Are you really happy, or just distracted?

Happiness requires focus and balance and is never dependent on the energy of others.

We often get distracted in the quest for what makes us really happy. And almost always that distraction comes from our perception of what is giving happiness to others, or in the ephemeral pleasures that we mistake for long-term happiness.

When Sandhya saw a photo of her friend Revathi enjoying a family holiday on the Goa beach, she got carried away and immediately voiced her desire to holiday in Goa. Her husband quietly reminded her that they had just returned from a very satisfying trip in the hills. Yes of course, Sandhya smiled, pulling herself out of the bubble of distracted envy and enjoying the memories of her own trip. In witnessing Revathi’s pleasure, she had momentarily been distracted from her own, and the fact that their family always preferred the hills to the sea for holidays.

Meanwhile, Revathi, busy posting pictures on social media, was obviously mistaking pleasure for happiness. The pleasure she got from watching the ‘Likes’ on her photos increase (no matter how envy-loaded these were) was a small thing compared to the real happiness she would have stocked up on if she focused solely on the happy moments with family. So, her memories now are more dependent on the pictures she took rather than on the pleasure of that ‘inward eye/Which is the bliss of solitude’ (as Wordsworth waxed eloquent).

Distraction detracted from the happiness of both these women.

Ever since technology has enabled us to do so, we feel this insane urge to share our happy moments with others. The minute you see something beautiful, there is the urge to capture it digitally and then get accolades from others on the beautiful experience we were lucky enough to have. When were you actually enjoying the moment? You were only busy recording and sharing it. Did you give yourself even a minute of quiet introspection, a moment in which you just absorbed the beauty? You were dependent on the energy of others for your happiness.

It is difficult to comprehend, but some of our happiest moments are when we are quietly immersed in the moment. When the mind, rather than being distracted, is at rest, and is peaceful. Happy thoughts and memories float across our consciousness and all is well with the world as we maximise our own energy and rejuvenate ourselves.

It is important to distinguish between momentary pleasure and happiness that gives us a happy life. Think of a day that made you happy. Now, will a similar day on all days of your life, make you happy? No, because boredom sets in and the human mind seeks change and revels in tasks that allow us to use our skills, in challenges that we love taking up and meeting – and ultimately, in the satisfaction of knowing that we have used our abilities and our energy to lift our lives and those of the people we are surrounded by.

The ability to push past all instant gratifications that surround us and to disentangle ourselves from constantly pinging electronics is the path to a happier life. Of course we do need short-term pleasures too and these matter just as long-term happiness does. But it is important to be aware of the difference between the two. When you are aware of this, you will understand the frivolity of a life drifting from one pleasure to another or seeking appreciation. Such pleasures are mere distractions.

It is important for us to be engaged in a meaningful pursuit, to feel that we are responsible for positive changes – not all changes need be applauded or celebrated by the world. It is enough to believe that we matter, in whatever small way, to those around and their circumstances. That is a truly meaningful life. And that is the only thing that can give us long-term happiness and fulfillment.

True happiness is a mind that is at ease and peaceful, a heart that sings its own rhythms and a life that seeks its true purpose. Seeking can be as pleasurable and fulfilling as finding sometimes…



Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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