Imagine living in the home of your dreams, surrounded by the people you love. A little cottage deep in the woods, by the river perhaps; you wake up to the gentle sounds of the river rolling by every morning. Imagine a life where things are moving just the way you like it. As you push away the bedcovers, you listen to the melodious harmony of birds chirping. A delightful stream of light enters through the door. You hear a familiar voice calling you to come over for breakfast.
What a dream! For many, the above is no more than a picture perfect image they can only Google or download online. Who would have the means to own such a house? And even if you do have it, you would be awfully lucky to have someone who wants to share their life with you. What a stark contrast to the realities of life, I hear you say. If only everything I ever dreamed of were to become reality, I would be the happiest person in the world. If only.
Here are some things that might surprise you: To begin with, happiness is a state of mind. Life satisfaction is a quest each and every one of us search for every single day, but too many people miss the mark. They don’t hunt at the right place.
The happiest people don’t have the best of everything. They just make the best of what they have. They know they can’t control the outside world. The only thing they can control is their own thoughts, feelings, and actions. An example: If you must walk a mile to school since your parents can’t afford to pay for the bus fee or send you themselves, it’s your choice either to complain and sulk as you trudge to and from school, or to enjoy the sights and smells, the sun, or the tiny droplets of rain that greet you along the way.
The happiest people don’t look up and compare themselves with people who have more. Instead, they look down and compare themselves with those who have less. As a result, their hearts are not filled with envy and jealousy, having sleepless nights wondering how they could be as wealthy as their nextdoor neighbour. Rather, their hearts are filled with gratitude with whatever goodness Allah has given them. They spend their time reaching out to those who are in need, which instantly gives them a boost in terms of life satisfaction and happiness.
What if you seem to have everything, but still feel unhappy? If you are the kind of person who can’t seem to find happiness no matter what you do, perhaps a good look inside will do the trick. Happiness doesn’t come from things you own. People around you only contribute to a certain level. The rest is up to you.
Read about people who have almost nothing, yet are totally fulfilled with what they do. Let me introduce you to Mr Abdul Sattar Edhi of Pakistan, whose life mission is to “serve humanity without discrimination”. Growing up, his parents told him to “start something that serves the public, even in extreme hardship”. Edhi started his mission by looking for dead bodies of destitutes and burying them, in an attempt to give them a proper burial. Today, Edhi Foundation, a non-profit organisation, runs a large network, focused on assisting unwanted children, abused women, the sick and abandoned elderly, the poor. Edhi is reported to have said, “People have become educated but have not become human.” What an observation. It goes to show that kindness to others is a huge door to happiness.
Man’s desires know no limits and bounds. A famished man dreams of a hot meal a day. A homeless woman wishes for a rustic cottage by the river. A struggling student dreams of acing the exams. Once you get what you wanted, the satisfaction and happiness you derive from them drops. The happiest person is not the richest or the prettiest. That’s a fact. Unless you are aware of your desires and rein them in, instead of letting your desires get the better of you in the name of “happiness” and life satisfaction.
Granted, going through issues in life – a divorce, death of a loved one, financial problems, medical problems and what not can be especially difficult to say the least. These are real problems that need to be acknowledged and attended to. For certain personal losses, only time will heal. Allow yourself to grieve, keep in mind that nothing we have is truly ours. When the time comes, it will all be taken away by the Creator. Once you accept this reality, your attachment to wealth, children, status, or spouse will gradually disappear. Peace and tranquility will descend and settle in your heart, lifting you up in a way like never before. Remember, as a wise person said, “For every minute you are unhappy, you lose sixty seconds of joy and happiness.”
This article was published in page 14 of the October 2015 edition of Alwasat, a bilingual Australian newspaper based in Melbourne. Read it online at http://issuu.com/alwasat2011/docs/october_2015