I was in my teens and didn’t like to interact much with anyone. My family and relatives were worried about my introvert nature and more importantly, the silence.
One day my cousin (elder to me by around 10 years) asked me a rather queer question, “Are you happy?” and I responded saying too many things but internally, I was stunned. No one had bothered to ask me this question before and no one had recognized that I was getting sullen day by day.
My silence was filled with innumerable questions about life. I kept observing so many things around me. It took me time to learn that I’ve always searched for things that made me unhappy turning me into a compulsive negative thinker. This kind of negative perspective towards almost everything is bound to steal happy moments, is what I then thought of.
I had delightful moments, but they kept me happy for just a few hours or days. What brings happiness? Of course, it’s not money. It also is not completely related to what we do, how we do. It also isn’t proportional to how good days are and how worst they get. Happiness doesn’t need to be defined again but has to be defined right.
I never had the realization that I should rather retrospect about them. My memories were instead filled with unpleasant experiences and what people around me said to pull me down. Why, was I getting into the habit of falling into this pit of unhappiness? Attention.
Attention to what we give, attention to what we do not need to give; what we choose attention for, what we don’t choose attention for, deliver the happiness quotient.
I chose to pay attention to just the wrong things, things that made me feel miserable. Having no happy memories, I was feeding my heart, soul and mind with unhappy moments. Surely, our life story isn’t only filled with things that make us sullen and morose all the time. But that was just me, and there wasn’t any sign of happiness.
While I passed my teenage and started working, life brought innumerable challenges to me and with each conquest, I started realizing, facing challenges was making me happy. It gave me a sense of achievement and put tremendous confidence in me, in result, made me happy.
When challenges came one after the other, I had turned my attention to adapt my mind to fighting and combating them. Sometimes, this made me proud too but, I didn’t succeed all the time. Whenever I failed, I temporarily felt weak and defeated. But, with each failure, I came back stronger and became strong-willed.
This was a much bigger conquest than winning and I learnt that happiness is just not experiencing pleasant things in life. It is also about your ability to handle unpleasant things in your life.
It’s not about just choices, it’s more about mindfulness. It’s about balance that we seek, it’s about benevolence that we chase.
During my struggles, I made some crazy and funny friends. They stood by me during the tough times and of course, my family extended rock-solid support. Relationships make you happy, interacting with friends, family, colleagues makes you positive and upbeat. It’s true that we get pulled into fights, arguments and keep grudges, making us stressed. But, there is less time for grudges as Mark Twain rightly puts it;
“There isn’t time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that.”
As I started accepting this fact, grudges started withering off and I became grateful for all the experiences and the people I had met.
In fact, a study is being conducted at Harvard Medical School, which is one of the longest running studies of adult life & Robert Waldinger (Clinical psychologist) is a part of it. He shared on TED Talks that it tracks the lives of 724 men (split into 2 groups) for over 75 years. It now studies their Baby Boomer children to know how childhood experience across decades affects health and well-being in middle age.
In the video, he says, “The clearest message that we get from this 75-year-old study is this: Good relationships make us happier and healthier. Period.”
It’s indeed true that we all need each other to make our life happy, if not make, at least feel happy.
But, we need to be in our ‘own’ company at times and introspect. In the busy schedule, while pursuing a job as a marketing professional, I always found time to read books. Reading is relaxing and makes me happy. Likewise, it’s satisfying to find time for things that keep you happy.
So, what brings happiness? Maybe a token of appreciation, an appraisal on salary, a long week paid vacation, a family get together, etc etc. What connects all of them to happiness? Attention, that you choose to give to whats!
One day while travelling I was fidgeting with my cell phone and I accidentally opened the notes section. Out of nowhere, I started typing a few words that came to my mind. It turned out to be a poem. Day after day I began to write and create poems while travelling. Later, it turned into a passion and I began carrying a notebook to work.
The urge to write became stronger with each passing day. What was making me write so much? I figured it was the pleasure of creating something new, unique and an opportunity to peacefully connect with myself. Whenever you create something by taking efforts, it gives you immense pleasure. It’s personal and it’s your own creation.
Everything changes for our happiness with the attention we choose to give!
At the end of this panorama of experiences that I have shared with you, I would say these things can surely make you happy, shift your attention to positive experiences, “Positivity keeps the smile on your lips intact.”
Overcoming challenges, “Challenges make you fall in love with yourself and life.” Create something, “Art is the essence of happiness.”
Build relationships and don’t keep grudges, “Friends and family are the powerful sources of happiness.”
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