AMONG all the good wishes in the world, human beings have chosen, as a tradition, to wish themselves happiness at the beginning of every new year. That may be an instinctive recognition of the fact that happiness is the purpose of life, and that “the very motion of our life is towards happiness.”
The above finding is contained in a book entitled The Art of Happiness, co-authored by renowned American psychiatrist, Howard C. Cutler, and the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Tenzin Gyatso, better known as the Dalai Lama XIV of Tibet. The central message in The Art of Happiness is that we are not only born to be happy, but we are also born happy. What we need is help to reclaim that state of innate happiness, which is the ultimate purpose of life.
The Art of Happiness, published 22 years ago, estimates there are at least 40 million people in the United States alone who suffer from depression. When that statistics is updated and extrapolated to the global condition, we realise that unhappiness is the blight of civilisation.
In our quest for happiness, it is important to discover what makes us happy or unhappy, so as to train our minds and bodies to admit those things that make us happy, so long as they do not harm others, and reject those that make us unhappy.
There are three basic new year resolutions we can guarantee to keep us happy in 2021 and beyond. First, we must keep ourselves and our environment clean. Clean environment promotes good health. And cleanliness, the scripture says, is next to godliness. The aphorism, ‘health is wealth’, may have become a cliché, but it is still an eternal truth. Ill health makes us unhappy, and unhygienic habits and dirty environments are among the greatest incubators of diseases.
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The year 2020, as a pandemic year, has underlined for us the significance of adherence to health protocols. Good health proceeds from good environments, and a clean environment is a good environment. Whether we do it ourselves or hire someone else to do it, keeping ourselves and our environment clean requires a lot of hard work. We must be ready and willing to pay the price of cleanliness in 2021 if we must be healthy and happy.
The second resolution needed is contentment. Happiness proceeds, more than everything else, from contentment. We must learn to appreciate and value our little achievements, no matter how modest they may be. This does not preclude us from aspiring to be better and recognising that human beings have inherent capacity for growth and improvement.
But comparing ourselves to wealthier people in unhealthy ways brings nothing but unhappiness. Rather, it is more strategic to always remember, without being smug about it, that there are thousands, millions or billions of people worldwide who are less fortunate than us.
If all the people who have lived in the world, those who are living presently, and those yet to be born, are to line up in a single line according to their socio-economic and would-be socio-economic status, it will produce an infinite line of human beings.
From whatever position in such a line, one is bound to see an endless line of people in one’s front and at the back. There will always be greater and lesser persons than any individual, no matter how wealthy and highly placed that individual may be. So, the question is, why not be content with what you have?
The third determinant of happiness, as gleaned from The Art of Happiness, is compassion. Loving and helping others, make us happier. The only people who derive joy from hating others and seeing them suffer are people with psychological disorders.
It is easier, however, for one to be happy when life is treating one well. Proficiency in the art of happiness is to master how to remain happy even when the tide turns against us. Happy New Year!