Written by: Thomas Fashanu
The main aim and objective of this report is to delve into what it takes for one to experience true happiness, and how to go about maintaining it respectively. For the longest time while growing up, the focus on obtaining material things brought absolute joy and happiness to me. Have you ever told yourself, “I just want to be happy”, or told someone else “I just want you to be happy” or even paused to consider what happiness actually meant, and what exactly this happiness you were wishing for was? To date, I certainly have tried putting happiness into perspective, hence this article.
What is Happiness?
After a broad range of research in the field of positive psychology, happiness still remains very subjective and there are numerous ways of defining it. According to Lyubomirsky et al., (2005), a happy person is defined as someone who experiences frequent positive emotions, such as joy, interest, pride and infrequent though not absent negative emotions, such as sadness, anxiety and anger. On the other hand, ancient philosophers from an exhaustive list, but not limited to Aristotle, Plato and Socrates, have their own unique perspectives and individual beliefs.
According to Aristotle, happiness consists in achieving, through the course of a whole lifetime, all the goods, health, wealth, knowledge and friends that lead to the perfection of human nature and to the enrichment of human life. Plato maintains a virtue-based eudaimonistic conception of ethics. That is to say that happiness is the highest aim of moral thought and conduct, and virtues are the requisite skills and dispositions needed to attain it. On the other hand, Socrates believed that only people with self-knowledge could find true happiness. Happiness flows not from physical or external conditions, such as bodily pleasures or wealth and power, but from living a life that is right for your soul.
Personally, I believe the best place to start deciphering what happiness is, is by defining what it is not. Most people believe that wonderful experiences that should be cultivated and cherished such as having fun with a group of friends at a party, the delights of fine dining or even the thrill and passion of making love equate to happiness. In reality, these experiences are the definition of pleasure.
As for the party, you enjoy and then wind down. The meal you savour, and then digest. The passion, you enjoy and let the warm afterglow linger in. We as human beings are very capable of adaptation, and this is something our brains are programmed to do. Our pleasures soon become routine, and once that happens, it takes even more to achieve that ‘feel good’ again. It is this chasing of a feel good factor that separates pleasure from true happiness.
My Journey to Finding Happiness
Happiness is when your life fulfills your needs; the feeling of contentment that life is just as it should be, and that all your needs are satisfied in order to attain enlightenment. Although perfect enlightenment and happiness is more often than not, harder to achieve and even harder to maintain, it is not an either or case.
The degree and levels between the bliss of enlightenment and despair of depression are limitless and generally most of us fall within the middle ranges as opposed to either ends of the spectrum. As contradicting as it might sound, it is arguable that happiness is not something you feel, but instead, something that you do. As I have previously mentioned, when I was much younger, happiness to me meant being able to buy luxurious goods and acquiring materialistic things. As I have grown older and traveled the world to explore and experience different cultures and backgrounds, my attitude towards happiness has significantly changed.
Although I am still in pursuit of the true definition of happiness for myself, I believe it is the feeling I gain from helping other less fortunate people than myself, as that gives me a true sense of satisfaction and fulfilment.
I came to discover this whilst traveling and also when I had my hand in a social enterprise called Freedom Cups, where I was volunteering. Freedom Cups are reusable and biodegradable menstrual cups that are given to women in need, in underdeveloped communities that lack access to personal hygiene and clean water during their monthly bleeds.
These cups have been distributed all over the world, from where the it all began, Singapore, right through to different parts of the Philippines, Cambodia, Nepal, India, Kenya, Uganda, and even Nigeria. There is something about spending some time away, in an underdeveloped community that brings sheer happiness to me. Be it spending a couple days, weeks or even months, it has opened my eyes to see the bigger picture of the way of lives of less fortunate people and how appreciative they are with the little they have.
Living in Bali, Indonesia for a month also taught me that it was not only money and materialistic goods that was the bringer of happiness. Although money does matter, it is not something that contributes solely to our happiness. If money meant covering our basic needs, it could contribute to happiness, but what happens when the basic needs are covered? The law of diminishing returns is imposed. I have always wondered whether it would make me the happiest person indefinitely on the planet if I won the lottery, and the younger me would have said yes without a trace of thought.
However, I do not necessarily see this the case. In the theory of happiness, there is something called the set-point theory, which states that the increase in a persons happiness, in response to life events, will eventually return to its baseline after time. If this has taught me anything, it is that one should enjoy the journey of life events, as opposed to the destination.
Finding Happiness At Work
In conclusion, one might ask how writing about happiness is relatable to Westminster Business Consultants, which is where I come to the most important factor for happiness, relationships. The quality of the relationships you build are extremely vital in maintaining happiness.
We have “mirror neurons” in our brains, which make not only happiness, but also unhappiness contagious. When we start working full-time, our colleagues are who we spend most of our time with as compared to anyone else. Hence, we need to invest in such relationships as we all affect one another, and research shows that it extends out not only to your colleague but also to your colleague’s colleague.
Recommendations To Improve Happiness
• Get social by spending time with others
• Get purpose by volunteering
• Find meaning and balance
• Find joy in the little things of life
• Start each day with a smile
• Do things you are passionate about
• Reflect on your blessings and be grateful
• Take steps to enrich your life
• Live in the moment
• Let go of sadness and disappointment
• Don’t be afraid to ask for help
• Be good to yourself
• Practice mindfulness
• Laugh and make time for play
• Take walks and admire nature