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The happiness myth

columns Updated: Jun 04, 2013 00:43 IST

Happiness can be best called a myth since we can’t agree on its definition. But one thing is for sure, Happiness is not the absence of sadness.

Sonja Lyubomirsky, a Russian psychologist, had come out with a wonderful book in 2007, titled, ‘The How of Happiness’, mentioning ways to remain happy in all conditions. And now another book from her as a follow-up, titled, ‘The Myths of Happiness’, gives one greater insight into one’s understanding of life and its various vicissitudes of smiles and tears.

Known as the ‘Queen of Happiness’, the psychology professor at the University of California, addresses questions like, ‘How does it (happiness) work?’ and ‘How is it possible to be happy when one is in a state of sadness ?’ After her graduation, she spent almost a decade trying to watch, define and analyse what happy and unhappy people were all about.

She says that in order to be happy one must always be involved a hundred per cent in doing something constructive and positive. What matters is the effort you put in; if success comes in, it will be an added bonus.

Once Sonja was driving back home; and one among the chain of thoughts was this: “Oh, I should do something nice for my husband this week”. And that made her very happy. There is great happiness in giving.

Not that ‘receiving’ does not make one happy. If you are a million-dollar lottery winner, you are receiving and happy. But ‘giving’ is a greater ‘instrument of peace’ that is remembered forever. But happiness is a myth, and means different things to different people. Abraham Lincoln had said this, “People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.” And Gandhi put it in a simpler way, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony with the welfare of the rest of the society.”