Many of us have asked ourselves the question, “What is happiness?” When asked in this way, it can be very difficult to find an answer. Where should one start? Trying to define the term can get you lost in endless interpretations.
I suggest rephrasing the question to: “Where is happiness?” Because if you figure out where it is, you just might find it
So where is it? Where is happiness?
Happiness is not in living in nostalgia, in the past, or having expectations of what will happen in the future. The past is gone and cannot be changed or revived, and the future has not happened yet. So, where is happiness? It exists only in the now, in this moment, by letting go of the past and detaching ourselves from the future.
Letting go of the past is relatively easier than detaching from the future. We know the past is dead, but the future still has potential, which makes it very difficult for us to detach from it.
The secret to freeing ourselves from the false hopes of future happiness—thus setting ourselves up to suffer if our hopes do not get realized—is by not expecting. It's okay to project the future, but the moment you go from projecting to expecting (which means that what you project for the future should happen because you expect it), that's where unhappiness is born; what we expect might not be realistic. What we want might be dreaming, might be detached from reality. Also, there is uncertainty. It might never happen. We might get a feeling of failure when what we expected, what we planned, what we wished for, what we wanted, are not realized.
In the present, there are no expectations. There's nothing but reality, and if the reality is accepted, happiness will be in enjoying that reality, enjoying the “what is.” Take a sudden rain shower, for example; you are being rained on and you are getting wet. Do you accept that it's raining and find what you can enjoy about it, as someone once said, “I like people who smile when it is raining."? Or do you curse the sky for bringing the rain when you were not prepared? Even in a Gulag, Solzhenitsyn in his book "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" tells us how happy Ivan was that he still had the one slice of bread still available to eat...
Happiness is in accepting life and whatever life brings us at the moment. It is neither expecting, rejecting, negating, nor hoping. It should be rather, simply accepting reality and enjoying every minute of it and not descending to a feeling of misery. It can happen regardless of how rich or successful you might be. The more ambitious you are, the higher the probability of you being unhappy.
I have a friend. He is happy. Never seen him complain. He finds a way to appreciate each moment, whatever it is. When we go walking, he sees the trees and the flowers and the animals, and he enjoys them all exactly in the moment.
I feel the importance of this message for myself as I'm getting older in age. Periodically, I get depressed that my dreams will not be fulfilled. I brood over the fact that the end is coming close and my expectations for my life will not be realized. What I want to achieve would take another generation to be realized and I have only one life to give.
Shimon Peres, the Israeli statesman, when asked what he wants to be the epitaph on his burial stone said: Died Prematurely.
Accepting our vulnerabilities, accepting our weaknesses, accepting our deficiencies, our perishability, and enjoying whatever life presents to us is where happiness dwells.