If you are anything like me then happiness is something that we would all like in our lives. Growing up in my teenage years and twenties I spent a lot of time trying to find things, people, places etc that would make me happy. There are many books available proclaiming to offer ways in which we can find lasting happiness. I would argue that some of popular psychology ideas about happiness are misleading or even inaccurate and can have the reverse effect of leaving you feeling unhappier, because your experience of life does not match the idea of happiness that is being sold to you.
My experience of life has been that happiness is a very ephemeral experience; maybe it lasts a few hours, a day or week, even a month, but at some point it changes and something else emerges: sadness, grief, depression, even joy. Over the years, as my practice of yoga and meditation deepened, I noticed that by being in the world and in relation to life itself, that we will be touched by these interactions – we hear news that touches us, and we feel sad; then, maybe later, a friend makes us laugh and a lightness enters our experience. So the idea of a state of happiness that we can finally arrive at is a very misleading view. Even a figure like the Dali Lama, who we may think is happy all the time, will have times when his life is very difficult and he is sad or moved by grief. Our experience is constantly in flux, changing and moving. Life is by its very nature dynamic. If, instead of chasing the idea of happiness, we look for qualities of a life that has meaning and value, then this may offer a more helpful perspective that can support us through our journey called life.
“There is a there is a recurrent fantasy perhaps, that the purpose of life is to achieve happiness. Who does not long to arrive some distant day at that sunlit meadow where, untroubled, we may rest easy, abide awhile and be happy? Another perspective is the assumption that the goal of life is not happiness but meaning.”
James Hollis Jungian Psychologist