In Pursuit of Happiness

on February 8 | in Academic Student Life | by William Anderson | with No Comments

Apparently a study has been conducted at Bielefeld University (Germany), by a Biological research team, which suggests that plants can draw an alternative source of energy from other plants and according to a Doctor Olivia Bader-Lee, the implication is that the same principle may apply to human beings. They hope to be able to demonstrate this in the future. Really!

Do we need a study to show that umbrellas keep you dry in the rain? Who can honestly say that they have never been affected by the ‘energy’ of other people? People who exude negativity sap our motivation and strength; whereas, people with a lot of positive energy reduce our stress levels, and make the challenging days easier to bear.

Max Ehrmann wrote, “Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence”. Ehrmann also wrote, “Whatever you do or forbear, impose upon yourself the task of happiness”.

Life is busy, and it can be complicated to meet all the demands placed on us. Happiness is an intangible that we all look for. Who can honestly say that they don’t want to be happy? But, it can be elusive.

Where do you find happiness?

I enjoy the happiness that comes from being in the good company of close friends and family, a couple of glasses of wine, and, being a Scotsman, perhaps even the odd glass of a fine single malt whisky. Can you deny that this is happiness; albeit merely fragmented, staccatoed moments of relief from the mundanity of everyday life? Is happiness the laughter of carefree social interaction, good jokes and meaningless conversation that invites escapism from an unsatisfying job, or the pressures of study? Is it just the rationed times away from the places we find ourselves, in order to earn a living and climb the professional or social ladder? I hope not.

Lao Tzu said, “If you search everywhere, yet cannot find what you are seeking, it is because what you seek is already in your possession.”  If you are seeking happiness and can’t find it, perhaps you are looking in the wrong place. When the source of our happiness is our physical circumstances, we are in danger of spending a large part of our lives unhappy, as there are too many things which can and do come along and steal it from us.

So what has all of this got to do with studying for a career or having a job? I have been studying and working for forty years,  and for too many of those years I associated my happiness with what I was doing, an advancement in my career, recognition from  the people around me, be it  colleagues or clients; a good salary, a nice car. Don’t get me wrong, these things didn’t make me unhappy, apart from the fact that at any given moment any, or all of these things could have been taken away from me, and where would that have left me?


Happiness is a state of mind

Happiness may be explained as having two forms: transient, situational happiness; and resilient, lasting happiness. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali, says that ‘mastery of inner peace is the highest form of happiness’.

I can’t deny that happiness is an emotion, but also it is a state of mind. Understanding situational happiness is not a difficult concept, but finding that resilient, lasting happiness which arises from a sense of peace, begins by listening to the still, small voice within. Constantly surrounding yourself with noise and bustle makes that voice very hard to hear. If you cannot find happiness in your own company, you will not find it in the company of others.

The Dalai Lama also speaks about happiness. He suggests that true happiness does not come from the personal, selfish pursuit thereof, but from benevolent actions and compassion towards others; in other words, making other people happy.

Do you want to be a person who creates and radiates good energy, generates a positive working environment, reduces stress for those around them, and helps make the challenging days easier to bear? The solution is simple: be happy.

I am very fortunate to have a job I love doing, in a wonderful setting, and to be surrounded, in my professional life, by thinking, kind, caring, and fun people; big tick, then, on the situational happiness. My peace, however, starts in the silence, and it is from this that the resilient, lasting happiness comes. I would like to allow Max Ehrmann to have the last word:

“And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life,

keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

(Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata”)

May you find happiness in 2017.

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