The pur­suit of hap­pi­ness

New Straits Times - - Pulse living -

WHEN you think about hap­pi­ness, what comes to mind? Do you en­vi­sion your­self hav­ing a huge house with a pool, fancy car, de­signer wardrobe filled with the lat­est fash­ion, a lov­ing hus­band or wife and two beau­ti­ful chil­dren — a boy and a girl — as well as a fur kid to com­plete the pic­ture?

Maybe your vi­sion of hap­pi­ness is find­ing a soul mate who you can share your life with. Per­haps that pic­ture in your mind shows you in the arms of your sweet­heart va­ca­tion­ing in some ex­otic land, win­ing and din­ing in the best restau­rants and hav­ing the time of your life?

The con­cept of hap­pi­ness is big busi­ness. Ev­ery­one seems to want to bot­tle hap­pi­ness and sell it. Just take brand names, for ex­am­ple. They are for­ever try­ing to sell you all kinds of prod­ucts, which they prom­ise will make you look and feel bet­ter so you can feel happier. Those ad­ver­tise­ments on that dream house, dream car or dream va­ca­tion are there to tug at your heart­strings so that you’ll be pro­pelled to buy some­thing be­cause you be­lieve that hap­pi­ness can be bought.

It can­not be de­nied that pur­chases can bring mo­men­tary joy, whether it’s to cel­e­brate our achieve­ments, hard work or just for an ego boost so we can feel good about our­selves. But how long will that joy re­ally last?

In a re­cent re­search by Philippe Ver­duyn and Saskia Lavri­jsen from the Univer­sity of

Leu­ven in Bel­gium, 233 stu­dents were asked to rec­ol­lect re­cent emo­tional episodes and re­port their du­ra­tion.

Out of a set of 27 emo­tions, sad­ness was recorded to last the long­est, whereas shame, sur­prise, fear, dis­gust, bore­dom, be­ing touched, ir­ri­tated or feel­ing re­lief were over much faster.

On av­er­age, it took 120 hours to stop feel­ing sad and just 30 min­utes to get over feel­ings of dis­gust and shame. Ha­tred lasted for 60 hours, fol­lowed by joy for 35 hours. So if hap­pi­ness lasts for only a num­ber of hours, the prospect of chas­ing af­ter a big fu­ture vi­sion of hap­pi­ness makes it even more dis­heart­en­ing.

Hap­pi­ness is usu­ally tied to an ex­ter­nal and dis­tant fu­ture that of­ten in­volves go­ing af­ter a dream or goals that if, and when achieved, will make us feel happy. It can come in the form of be­ing in a great re­la­tion­ship, one that brings much hap­pi­ness. But when that re­la­tion­ship ends, the sense of hap­pi­ness is ripped out of our heart, never to ap­pear again.

On hind­sight, hap­pi­ness needs to be per­ceived dif­fer­ently from a form to a feel­ing that can be gen­er­ated now and not just in the fu­ture. It should be within us rather than re­quir­ing some­one else to give it to us.

Here are some tips to help you make that shift.



One of my Shamanic teach­ers taught me to re­place that chase for hap­pi­ness with con­tent­ment. I didn’t know what to make of it then; how­ever, af­ter re­flect­ing and prac­ti­cis­ing feel­ing con­tented with the lit­tle things in life, it all be­came clear. Con­tent­ment is a feel­ing of be­ing sat­is­fied with your life.

Not to be mis­taken for feel­ing sec­ond-best, con­tent­ment is be­ing at ease with one­self and one’s ac­com­plish­ments and not look­ing to make it bet­ter nor not putting our­selves down to main­tain a check on our ego. It’s about be­ing in the present (time) and feel­ing ful­filled with what­ever life has to of­fer now.


When we can shift our fo­cus on find­ing and grow­ing our pas­sion in­stead of fo­cus­ing on what will make us happy, our life changes. So find out what you are pas­sion­ate about. It can be sim­ple things that bring great sat­is­fac­tion when you do it. Paint­ing, tak­ing care of fur ba­bies, telling jokes to cheer friends up or be­ing a lis­ten­ing ear for oth­ers... when we en­joy do­ing some­thing that sparks us and makes us feel alive, we will feel con­tented and hap­pi­ness will, in turn, be­come part of ev­ery­day life.

3. GIV­ING BACK TO THE COM­MU­NITY There is so much won­der that can hap­pen to you when you re­frain from merely fo­cus­ing on your­self and your is­sues and in­stead, train your en­ergy on do­ing good deeds for those less for­tu­nate than your­self. These ex­pe­ri­ences can be hum­bling and teach us to be grate­ful for what we have. So when­ever you’re feel­ing blue or maybe out of sorts, why not pick a char­ity that res­onates with you and do­nate your time, money and do some good. Mak­ing some­one else happy re­ally can make us feel good and warm in­side.

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