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Kamran Mir Hazar        Letter to Editor

An Experiment in Happiness


By Sarah Lake
 

Do you really know what happiness is?

We all seem to be striving for this concept called 'happiness' but what is it really? After all, how many people do you know who are truly happy?

What does it take to be 'happy' for more than just a brief or transient period? Until we can answer these questions we are effectively 'stabbing in the dark', going from one thing to another hoping to find that elusive goal!

How can we ever hope to achieve it if we don't know what it is? But where do we start?

An Experiment in Happiness

OK - Happiness - we all know about 'happiness', don't we?

Well, we all know it exists, and we all know that we are trying to achieve it - even if some of us have forgotten this - it is what we are reaching for, in whatever way we can, right?

But what is this 'elusive' thing called happiness - I mean, REALLY, what is it?

Think about that for a moment. If it was obvious we would all have it, right??! But, take a look around you; how many people do you see that are really happy?

Endless words have been written about it, books and films have been portraying it since time immemorial - people have lived whole lives searching for it and died in the name of it. But WHAT is it?

We all know that it's something we want - it's almost a foregone conclusion that it's what we are all striving for - but how many of us really know what it is, what it would take for us to be truly happy??

You might immediately think, 'Oh, it's love', or it's 'having children', or it's 'being healthy' or it's 'being rich' - and while those things may well contribute to your feeling of contentment - do they, in themselves, really bring happiness?? The answer to that must surely be 'No' otherwise there would not be so many unhappy people in the world.

Well, let's take a look at this from another angle then. Let's take a look at what is it that makes us UNHAPPY? I bet if you sat down for a few minutes and just listed out the things in life that you feel unhappy about it would be much easier to do - right?

OK - so, it's easier to list out all the things are make us unhappy - so let's start there!

Try this experiment - just make a list of all the things that upset you or make you unhappy. Don't hold out - just list out everything that you can think of.

Alright - now that you have your list in front of you - take each point on the list and work out what the OPPOSITE of that would be.

For example: let's say you wrote down that one of the things that makes you unhappy is the state of the government - so what is it about the government that you don't like? Maybe it's the fact that you feel that they don't listen to what it is that the 'common people' need and want - or maybe it's because you don't feel that they are running the country in a way that helps the average person have a good standard of living - or that you think that they are not stopping crime or you think that they don't do anything effective to help the homeless or unemployed. What ever it is that you don't like about it, just jot this down.

Another example might be that you don't like the way that other people treat you. OK - so what is it about the way that others treat you that you don't like?

Or maybe you get upset by the fact that your work environment is not as good as it could be, or your relationship with your parents could be better, or the way the planet is being polluted worries you.

Whatever you can think of that makes you unhappy, just write it down - be as specific as you can and don't worry if it doesn't seem to 'make sense' - put it on your list anyway.

NOW: Once you've completed the list take each point and ask yourself this question; 'What is the OPPOSITE to this - if this point makes me unhappy then by turning it around and looking at it from the other side what would be the opposite of that - because it is THAT opposite that would actually contribute to your happiness - do you see?

For example - you don't like the way your colleagues treat you at work - this makes you unhappy. You've noted down that the thing you really don't like is the way they speak to you and treat you as though you are less important than they are.

OK - so let's turn that around. IF your colleagues spoke to you with common courtesy and treated you with respect and listened to your opinion and in doing so make you feel that you were important to them, wouldn't that make you happier about your work colleagues?

Or - if one of the things you wrote down that makes you unhappy is that you don't like 'lazy people' or people who tell lies, or the fact that there is poverty in the world - then just note down the opposites of those things, or the concept that these represent.

By doing this you are starting to answer your own questions about what happiness is. Because it goes without saying that if you don't know the answer to this question - 'What makes me happy' then how on earth can you ever expect to achieve it??!

Knowing WHAT you are trying to achieve is the FIRST step to getting there - right?

Feel free to send any comments or thoughts on this as I'm really interested in hearing back on what you discover doing this experiment!

2006 Sarah Lake
slake@merlago.com 

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