Are you happy? Ask this question and most people would prevaricate and flounder with their answers. I have observed that people don’t hesitate when they are admitting to being satisfied with their job, life, and marriage. They would readily admit to having fun. But happy in the true sense? Well, it could always be better…a guarded look follows the shrug.
Why is it so hard to admit that we are happy?
The definition in Wikipedia says: ‘Happiness is an emotion associated with feelings ranging from contentment and satisfaction to bliss and intense joy.’
To me all the above-mentioned words have different meanings. That happiness is an emotion I agree. But ‘contentment’, ‘bliss’ and ‘intense joy’; all this stand separately for me. I don’t confuse it with happiness. I may feel all this at different stages and varied levels in my life, but this does not define happiness for me. Intense joy is when I see a beloved face. Contentment for me stands for a work done efficiently. I would feel blissful when I watch my garden blooming with newly sprung flowers.
On the other hand, if I had suffered a bad day at the office, was at the receiving end of someone’s misplaced wrath then I would question my emotions of being satisfied, feeling intense joy and of experiencing bliss. Because all these emotions are related to my present mood and the existential circumstances. Obviously, the last thing on my mind would be feeling ‘intense joy’ if I had a spat with someone at the office!
But what exactly stops me from being happy? Does happiness depend on my ever-changing external circumstances? Or is it true what these New Age gurus keep telling us: ‘Happiness is a state of mind. Happiness is something we can teach and train ourselves to feel.’
Perhaps, what they mean is that happiness is construed by not depending on the verifiable circumstances.
Research does show that even if our external circumstances do not fit into the stereotypical frame of happiness such as, having wealth, success, fame; we can still be happy. Wealth or progress does not automatically translate into happiness.
Researchers also argue that most developed countries are not necessarily the happiest. In a global survey of happiness, the USA came down 23rd in the list of countries. Whereas, this is a land of plenty; with their supermarkets full and bursting, their standards of living high, their parks magnificent and their universities excellent, along with unlimited freedom for expression. They lack nothing and are much ahead in progress from almost all the countries in the world, but the happiness quotient here is still not up to the mark.
So many film stars and rock stars have committed suicide at the peak of their careers. If accomplishments, global eminence, and wealth were the criteria of happiness they should have been the happiest people on earth.
Though opinions are always divided, the acquisition of wealth and fame doesn’t seem to pave the way to happiness. Some well-conducted surveys have showed that people are happiest when they are close to their loved ones, have lesser expectations (not to be confused with lack of ambition, but a certain detachment) and are in good health.
Sometime ago I came across someone’s view on happiness on a blogger website (in fact this particular blog gave me the inspiration to write this article on happiness). It said, that happiness is making everybody in your life happy. The article elaborated on various relationship circles of a person’s life. These circles contain family, friends, colleagues, shopkeepers, daily help and various service providers and even strangers we come across in our lives. The key to happiness according to the writer is keeping everyone in those circles happy.
Well, this one way of looking at personal happiness and I don’t contest that. But personally speaking, ‘trying to keep everyone happy’ would be a tall claim for me. I know that I can never keep everyone around me happy, because when I tried to do that I suffered from severe ‘energy leaks’. I felt depleted. Spent. I realised that in my quest and struggle of doing so, I was making myself extremely unhappy!
My friend says, “Happiness is like love. You can feel it but can never define it.” Fair enough.
I also agree that at least one thing is common between love and happiness. Do not chase!
A quote says: ‘Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it the more it eludes you. But if you turn your attention to other things, it comes and softly sits on your shoulder.’ If we chase happiness, trying to find it in money, perfect partner, exceptional career etc. then it becomes an elusive quest. Same doctrine goes for love. You don’t chase love. You just happen to fall in the line, when cupid shoots blindly!
I realised that happiness also changes definition as we grow. When I was 10 years old, riding my new red bicycle gave me incredible happiness. I still remember the exhilarating feeling of utter happiness when I went around and round in the park setting speed goals and achieving it.
