Have you attended a comedy show where a comedian cracks a really funny joke which gets almost everyone bursting at their seams, except for one person who maintains a less expressionistic face and unfazed? I bet you have, or at least seen it on TV as the camera zoom in on that person while every other member in the audience is alive with laughter. At that moment, we could only take a guess as to such a person’s nonchalance. At best, this person has no sense of humour? Or he or she is encumbered under the weight of ponderous matters? No matter how cogent and sound the reason may be, it does not negate the fact that, here is someone who simply refuses to be happy.
Happiness might seem to many as a natural phenomenon because it is as though anything that makes us feel good, makes us happy. This could be true to some extent. But to be truly happy is voluntary. Just like the person at the comedy show who is cavalier about all the laughter and happiness around him, to be happy is a choice and perhaps an art that needs to be mastered and perfected. Poet and Author Mildred puts it succinctly, “Happiness is a conscious choice, not an automatic response.”
In this regard, happiness, like so many concepts in the world we live by cannot be defined as different things constitute happiness to different people. From the creation of this world, no one has been able to give a formula for happiness. But one thing is for sure though – that being a choice means happiness can only be emitted by us as individuals, thus is relative in definition. Oftentimes, people depend on others to provide happiness, especially in their relationships with others. Being social beings, we draw emotions from the people we fraternize with. And that is why in our emotional state, whether sad or happy usually rubs off on us. But to remain in that state is completely our decision not any other’s.
We have heard so many excuses about partners not making each other happy for which reason their marriage end on rocks. But as an individual, one can’t make one happy if one chooses not to be happy. The French author, Bernard de Fontenelle was right when he declared, “A great obstacle to happiness is to expect too much happiness.” So instead of expecting people to make us happy, perhaps we should be mindful of what makes us genuinely happy. Because outside of oneself, true happiness cannot exist. “Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now. Don’t wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future,” The American broadcaster and writer, Earl Nightingale emphasizes.
As indicated earlier, different things make different people happy and learning to be happy comes from acknowledging that mostly, happiness comes from being there or responsible for other people’s happiness. The feeling of knowing that your actions could cause someone else’s happiness animates and reverberates throughout one’s body for a long time. A Chinese proverb sums it better, “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help someone else.” Gretta Brooker Palmer adds instructively, “Happiness is a by-product of an effort to make someone else happy.”
Being content with oneself is also another way to achieve happiness. But in this world, we are constantly striving to achieve something beyond us making contentment seem a hideous word to so many. The cares and wants of this universe continue to deride us of our propensity to be happy even when conditions dictate so. Contentment is realizing that in the face of these challenges, you have life, you have family, you have friends and there is a higher power that sustains you. And this knowledge, should make you happy.
Of course, we should be mindful of getting material and financial wealth because once we live on this earth, they are necessary. But to hinge our happiness on them is to ignore the things that truly make us human and be content. After all, there is no telling the extent to which these things can guarantee one’s happiness. It’s like having a big bag full of money only to realize that someone has a room full of it. Until you appreciate what it means to be content, you can never be happy until, you also have a room full of money. In this situation, your happiness can never be full.
Learning to be happy is as crucial as any necessity of life and that’s why regardless of what may be troubling us, we should find a reason to be happy even if for a short while. Now imagine you being the individual who refuses to laugh at the comedy show, won’t you feel weird about yourself and to the people around you while they drown your ears with laughter?
By: Samuel Obeng Appah