We live in a world that is progressing at such a fast pace that sometime we wonder if we can catch up. But yet, when it comes to understanding ourselves and our surroundings, we seem to be trapped in the shallow. This functioning from the shallow can create a sense that something is missing, an inner hole, a certain longing. Since we are all innately designed to reach our fullest and deepest parts of being, staying in the shallow would not be fulfilling. We search and search for filling up that empty spot inside but it does not seem to work, or it may work for a short time but the sensation of emptiness resurfaces. We search for happiness but sometimes wonder if we know what it means.
Mental health disorders are on the rise, there are global conflicts and environmental problems, terrorism and the fear of it, and economic instability -- all of which seem to be affecting every one of us in some way or form, whether we are conscious of it or not. So we ask ourselves, why is it that technologically we are advancing yet emotionally we still don't have a set point of well-being and peace? What is the point of advancing if we can't learn to make peace within and without and to better the quality of our lives?
There seems to be an epidemic disparity with what it means to be happy. There is no one way to define this state of being we are all craving to reach. It's as if it depends on what level of Maslow's hierarchy of self-growth one is at. Then the definition of happiness also expands and deepens as we move up and grow.
For some people, the definition of happiness seems to be avoiding pain at all costs. The problem with defining happiness as avoiding pain and nothing more is that there is no real effort to achieve more than this state (of not feeling pain). It can create repression and decrease motivation for progress and feeling fulfilled with life.
On the other side of the spectrum is when we define happiness as a state of being with no boundaries in which it seems to have no end and is valued mostly based on external factors, rather than an internal state of being. It is measured quantitatively rather than qualitatively, and that can create confusion and a never-ending chase of a vague concept. External factors can become overwhelming for an undisciplined mind and the chaos they create can make one lose motivation for self-growth. People may end of feeling exhausted chasing happiness.
The imbalance of defining this seemingly simple emotion we call happiness is felt deeply by most of us and we wonder, being so advanced, why can't we figure out something so seemingly simple. Then we start to question if we need to redefine happiness and make it a personal matter.
We have to learn that for every gain there is usually some type of pain -- the old saying that what comes in must go out. When it comes to happiness, it seems like the more emotionally mature humans identify it as a sense of inner stability, contentment and ability to feel joy from even the simplest things in life. Such individuals are continuously making progress and have productive lives while feeling content with where they are. This definition does not have as much to do with what they have outside of themselves as what they hold within, even though somehow individuals who are content seem to achieve more in life.
An individual who learns to be comfortable at each stage of her life, while making reasonable effort to move forward and be as productive as she can, is the one who has mastered the art of being happy. Each stage of self-growth offers its own unique definition of happiness which is mostly exclusive to the individual's state of being. The worse thing we can do to ourselves is to design our happiness based on other people's lives and perceptions since not only does the grass look greener from outside, but also one's happiness may be another's sorrow.
At the end, the more evolved definition of happiness is not attached to anything specific but is open to life as a whole -- it is not an imitation of what others consider happiness, but is personal and creates an inner sense of stability. In order to define what makes us happy we need to learn who we are, what our needs are, what we desire in life, what makes us grow, and what strengths and limitations we have.
In addition, it comes with awareness of oneself and one's surroundings, the roles she plays in life and the passions she chases. At its peak, happiness brings about a sense of inner liberation and peace in which the individual is connected to all that life offers, but is not anxiously attached to anything or to the outcomes. The individual feels more joy of gain than pain of loss, tries to change what does not work for her and accepts what she can't change, and finds a thirst for knowledge and learning about herself and her surrounding on a continuous base. This learning helps expand our definition of happiness. On the other side, the more we feel happy the easier we can learn; so the two complement each other.