The teenage years were more complicated. Happiness was a soft look from my handsome PT teacher (I had a massive crush on him). Happiness was bunked school. A stolen kiss. Finding a love note in my chemistry book.
Why cancelling my cable TV made me happy
That sounds absolutely crazy, right? When people try to make themselves happy, they often don’t think to cut out their cable television because it almost feels like a utility. Along with your electricity, your water, and your telephone is your television and internet. Who can live in this day and age without those necessities?
After a bout of not working for a while, relying on credit cards and weekend loans to see me through the end of the month, I was sure that I needed to save money. I had trimmed my budget, food shopping and going out, but was left scratching my head as to where else savings were to be had. Having exhausted all other avenues and finally having enough of using websites like this one, I phoned the cable company and went crazy. I cancelled my subscription.
But, it’s not that crazy and it actually made me happier. Plus thousands of people are doing this because of all the free video content on the Internet now. Forget the homebrew shows that had their start on the Internet, I mean major broadcasting networks putting the shows on TV for free.
Will it make you happier?
Keep A TV Log
For an entire month, record every show that you watch and how you watched it. Did you watch it live or after you recorded it on your DVR? Did you watch it a day after it broadcast or a week? After a month, you should have a good idea of the shows you watch and how you watch them.
The point of a TV log is to find out how much you are watching TV and whether you can find alternatives elsewhere. Find out how much you’re paying per episode and you might be very surprised. If you’re paying $100 a month for cable and watch four shows that air weekly, you’re watching 16 shows a month and paying $6.25 a piece. Even if you watched 8 shows, that’s 32 shows a month at $3.125 a piece. Do you follow eight shows?
Find Alternatives Online
Most networks put their most popular shows online, either at websites like Hulu.com or their own sites. Fox lets you watch 17 of their shows line, including House, Family Guy, and The Simpsons. ABC has thirty-four shows online. NBC has pretty much every one of their shows online at NBC.com and Hulu (which was created by NBC Universal and News Corp). USA Network has six of their shows online (you can see them through Hulu.com too) and FX Network has five of theirs available (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia!).
The only downside with watching television shows online is that oftentimes the networks will delay when you can watch it. For example, if you’re a fan of House, you can’t see the latest episodes until eight days after they are first broadcast on Fox. If you like Flash Forward, you will only be able to watch the last five episodes on Hulu.
Check each of your shows to see if they are shown online, chances are they will be. As for commercials, they are done faster than it takes you to skip through them on your DVR.
Use Netflix for Previous Season
Want to know why Lost was so popular but can’t watch it now because it’s too far in? Watch it streaming to your computer or TV – you can get the first four seasons instantly. Netflix isn’t free, the cheapest plan that gives you unlimited online viewing is $8.99 a month, but it’s far cheaper than cable television.
After I signed up to Netflix, I was amazed at the number of people who told me that they cancelled their cable TV service and also subscribed to Netflix.
Local News & Sports
The only thing you cannot get online, conveniently and pre-packaged, is your local news and any sports programs. You can watch snippers of Sportscenter at ESPN.com but you can’t watch last night’s game or see the news. For this, you will want to buy an antenna that can capture television signals over the air.
Use AntennaWeb to find out what signals are available in your area and what type of antenna you’ll need to capture it. Then you’ll need to buy an antenna and plug it into your TV to get the local stations (make sure to point it in the direction AntennaWeb advises!). That’s the last issue solved!
Cancelling your cable television may seem scary but think about what you’re be giving up… nothing (as long as you weren’t under contract). If you decide a few months into the experiment that you preferred to spend the money for cable television, you can always sign up and take advantage of new customer offers!
After I got rid of my cable, it is simpler. Happiness is, not having to look for reasons. To, have both sides of the bed.
Sometimes, to just be. Perhaps what they say about lesser expectations is true. The simpler we make our lives the happier we are.
Recently I discovered that happiness is a decision for me. It is a power I give to myself, to choose. If I choose to be happy in the face of all the horrors of existence, who can stop me?
Each morning when I wake up I decide whether to grasp its essence or let it slip by. The decision is all mine.