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Insight: What makes a happy life?

September 08, 2018


Each one of us wants a happy life, but no two of us want exactly the same things, so, it is not easy to lay down hard and fast rules about how to lead a happy life.

A great deal depends on the skills and temperament we are born with. Some need no human companionship and would therefore be happy as hermits or recluses, or following an isolated occupation in a remote place, while others need family and friends around them.

Some are cut out for adventure, while others are happy in mundane pursuits. Some desire power or prestige, while others can be satisfied by a vocation, such as the medical profession.

It is therefore impossible to do more than generalise about the conditions which make one happy. But one thing is certain, happiness has little to do with possession or lack of material things — it is a state of mind, and its secret is the discovery of contentment and the gift of making the best of what is available.

The basic, if unrealised prerequisite for happiness is the good fortune to live in a free, settled and well-governed community and country. Bad government, restrictions on freedom, occurrence of crime and violence and the absence of the rule of the law — all these make for unsettled and therefore unhappy living. Security, justice, fair taxation, policy protection and a progressive community life lay the foundations of the happiness of the individual.

The importance of having the right job to stay happy cannot be over-emphasised. Those who are condemned to dull, blind alley, insecure jobs are never really happy. Preferably, the job should be a specialised one, requiring training and offering progress to a position of responsibility rather than an occupation taken because of lack of choice.

Then another sure recipe for happiness is having a loving family, trustworthy friends and proactive acquaintances. As humans, we need companionship and it is our interaction with others that is a source of happiness or sorrows rather than possession of material things. Won’t we all be happier in a small house surrounded by a loving family than a large mansion with no one to call our own? A loving family is a great source of encouragement, as well as a sound defence against loneliness and the harshness of the outside world.

In addition to family and friends, community life is also important for happy and satisfied living and this is possible through clubs and societies. This helps to provide enjoyable leisure activities of various kinds.

Money may be the root of all evil, but in the modern world, it is impossible to do without it. That is not to say that there is any relation between happiness and material things — there isn’t; but lack of money brings hardship, hunger and ugliness into life. Perhaps, the guiding principle is to earn enough to cover all reasonable needs, indulge in leisure activities, and pay for emergencies and holidays, and after this not to worry too much about money.

Good health is of great importance. Healthy people do not realise what a priceless possession they have until they fall ill – it is the key to all enjoyment, and its loss means that every other pleasure is affected. There are those, who, through religion and philosophy achieve happiness in the midst of pain. But such achievement is beyond the power of most of us. If we begin with good health, we should show gratitude by doing all we can to preserve it — living active and healthy lives, free from vice and excess.

Happiness for human beings always seems to involve activity rather than rest. We have a built-in restlessness of mind and body, which completely separates us from the animal world. We must always be doing, planning and thinking ahead. Believing that our objective is ultimate rest and perpetual relaxation, we discover, paradoxically, that true happiness lies not in searching for our goal, but in the struggle to get there.

But given all these things, the lack of faith and an optimistic philosophy, will turn them all to ‘dust and ashes’. We have been made moral and religious creatures, and the sincere effort to live according to the highest precepts is the ultimate basis of happiness.

Published in Dawn, Young World, September 8th, 2018