What is happiness? This is often a question many of us ponder on and can’t seem to wrap our head around it. There are multiple ways of defining happiness but one way of describing it would be; the state of accomplishment that encourages us to gravitate towards higher thinking, ambitions, nonsecular values and most significantly what the true purpose of our existence is. But what corresponds to the meaning of happiness? Being wealthy, healthy, or educated? Many of us believe that these are the things that correlate with happiness but many studies have proven us wrong and shown us otherwise. Some people could be wealthy and have all the money in the world but still, be unsatisfied. In chapter 2 of “The Source of Happiness”, Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler highlight how happiness depends little on the external events and more on the person’s state of mind and how content they are with life. Lama and Cutler use rhetoric to prove this by giving several examples of studies and real-life experiences. In general, happiness is a state of notable well being and it is a very influential emotion. Happiness is a very complex word with specific aspects that heavenly depends on how people understand it. What makes happiness very fascinating is that everyone’s form of happiness is unique. Finally, the last key to know about happiness is that it is a feeling and not something that can easily be found by chasing.
Since external events don’t play much of a significant role in happiness how does the state of our minds do? Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler thoroughly explain this through“The Source of Happiness”, Lama and Cutler give examples of experiences that two of their friends had gone through. One of the friends they mentioned was a woman who was blessed with an unexpected windfall after she quit her nurse job to work at another friend’s business that was just starting. The company got lucky and was bought out by a larger company for a huge sum. All the employees of that small company were taken care of. When Cutler spoke to the woman he asked her how she was enjoying her life now that she is better off financially. She said “it’s great being able to travel and do the things that I have always wanted to do.
But,” she added, “it’s strange; after I got over all the excitement of making all that money, things kinda returned to normal. I mean things are different—I bought a new house and stuff—but overall I don’t think I’m much happier than I was before (Lama & Howard 2002)”. This woman’s financial status has changed and she can do things that she was not able to do in her past but yet her level of happiness seems to remain the same. You would think that since one is presented with opportunities that they did not have before that they would be happier but it appears that it’s not always the case. The other friend he talks about is a man around the same age as the woman who has recently found out he was HIV positive. The man explains his experience by stating “of course, I was devastated at first,” he said. “And it took me almost a year just to come to terms with the fact that I had the virus. But over the past year, things have changed. I seem to get more out of each day than I ever did before, and on a moment-to-moment basis, I feel happier than I ever have. I just seem to appreciate everyday things more, and I’m grateful that so far I haven’t developed any severe AIDS symptoms and I can really enjoy the things I have. And even though I’d rather not be HIV positive, I have to admit that in some ways it has transformed my life … in positive ways …(Lama & Howard 2002)”.
This man has unfortunately been given the worst possible news about the status of his health and it has brought many changes to his life. But instead of this unfortunate event leading to more unhappiness in life, it caused the opposite effect. He did suffer a little because it took some time to come to terms with his current condition but after he got past all of that he was able to see life differently. He began to take a liking to things that he would never once pay attention to and have somehow developed some sort of contentment or even happiness with his new life despite his struggles. These two experiences are similar to what we may go through in our everyday lives like for instance finally getting something that you wanted for so long but now that you finally acquired it, it didn’t make you as happy as you thought it would or when you family suddenly hit hard times in some point in time and through that experience of suffering your outlook on things were forever changed, you learn to appreciate little the things. These examples of what those two people have undergone have pointed out how happiness is based more on the condition of the mindless than by external occurrences. Lama and Cutler also use logos to further their claim by bringing up studies that were conducted. One study conducted was a survey of Illinois state lottery winners and British pool winners.
In this study, they discovered that high feelings of happiness will eventually wear off and winners went back to their normal level of happiness which is considered moment to moment happiness. It shows that events like winning the lottery have some effect on people’s level of happiness but not a very long-lasting effect because people go back to having the same amount of happiness before they won the money. Another study they mention is that people who are struck with catastrophes such as being diagnosed with a long term illnesses typically recover to having their average level of day to day happiness after they have come terms with their situation. This leads people to ponder this; “since we tend to return to our characteristic baseline level of happiness no matter what our external conditions are, what determines this baseline?” Lama and Cutler attempt to address this question by giving possible reasons. One reason he gives is that genetic makeup could play a role in happiness. They also discuss the fact that many psychologists believe there are steps you can take to enhance the feeling or level of happiness you were endowed with by nature. According to “The Source of Happiness,” the reason for this is because “our moment-to-moment happiness is largely determined by our outlook…Whether we are feeling happy or unhappy at any given moment often has very little to do with our absolute conditions but, rather it is a function of how we perceive our situation, how satisfied we are with what we have (Lama & Howard 2002)”. In other words, happiness depends a lot on our perception of life and little on our circumstances. Some people may argue that happiness does not depend on the state of mind because our emotional state is hard to chronically maintain. This may be true that it is hard to but there may be ways in which we can improve our levels of happiness by improving our outlook of life.
Many people have always been chased after the idea of happiness but never really were able to comprehend what happiness is. External sources such as wealth, health, spiritual values may play some of a role in achieving happiness but it is more to it than just that. Many people have the ideology that happiness in life is a life overflowed with success, satisfaction, and pleasure without going through any pain. Many people misunderstand the correlation between happiness and pain. Through pain, many people undergo changes that impact their state of mind in a way that causes them to perceive things differently. This different outlook on life may cause someone to be satisfied or content with one’s life. Your state of mind is essential to unlocking the true meaning of happiness.