It's ironic that during August, Happiness Happens month, Robin Williams, one of our most poignant and memorable American comedians has committed suicide. On my Facebook page each day this month, I'm sharing suggestion on how to instill happiness in each day of your life. To many, this might seem cosmetic, but happiness is something that not only must be nurtured every day, but is felt at our core.
As Aristotle said: "Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence." The opposite extreme is depression, like that felt by Williams when making the decision to take his life.
My first experience with suicide was my grandmother's, when I was 10 years old. I found her lying peacefully in her bed with an empty bottle of sleeping pills on her bedside table. I was too young to understand the possible ramifications of depression and dealing with the demons of one's childhood. But now, as a sexagenarian, I get it. I understand how, through illness and pain, that someone can become so sad they find no reason to go on. It's important to remember as well that addictions are only the symptom of the problem, not the cause. People reach for drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, and other dependencies as a way to treat their deep sadness, not the other way around.
The Dalai Lama wrote a wonderful book called, The Art of Happiness. In it, he makes clear that essentially, it's the quest for happiness inspires us to awaken in the morning. Wars happen because everyone wants what they want, and believe that getting it will make them happy. Fights happen for the same reason. I cannot help but believe that if we all did our part in our own little world then, happiness would spread in the same way that a contagion might spread through a culture. On that basis, The Dalai Lama offered the following tidbits of information as key to happiness: ask yourself if you need something; think about the fact that our enemies can be our teachers, and compassion brings peace of mind. In the end, we learn that like meditation and yoga, the art of happiness is attained through regular practice. It's work. It's a daily effort to seek what brings you joy.
Maybe at some point, people like Williams give up the fight because they do not have the energy to fight any more, but it is the fight and quest of those who refuse to give up which inspire and fire our own lives. So, when someone tells me they are unhappy, the first thing I tell them is to interconnect, get out in the world; do something for someone else, get out of yourself and surround yourself with positive people who make you feel good. This will make a big difference.