Are you happy? It is possible that you are not too sure about the answer to give. This is because, whereas you may not be able to say that you are hundred percent happy, you cannot also at the same time say that you are hundred percent sad. The question still holds, “are you happy?”
What is happiness?
This is a difficult question to answer, because each and every one of us has his or her own opinion about what happiness is. And what even makes it complicated is that, what makes one person happy may not necessarily make another happy, and vice versa.
In spite of the elusive nature of happiness, we can still have some few definitions of it to guide our discourse.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines happiness as: (a) a state of well-being and contentment: joy; and (b) a pleasurable or satisfying experience.
Another dictionary definition of happiness is: (1) the quality or state of being happy; and (2) good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy.
Looking at these two dictionary definitions of happiness, we can see a common thread running through them – contentment, pleasure, joy.
This shows that happiness is a good and positive commodity that everybody would like to have in his or her possession. In this piece, not oblivious to the fact that there are a thousand and one suggested ways of being happy, I am putting forward a few that I have tried and tested.
- Develop a Positive Attitude
We live in a world of opposites, that is, positive and negative. And these opposites have their influence over us and ultimately over how happy or sad we can be. Whereas we may not be able to control everything that goes on around us, we, nonetheless, have the power to decide on how to receive or react to them.
For instance, we cannot stop the rains from falling. In the same vein, the rains cannot stop us from undertaking our activities. The point is that, if it is raining, we must bring out our umbrellas. If the event is supposed to be an outdoor picnic, we can decide to move indoors because of the rains. The point we are trying to make is that, it is useless lamenting over a situation we have no control over.
A person of positive attitude is fully aware of the gathering of the thick dark clouds, but he or she does not lose sight of the silver lining. They always watch out for the window of opportunities and act on them. This positive attitude cannot be given to you by anybody, but you yourself. From hence, try to look at the brighter side of things.
Have Few Friends
In our world of social media, this suggestion may seem impossible, or even anti-social. That should not be the case at all. Look at the number of facebook friends you have, how many of them do you know personally, not to talk of having met them in person. We may even meet some in town and not be aware that they are our social media friends.
The problem today is that we use the term “friend” loosely. Who is a friend? One of Cambridge dictionary’s definition of friend is, “a person who you know well and who you like a lot, but who is usually not a member of your family.” Based on this definition, we can say that, before you call someone a friend, you must know him or her well. And not only that, you must also like him or her a lot. We have many people we refer to generally as friends, but technically are not, because we do not know them that well.
What we are saying here is that, to be happy, have few friends. This is because every person is carrying his or her baggage of life. And when these people come into our lives, we must, for the sake of charity, help them in one way or the other. Some of these baggage can have their toll on us, and so the fewer the better.
It is said that no man is an island. In other words, we cannot live in this world isolated from others. We need the various relationships – such as, family, friends, societies, etc. – to live a meaningful life. That notwithstanding, we need to move with positive people.
I remember some years back, a group of priests held a few days of residential activity to help us build a unified team. During one of the activities, we were asked to discover our totem. A totem is “a natural object or animal that is believed by a particular society to have spiritual significance and that is adopted by it as an emblem.” I settled on the eagle.
To me, the eagle soars high and has an independent spirit. It loves to look at things from a higher perspective. And that means, it is not afraid to be solitary. An eagle with such orientation will definitely not move with ducks and chickens.
Looking at it from the positive point of view, you must also move with people who will help you see the brighter side of life. People who will cherish you, in spite of your limitations, and help make you a better person. The positive people around you will lift your spirits when you are downcast. Negative people, on the other hand, will kill your spirit.
Learn to do it Yourself
It is not common to meet people complaining of their disappointment because a person or a system failed them. They relied heavily on another person, forgetting that people are imperfect, and can disappoint.
Learning to do it yourself is one of the ways of developing an independent spirit and being happy. It is true that it may not be your responsibility to do the laundry, to iron your clothing, fix the bulb, etc. There are people paid to do that, but that does not demean us if we try to learn how to fix some of these little, little things.
I was very impressed with this attitude when I went to the United States of America for the first time, and subsequently. The clergy – Frs. Jim Mannion, John Fitzgerald, Jerry Cestary, and Dennis Smolarski, SJ – had an air of independence around them. These are senior priests who did not mind getting the plates into the washing machine, cleaning the kitchen, sometimes going to buy groceries for the house, etc. I am using them as an example to buttress my point that, learning to do some basic things for yourself can bring you inner satisfaction. It would not demean your status.
Has anyone been generous towards you before? You remember how happy you were, and the high esteem you had for that person? If the recipient was happy, and expressed it openly, then you can imagine the happiness of the giver.
The Bible says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). That blessedness comes with happiness, peace, contentment, etc. Generous people have a global outlook of life, in the sense that, they see that they are not the only people in the world, and so whatever they have must be shared with all. They are stewards of their resources.
Generosity must not be limited to only financial or material resources, even though that is also very important. We must also be generous with our time. Time to listen to our family and friends. Time to comfort those mourning or hit by a tragedy.
We must again be generous with our talents or expertise. We cannot always expect people to pay for our services. We must make provisions for pro bono services. The “thank you” and the “God bless you” we receive in return cannot be monetised. Try to be generous and see the happiness it will bring you.
- Be Kind to Yourself
We have just said that we should be generous in order to be happy. This generosity must not end with only family and friends. We have to be kind to ourselves too. The problem with many of us is that we are not kind to ourselves. We forget that St. Paul compares our bodies to the “temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19).
Many of us hold grudges against ourselves. This is because we are still holding on to the mistakes of the past. We compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing well in life, and think that we are a failures. This kind of anger against ourselves breeds toxicity and negativity.
To be happy, be kind enough to forgive yourself. No one is perfect. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Celebrate yourself. From time to time give yourself a treat. You are generous towards others, why can’t you be generous towards yourself?
For the believer, faith in God is non-negotiable in order to be happy. In fact, we believe that taking God out of our lives is a recipe to sadness. The things of this world have their usefulness, or influence, to a point, beyond which they become impotent. God, on the other hand, has the whole world in his hands. He is the one piece that brings wholeness and meaning to our lives.
Consistently in Scriptures, we are assured, “Do not be afraid.” The Christian God is not a sad God. He laughs. The Psalmist says, “But you, O Lord, laugh at them; you scoff at all the nations” (59:8). In the Gospel of John chapter two, Jesus was invited to the wedding at Cana. At a point in time the wine was finished. The source of happiness was exhausted, but thanks to the presence of Jesus, a good wine, better than the previous one was provided. Jesus brings joy into our lives.
I have tried in this piece to suggest some few ways of being happy. They are personal experiences I have shared with you. Some may resonate with you, and others may not. Be that as it may, you are also encouraged to find your own unique ways of being happy. Without happiness, life in this world will be miserable and a waste of space.
Authored by REV. FR. JP TINDANA (ACCRA, GHANA)