall short of your goals.
That being said, it’s up to each of us to take care of our own happiness. There’s no use in placing the blame on all and sundry for our woes and misery when the truth is that true happiness comes from within. A large part of being happy involves taking each day as it comes, not building castles in the air, and learning to appreciate even the smallest blessings that are being showered on us. I’d like to conclude with a song we were taught when I was growing up — Happiness is like a circle of dancers in a ring; you have to keep it moving, or it doesn’t mean a thing. So be happy, and spread the good cheer around so that it comes back to you sooner or later.