“All suffering is caused by ignorance. People inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their own happiness or satisfaction”, Dalai Lama.
We are led to believe that happiness is based on external factors such as material possessions, people, places or even money.
We have goals and desires and we sometimes believe that when we achieve them, we will be happier forever. We may think for example that when we find someone we love, we will be happy or if we buy a house, we will be happy. These when achieved can only give us temporary happiness and therefore does not stay with us.
Money for example is linked to happiness for most people and we tend to think that when we make more money, we will be happy. Over the years, I have watched the advertising industry and how it preys on the knowledge that we all want to be happy.
For example, they advertise products especially for women such as face creams with emphasis that if we buy them, we will look younger and after a short time they will advertise a new better product.
This is the moment we then realise that the first product failed to meet our needs and therefore failed to give us long lasting happiness and we may then switch to buying the new product believing that it will give us happiness and there repeats the cycle.
Dalai Lama, author and spiritual guru, in his book ‘The Art of Happiness’ (published by Hodder and Stoughton in UK) says that “we have to train the mind by bringing about a certain inner discipline where we can undergo transformation of our attitude and our entire outlook and approach to living."
He says that one begins by identifying those factors which lead to happiness and those factors which lead to suffering and then eliminating those factors which lead to suffering and cultivating those which lead to happiness.
I have often asked myself that at what point can one feel happy all the time? And what is true happiness?
Then it hit me that this is what most people want to achieve. To be happy. According to a Harvard study carried out on happiness by psychiatrist Robert Waldinger and his team, lives of 724 men were tracked from a young age through their teenager years and adulthood for 75 years asking about their health, work and personal lives.
Lessons learned from their lives were that good relationships keep us happier and healthier and that loneliness kills. According to results in the research, social connection is good for us and people who are socially connected to family, friends and community are happier, physically healthier and live longer than those who are less connected.
Loneliness tends to be toxic on the other hand and therefore people who are more isolated are likely to be less happy and are likely to have a health decline in their midlife.
However, it is crucial to highlight that, it is the quality of the close relations we have that matters most. Having good close relationships is good for us. As humans we want a quick fix.
May be if we can replace some of our bad habits like spending too much time on screen to talking to people and reaching out more to loved ones might be a starting point.
Good life is built with good relationships and having basic needs is vital however money and a successful career does not make us happy but having happier relationships and quality friendships keeps us happier and living longer.