Achieving Happiness in Life
Thursday Reflections (Jan 28-16): Achieving Happiness in Life
If there is anything in this world that all humans agree on as a goal it is happiness. Everyone is on the pursuit of happiness to the point that one of the most popular songs that was historical and very successful in engaging millions of people around the world was Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”. What is happiness then and how can we achieve it?
Happiness is joy, felicity and contentment. It is that sentiment that comes over a person when he/she knows life is good and worth living and he/she can’t help but smile. That feeling is free from grief and sadness and full of hope and satisfaction. A happy person cannot be at the same time angry, depressed and in a state of anxiety.
Happiness is defined as a sense of well-being, joy, or contentment. People feel happy when they feel safe and secure, blessed, fortunate, loved, appreciated, and encouraged or when they achieve their goals and succeed in what they are doing. A thing that brings happiness to people usually makes them want to do more of it. There is no limit to happiness and no one would ever complain about feeling too much happiness. For many, this emotional state is an indicator of well-being and a high quality of life.
Happiness is not necessarily – or always – the result of the environment and social and financial conditions around us. Faith, hope and resilience can play a big role in making us cope with the most hostile and difficult circumstances in life. That’s why the saying “It’s you who make you happy!” focuses one’s attention to the internal state of mind and spirit that could control one’s emotions and overcome the pressures coming from outside. In a moment one might feel like it is the worst experience of his/her life when a loved one dies, or when a nice job or someone or something significant is lost or when a job interview or an exam does not go well or things don’t go as planned. Those feelings are the product of one’s self-judgment in the mind. There might also be blame, resentment and anger at others. These judgements about what happens in the environment around a person drive – or control – his/her emotions. For instance, in the case of a divorce or a job loss these “sad things” could be met with a positive state of mind and may become happiness and a sense of relief if one has faith. For instance it can be seen as a test from God and may be a good reason to move on with one’s life and explore other venues and opportunities. Faith and hope give us a positive outlook and resilience to deal with the ups and downs of life. Otherwise, depression and gloominess control our senses and feelings.
In the following, I list some Keys to Happiness and how to achieve it in this life by the Grace of God Almighty:
(1) Contentment: It is the opposite of greed, which is going beyond what we need. Don’t deprive yourself but discipline yourself. Deprivation is denying oneself what is needed whereas discipline is controlling the need so it does not become greed. Self-discipline is not self-deprivation.
(الدنيا ساعة اجعلها طاعة و النفس طماعة عودها القناعة)
Hence the concepts of “Kafaf” (a point where one is able to meet his/her needs) and “ ’afaf’ (chastity an elevating oneself above seeking what is not his/hers)!الكفاف و العفاف و الغنى عن الناس
(2) Gratitude: Showing gratitude is met with appreciation and helps building good and healthy relations. We thank God and thank people even for the smallest things they give or do to us. It is within our natural disposition as humans to thank and to love being thanked. Gratitude leads to respect, good communication and trust and eventually love. Allah Almighty say, “And remember! Your Lord caused to be declared (publicly): “If you are grateful, I will increase favors unto you.” (Qur’an 14:7)
(3) Making others happy: Whether it is a smile, a good word or a helping hand when possible. These are considered in Islam as charity. Prophet Muhammad (S) said,
“Smiling for another person is a charity.”
“Every small bone of everyone has upon it a charitable act for everyday upon which the sun rises. Bringing about justice between two is an act of charity. Helping a man get on his mount, lifting him onto it or helping him put his belongings onto it, is a charitable act. A good word is a charitable act. Every step you take toward the prayer is a charitable act. And removing a harmful thing from the path is a charitable act.” (Bukhari & Muslim)
“The most beloved of people according to Allah is he who brings most benefit to humanity, and the most beloved of deeds according to Allah is that you bring happiness to a fellow Muslim, or relieve him of distress, or pay off his debt or stave away hunger from him. It is more beloved to me that I walk with my Muslim brother in his time of need than I stay secluded in the mosque for a month.” (Tabarani)
In the recent past, we heard of academic studies in different universities in North America that documented the fact that those who spend more time volunteering or give charity are much happier than those who don’t. Money does not bring happiness if you have it in your heart but it could bring happiness if you have it in your hand.
(4) Being realistic and dreaming with a plan: Dreaming a little is fine but building one’s life on dreams, whims and illusions can be very deadly. Life has bitterness and sweetness. The former makes us appreciate the latter and the latter makes us overlook the former. There would not be any sense of happiness if everything were perfect. It is the ability to overcome life’s challenges that put us in a state of happiness. Instead we must dream with plans and that is the definition of being Visionary. When we are far-sighted, creative in our thoughts we develop a vision. We have to come down to earth because even if we can fly in the air flying will eventually get us tired. So we must set our goals not farther than what our eyes can see. So we must live according to our means as the old saying goes: “Stretch your legs at the length of your bed.” Once we know our goals and start achieving them gradually we start reaping happiness gradually as we go and our attitude to life and its challenges changes.
(5) Thinking Positive and not worrying too much: There is a difference between worrying and being responsible. Worry that is based on fears and assumptions disrupts our positive thinking. Being responsible comes with a price but the burden of responsibility should not cause us to lose happiness for anxiety and stress all the time. It is true that the more responsibilities we carry the more we feel burdened and we tend to be more serious but from what we have gathered of the stories of the greatest people in history we learn that they were cheerful and most of them had a sense of humour in spite of the much greater ordeals and challenges they had to face. Prophet Muhammad (S) was a person who liked anecdotes, poetry and good ethical jokes even in the most difficult times.
(6) Shield yourself against negative and discouraging comments from people and do not let them eat you up. If they are true in essence consider correcting yourself but if they are not just ignore them as they may be from people who are jealous of you because you are successful or you look like you are heading to success. It is within our human nature to compare ourselves to others to measure our success and failure and our religion teaches us to pray for those who succeed among us and say Masha Allah not the opposite. Only sick people are the ones who like to say words that bring wounds and pain to the hearts instead of happiness and consolation.
(7) Be honest, just and fair: Be Honest and authentic to yourself and to others. Do not give false impression! Be Truthful and Trustworthy. Demonstrate fairness in all that you do. Accept what you cannot change; change what you can if it needs to be changed. All of us hate injustice and wrongdoing in this world but we cannot carry the burden of all humanity on our shoulders. Allah Himself says, “On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear. It gets every good that it earns and it suffers every ill that it earns.” (2:286) Take care of yourself first and those you are responsible for then think about the rest. Family comes first!
(8) Avoid anger as much as you can and avoid situations where you cannot control it. Someone once said “Anger is like throwing stones at a bee hive; you may be surprised at what happens.” The Prophet (S) said to the man who wanted him to advice him about life and happiness, “Do not be angry!” He asked three times and the Prophet (S) kept repeating the same answer. These days, there is less patience and more anger and rage whether at home, at work or on the road. One cannot be happy while angry. Happiness and anger do not go along with each other.
(9) Do what you feel peaceful about: Never force yourself to do things you do not want to do unless they are vital and life depends on it. The Prophet (S) advised one of his companions saying, “Consult your heart. Righteousness is that about which the soul feels at ease and the heart feels tranquil. And wrongdoing is that which wavers in the soul and causes uneasiness in the breast, even though people have repeatedly given their legal opinion [in its favor].” (Ahmad)
Talk to God and to those you know they love you such as your mother or father. These are usually the only people who may put you and your interests first before themselves.
(10) Finally and most importantly, pray to the source of Happiness; ALLAH Almighty for he cares for us all the time and his line is never busy for us. Anytime and anywhere! It’s never too late and never too early!