Here is the theory I have come up with – happiness isn’t found, it’s created. Can you choose happiness? If so, why are so many people unhappy? Why is happiness so elusive and what is happiness, exactly? Find it all out here.
What is Happiness?
Ask people what their goal is in life, what they really want, what’s their main ambition. And here’s the most common answer you’ll receive, “I want to be happy.” And what is happiness, ask them. Satisfaction about everything, and liking whatever we have, that’s what most people consider the absolute idea of happiness is. However, is that really it? Do we need to fully be satisfied with each and every tiny thing around us in order to truly be happy?
Not necessarily, I say. I believe that happiness, just like esteem, as defined by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, can be of two types. The lower version, which helps us be happy about our surroundings. This helps us be happy temporarily, because things that happen outside us are not under our control. That’s why we care for things that make us happy in the moment, instant gratification, living in the moment, whatever you may want to call it. But in the real world, sooner or later, there’ll be something or someone that doesn’t make us perfectly happy.
And then there’s the higher version, the inner happiness, which can be defined by us being truly happy with ourselves. Ideally, this should mean that since we can control, if not our body, but at least our mind, we can be happy from within if we so wish. Aren’t we, after all, in charge of our own thoughts? Inner happiness isn’t easy to achieve, nor is it easy to maintain.
The Difference Between Happy People & Unhappy People
Some of the happy people I have met in my life have their own versions of this theory, which has led me to believe that this is the only basic different between happy and unhappy people. The truly happy people care about inner happiness, while the unhappy people are too focused on the lower version of happiness to realize how elusive inner happiness is.
Let me go back to the happy people I mentioned. My mom calls her theory the Remote Control Theory. It’s a breakthrough. Whenever I used to be angry at someone or sad about something, she asked me why I gave my “remote control” to the person who’s “causing my unhappiness.” Imagine a remote control, she said, just like it controls the TV, yours controls your happiness, and by definition, you. You’re supposed to “keep your remote control with yourself.” But sometimes, we end up giving it to others and then their words or actions make us sad or disappointed, often even without their knowledge!
My friend puts a similar theory in different words. “Whatever you can change around yourself, change it. And whatever you can’t change, learn to live with it.” Both theories talk about the idea of modifying our own thoughts in order to be happy. In other words, happy people believe that you can create happiness.
People often quote that having a baby brought them happiness, or a couple found each other and found happiness. However, I believe that happiness isn’t something you find. Just like success, happiness isn’t found, it’s created.
What True Happiness Would Look Like
My 9 year old nephew and I were once discussing what heaven could be like. “Everything would be nice there, everyone would listen to me. And bad people and bullies will be miserable there. The nice people would be happy and I’ll have all the tastiest things to eat there,” he explained. “Most of that is already happening,” I said to him. “Deep within, bullies are already miserable and most nice people you’ve met in your life are already happy.” I only wished for him to learn the importance of being thankful for what we have already.
I told him about this thought I often get – that we already live in heaven. What if, I sometimes feel, that this is heaven, where we’ve reached after we died in another life. This thought helps me appreciate everything around me and see the best in everyone. Because if I’m in heaven, that means all this around me, is the best of the best, and I’m around the best people of the world, and that I also am a good person! Such a happy thought, isn’t it?
It reminds me of the wonderful quote by Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which he said to explain the Mirror of Erised, “The happiest man on earth would be able to use the Mirror of Erised like a normal mirror, that is, he would look into it and see himself exactly as he is.” For non-fans, it’s an enchanted mirror that shows the viewer their heart’s deepest desires getting fulfilled. So if you ever wanted to know whether you’re truly happy or not, try to imagine what you’d see in it and you’ll get the answer.
That’s why there’s no co-relation between happiness and wealth, social status or beauty. Rich or famous people are not necessarily happy, nor are poor people necessarily sad.
Can You Choose Happiness
So if we can really be happy from within by controlling our own thoughts, that essentially means that happy people choose to be happy, so to say. But if that is so, why don’t we see more happy people around us? Well, here’s where the second part of my theory comes in. Let me tell you a secret that came to me recently.
Since we create happiness instead of finding it, we have to constantly tell ourselves to be happy, to “be the change we want to be” or to give ourselves reasons to be happy. Essentially, it’s a lot of hard work.
It takes too much work to be happy. But being sad is easy. Sadness doesn’t require any effort, it’s easy to complain about our troubles and let others take care of us. It’s not easy to apologize when we wronged others, or even to forgive ourselves for our failures and shortcomings.
On the other hand, it’s time consuming and mentally draining to come up with solutions and convince ourselves to see the silver lining in every dark cloud. Most people just give up, since inner-happiness, as I said before, is high-maintenance.
What is happiness – it’s one of life’s biggest questions, and has a simple answer. This isn’t something I usually talk about, since happiness is such a personal, even controversial topic. Unhappy people love to find excuses to remain so. And some feel that the path to happiness can’t be generalized. Everyone has their own answer to the question, what is happiness. But inner-happiness isn’t about laughing all the time, it’s about acceptance and satisfaction. It’s the power of being able to feel all emotions, including sadness, at times.
So, in short, yes, you can choose happiness, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Happiness is like magic – you have to believe in it to see it. What’ll you choose to be? And do you agree or disagree with my definition of what is happiness? Let me know your thoughts below.
Shilpa Ahuja a designer and entrepreneur. She is the editor-in-chief of ShilpaAhuja.com, which she founded with the goal of inspiring confidence in the modern working woman through fashion.
Fashion has traditionally been for the rich, white, thin woman. That’s how it evolved over centuries and that’s how it’s been represented in fashion media. But Shilpa believes that with the changing role of women in the society, fashion has changed, too. She believes that fashion is for everyone, regardless of their age, gender, color, body type and background. So she translates runway fashion into easy style advice that one can incorporate into their daily lives.
Shilpa’s work has been published in the University of Fashion blog and Jet Airways magazine. She is also an artist, illustrator and cartoonist. She is also the creator of Audrey O., a comic series that represents the lifestyle of millennial women. She enjoys creative writing and world travel. Her art has been exhibited at Harvard Graduate School of Design and the Aroma Hotel, Chandigarh and been published in Chandigarh Times.
Originally from Chandigarh, Shilpa also has a professional degree in architecture and has worked in interior project management. She is also the author of the book “Designing a Chinese Cultural Center in India”. Shilpa has a Masters in Design Studies degree from Harvard University. For feedback and questions, please email [email protected]