Happiness ! :-)

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Happiness is something that all of us seek. There are various definitions of happiness but deep inside all of us know the moments when we feel truly happy within.

Personally for me “happiness” comes as #1 priority and it ranks even before health and wealth.  Recently I read a quote that I completely resonate with

“Happiness is success, success is happiness “

Dimensions of happiness

We engage in many activities in order to be happy. Below are the activities we engage in to be happy.

Happiness = function of ( P, E, M)

Now let’s look at each of these components.

#1 P stands for Pleasure

There are many activities that give us instant gratification and give happiness, we can call them as pleasure and happiness.  For example

  1. Watching football
  2. Listening to music
  3. Eating our favourite dish

There are many actions we do to be happy. These include habits like smoking, internet surfing etc. Such actions that involve “instant gratification” give happiness.  But the problems is, at the end of the activity we feel like “I want more”. However when we repeat the activity, we notice that the level of happiness comes down drastically and at one point it even stops giving any happiness.

Another issue with activities that gives us instant gratification is they are addictive and at some point the activities become mechanical.

#2 E Stands for Engagement

When you are completely involved in these kind of activities, they also give happiness. The level of happiness is more than the activities involving pleasure.

For example

  1. Playing football than watching football
  2. Playing a musical instrument than listening to music
  3. Preparing a dish for family and friends than eating your favourite dish

In these activities you are completely involved, and there is some sense of accomplishment. You are in a state of “Flow” – It is a state of total absorption in an activity where the individual is so focused that nothing else seems to matter.

Compared to “pleasure” the activities involving “engagement” are longer in duration.

(please refer excellent work done by Mihaly Csikszentmihalay – FLOW)

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The optimal engagement comes when your ability and the challenge is optimal. When the challenge is bigger than your ability to do the activity then you experience some stress/fear whereas when your ability is more than the challenge then you experience boredom.

The problem with “Engagements” is it involves lot of time and requires initial investment. To enjoy playing guitar or violin you should invest your time in learning the instrument, then practice playing the instrument.  You need to have certain level of skill to experience the “FLOW”.

So far we covered pleasure (p) , and engagement (e).   The next aspect of happiness is activities involving meaning.

#3 M stands for meaning

Meaning involves engaging in activities with a purpose – a purpose bigger than self and caring about others. When you are involved in these kind of activities your level of happiness is not only higher but is also long lasting.

Prof. Selgman  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Seligman) authority on positive psychology reportedly conducted this experiment with his students.  One day instead of his regular class he took them to a movie and when they came back he asked them to rate on a scale of 1-5, the level of happiness they felt.  All students rated whatever they felt.

Next week again instead of his regular class he took them to a near by community school where kids from underprivileged background were studying. They spent the afternoon playing with these kids.  Again when they returned to college he asked them to rate on a scale of 1-5, the level of happiness they felt. He collected the data.

After six months towards the end of the semester, he handed over two forms, one was titled “Movie” and the other was “Visit to community school” and he asked the students to rate the current level of happiness with respect to these two events. Many of the students had forgotten that they had gone for a movie but everyone remembered the visit to the school.  The ratings after six months for  “Visit to community school” were much higher than the that for a “Movie”

The activities involving meaning will not only give higher level of happiness but it is also long lasting.

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I can share from my own personal experience.  We run a trust called Kruti( www.mykruti.com ) and couple of years back we did a photography workshop for kids from lower income group families .I still have beautiful memories about it.

Even after so many years, when I see the Kruti videos, I feel very joyful remembering the time spent with kids and their unconditional love, editing the videos, selecting the music and compiling the movie etc.

We can see that when we engage in activities that give us meaning and engagement automatically our level of happiness goes up.

Let’s be happy !