Aside from being the title of a decent Amy MacDonald song (“What happiness means to me” – perhaps most notable for an excellent cover of “Dancing in the Dark” which follows on the same track) I do sometimes wonder what happiness means to me.
Happiness can come in short bursts, upon the completion of an act which brings it, or can be longer lasting, such as the happiness that comes from fulfilment. Some people call this second type of happiness “true happiness” although I would disagree with that to a point. We should take happiness in any place we can find it.
I have been very fortunate over the past almost two years to have found a long lasting happiness that is strong enough to wash away misery. I found it in my boyfriend and greatest love. Often you will hear similar, that upon being in a relationship people are happier. It’s natural, of course, as people want to be wanted. They want to feel connected. They want to experience a romantic love. For what it is worth, I do not feel that someone has to be in a relationship to feel this way, however.
Before my relationship started I was still happy. I certainly wasn’t as happy as I am now, but happy nonetheless. Why was I less happy then? Mostly because I had more problems and issues. In particular, I would worry endlessly about work. Often about things I had no control over but they would annoy me so. My sleep was often affected, as well as my focus on other tasks. I think the crux of it was that once I was in a relationship and had such a positive force to focus on I realised how little these other issues mattered. No longer do I lose sleep because of work. And that is not to say that I care not at all for my work as I would like to think I take it very seriously.
But it is just a job, and in the end it doesn’t matter what happens.
I think that is the lesson that I want to impart here. That sometimes things we think are really important, and that cause us strife, are not always so important in the end. In five, ten, twenty years will you be looking back and still stress over something that happened at work? Unlikely.
Let what happens happen.
In Buddhist dharma these problems are referred to as dukkha, or suffering. It is one of the four noble truths, a fact of life. Discussion of dukkha and ways to resolve it merit their own post (or series of posts) which I will do in the future. In essence, however, to move past this suffering you must acknowledge it and then disregard it by accepting that dukkha is unavoidable. Once you accept this, it doesn’t seem so bad (not bad at all, in fact). To the layperson it would seem like this might be nonsense or something they can’t quite appreciate. We will look further into Buddhist theories on happiness and dukkha in the future and hopefully together we can gain a better understanding of the concepts and apply them to our own lives.
So, being unhappy is both unavoidable, because bad things will always happen, and they are not always that important in the long run, as in the future you will forget about them or they just won’t seem to affect you as strongly.
Happiness, to me, means letting go of the things I can’t change and don’t really matter in the long term. It means appreciating the good things I have in my life and how important they are to me. By focusing in such a way, and prioritising what is important to me, I can remove myself from suffering and become happy.
Think about your own life and some of the stresses you have which might keep you from happiness. What are these stresses? Are these problems life-changing? Will they matter in a month or so?
Let me know how you deal with problems making you unhappy by leaving a comment below. If you have experienced a happy event which made your problems seem so small they no longer mattered let us know about that too!
Thanks for reading,