« A man needs to look for happiness, teach the way to achieve happiness, and guide others towards happiness” – Jabran Khalil Jabrnan
How to be happy?
That’s a good question, which deserves a good answer as well.
For instance, we say it is within human and even animal nature to try to avoid pain and look for pleasure by any means possible. It’s a very profound survival mechanism.
Now, I’m pretty sure that happiness is one of the highest and most noble forms of pleasure in which we need to give the maximum of efforts, time and energy to achieve it.
Many among us think that they know and understand happiness, but they have a false assumption about happiness based on wrong ideas. This makes it quite difficult for them to recognize the way to happiness.
In this article, I will take each of these assumptions and/or myths and explain why they are false. At the end this article you will come to the right perception about happiness.
Myth 1: Happiness and sensory pleasures is the same thing
You can identify sensorial pleasures by these characteristics; they are immediate and don’t last long. They are directly related to positive emotions, and to certain hormones, such as dopamine.
Examples of activities that generate sensorial pleasure: orgasm, drinking coffee, eating sweets, watching a movie, etc.
As you can see sensorial pleasures don’t require much effort or reflection.
For example, the pleasure of tasting ice-cream consecutively: the first time is delicious and tasty, but the 2nd time is less intense than the first time. By the 4th time the pleasure is almost gone …
This’s what we call adaptation; the neurons are related to the connection that reacts to new information. When the events don’t contain any new information it’s not excited anymore.
Researchers have discovered that inside our brains, there’s a zone called « the Broca region ». The principal mechanism within this region is as follows: anything that becomes predictable should require less attention. It is the law of concentration.
Unfortunately, for dozen of years, consumerism and “wild capitalism” has contributed to the spread of what we call “The Hedonist Philosophy” through media outlets.
This philosophy considers happiness as the sum of the little pleasures we acquire in life. The more we get those little pleasures, the better the quality of our life, and therefore the happier we are.
HQ = N(PL) – N(PA)
HQ: is Happiness quality
N(PL) : Number of pleasures (good moments)
N(PA) : Number of pains (bad moments)
You got to be kidding me!
Thousands of people believe that this is the meaning of happiness. They live in a kind of “Moulin de plaisir” that never ends. They confuse happiness with material success. But as soon as they get what they were looking for, they get bored quickly and they look for more. They are never satisfied.
They wrongly think that they are getting closer to happiness, but the saga continues and the only thing they end up getting is frustration.
When pleasure is your reference in life, you are a consumerist. You are not investing anything in the future; you are not accumulating any resources in life.
In his book “Authentic Happiness”, Martin Seligman the father of positive psychology says, “At the opposite of pleasure, happiness is something more sustainable, more profound and a real investment.”
Myth 2: Happiness comes from outside.
A Hindu legend has it that there was a time when all man were Gods.
But they abused their divinity so much that Brahma, the master of Gods, decided to take all the divine power from them and hide it where it was impossible to find it. So, the dilemma was to figure out where he could hide this divine power.
They called on the minor Gods to suggest how to solve this complicated problem., They suggested to bury it in the earth.
But Brahma answered, “No, it’s not enough because humans will surely dig and find it.”
Then the Gods said, “In this case, let’s throw it in the deepest ocean.”
Brahma answered again, “No, because sooner or later humans will explore the deep ocean. They will surely find it and pull it up to the surface.”
Then the minor Gods concluded, “Then we don’t know where to hide it because it seems that there’s no place on earth or in the sea where we could hide it and humans wouldn’t find it.”
So, Brahma said, “Here’s what we are going to do with human divinity: we will hide in the deepest place within the human. It’s the only place he would never even think of looking for it“
The legend goes on to say, since then, human has explored the entire earth, climbed the highest mountain, dived deep into the ocean, searching for something that’s already inside him.
During childhood, your parents, and later society made you believe that you didn’t already have happiness and that you had to look for it by yourself. Before you knew it, you assumed that you were a naturally unhappy person and that you needed to look everywhere else except within you; when in fact, it was and still is exactly the opposite that you need to do.
Don’t look for happiness in an iPhone, a Lamborghini, or a big house on the beach. You will not find it there. You don’t have to depend on to anything in the world to be happy. You just have to find it.
Myth 3: You need some criteria to become happy
As human beings, we act on every situation we encounter according to our beliefs about ourselves, and about others. In addition to our beliefs about how should we act to feel good.
I still remember those days when I used to delay my feeling of happiness, until I would have reached my list of “criteria for happiness”. I set some of the strictest criteria, thinking it was good for self-motivation!
I constantly said to myself “When I will have X and get Y and become Z I will be happy.” While I DIDN’T MAKE A SINGLE CRITERIA FOR BEING UNHAPPY!
I didn’t know that I was making my feeling of happiness dependent on things that were “outside my personal boundary” as Dr.Paul Dobransky would call it. This added more pain to my life because I had more reason to feel bad; it wasn’t enough to already know that happiness should be one of the most important values in my life.
If you decided that feeling happy is being attached to things that should go in the way that you planned, you won’t sustain happiness, because life is a chain reaction of changeable events.
In short, you don’t need conditions, or criteria to be happy.
Myth 4: Being happy depends on other people
We have fallen victim to this belief for a long time. For instance, let’s take the case of love. TV shows and romantic comedies made us believe that love is only true when we are dependent on our partner. Matter of fact, this is not true love by any means; It’s an obsession with the other person. This obsession comes from filling your inner void with someone outside of you.
It’s time for you to know that you don’t need anyone to be happy; if you believe that somebody is the source of your happiness it’s time for you to be that person.
True love doesn’t prevent you from being independent. Matter of fact, it embraces it.
This concept also applies to our friendships and our family. It’s OK to feel good or better in their presence, but they don’t have the key to your happiness. Only you have it, and if you chose to them this key in the past, you could always take it back- if you want to.
Myth 5: Artificial happiness is true happiness
Artificial happiness is an illusion. Drugs and alcohol make us think we are dependent on chemical substances which, they contain to be in a good mood. This makes things worse because not only does our body become used to them. These substances are not natural. Our body doesn’t produce or need them.
It has nothing to do with true happiness; we activate hormones in a way that’s not natural. Since “The Broca Region” is active, our body tries to adapt to it, and each time our body asks for more amounts to achieve a similar effect to the last one, until you find yourself addicted…
It has nothing to do with true happiness; we just activate hormones like dopamine more than they should be.
As a heroin addict once told me, “You spend the rest of your life looking for the first time when it felt good.”
It’s time to stop seeing happiness the way you used to, because you will only end up with frustration, disappointment and maybe even depression in the long run. It’s time to decide from now on to be happy, and to know that you deserve it.
Do you have friends, or family that believes in one of these myths or more? Share this post with them. You never know, it may help them change their mind about happiness.
YASSINE BARNAOUI is a freelancer, Blogger and certified life coach specializing in self-help (self-improvement) and a health coach in Nutrition. Originally a biologist with a Master’s degree in health and nutrition from the science faculty in Tetuan Morocco, he’s a neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) practitioner and he holds a technical certificate in Computer Management. He was able to successfully coach dozens of people. Read More…