No one want to be unhappy, well of course, some people want but just for a short time. Sadness is vital to happiness as it creates contrast.The World Health Organization predicted that in a few years, depression will be a great problem worldwide and can extend to the increase of mortality rate. The culprit here is depression; intense sadness.
Common sense dictates that the enemy is someone opposite of him: goodness is the enemy of evil and vice versa. Meanwhile, Sadness’ enemy is of course Happiness!
So we have a solution to the imposing global problem of widespread unhappiness. Unfortunately, happiness is not a pill that can be taken orally with the effect felt immediately. It is also not a book that can be read and understood. Happiness is an emotion and emotion has no definite meaning. We can say we are happy, very happy, a little happy but unlike the English lexicon where everything has a word, happiness is felt and is very hard to define.
This leaves us to this question: Can Happiness be Learned?
Journalist Henry Anatole Grunwald once said that
“Everything can be learned, including, to a very large extent, to be what you are not…”
He has a point there. Through years of rote memorization, analytical thinking, and curiosity, who would have thought that we are formerly cave dwellers who survive by eating anything that moves and breathe? Amazing how we discovered fire, built buildings, learned how to fish and now, trying to be immortals. We learned to be what we are today and it is very far from where we began.
Buddhists believe that everything is controlled by the mind. The mind has the power to change ourselves immediately and that when we train our minds properly, we can be happier. For them, happiness and sorrow are our own responsibility. From the own words of Buddha:
“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.”
In addition, they believe that negative emotions bother us and causes all our suffering and unhappiness. This includes anger and desire. What they do is to meditate and they are freed from the harmful emotions.
The psychologists agree. They discovered that by meditating – a practice of Buddhist monks in attaining a state where they are not distracted by things around them, emotions or thoughts – is beneficial to the body as it reduces stress, depression, insomnia and even physical pains.
All one needs to learn happiness is by learning to control our emotions; avoiding negative thoughts which causes the problem, hence the culprit. Fears, anger, and depression can be controlled just by learning saying no to them.
Unfortunately, learning happiness is not an easy road. As with all learnings, one needs to understand themselves to locate the problem. This may take quite a while. Research shows that it takes 21 days to hardwire our brains to the new attitude and up to 63 days to eventually solidify it.
But it is not necessarily hard for us to be happy. Dalai Lama says that in order to be a happy person, one must be good to others. There’s is no need to practice Buddhism to do this, all we need to do it to make a habit of kindness to others, spreading love, respect and a sense of gratitude.
So, can happiness be learned? Yes. After all, Harvard University’s most attended course is about Happiness.
Let me leave you with words from Robert Louis Stevenson, a neo-romanticist writer:
“…Ultimately, genuine happiness can only be realized once we commit to making it a personal priority in our lives. This may be new behavior for some of us and a bit intimidating. Be gentle with yourself. It will all unfold. Today you may not be familiar with the happiness habit. But like any new behavior, happiness can be learned.”
Have fun being happy!