“Happiness is a decision, not an event, my mentor often used to say”, recalls Sriram, founder of Amaidhi School of Transformation and guest faculty at IIT Madras. But what really is happiness? Across cultures, the idea of happiness has been well talked about since ancient times. In Greece, happiness is what comes from fulfilling life’s pursuits - Eudaimonia. In India, we have Nirvana, the ultimate freedom from the circle of desire and attainment. At the core of happiness, says Dr Jonathan Haidt in The Happiness Hypothesis, are multiple psychological, social and philosophical ideas that vary from person to person, some of which we’ll explore in the next few minutes.
Joy is our true nature, at both work and at home, while unhappiness is not. Once out of the womb, a child who was born as a blank slate full of joy, finds their needs fixating and stagnating. Over time, we lose the connection we have with the world outside. Pessimistic ideas creep in and we begin to internalise the external noise more than the music within. To get rid of such beliefs and reconnect with our true joy, you should practice being in touch with your emotions and feelings. Start by using less of the neocortex, your rational brain and listen to what the limbic one, the emotional brain, has to say. Soon you’ll find yourself in a happy place without trying to be happy.
One’s limiting beliefs are a big obstacle in the pursuit of happiness. When I initially joined the office, Sriram remembers, I had a shield of arrogance around me. The kind of shield that some of your colleagues might also have and because of that, I was not able to deeply connect with my peers. If you’ve been brought up with the idea that work is tough and tiring, it will affect how you perform in the workplace and disrupt the work-life balance. Such is the power of limiting beliefs that keeps one from growing in life. When I realised this about myself, I decided to reveal my authentic self to build meaningful connections with all those around me. After all, what good are your experiences if you don’t share them with near and dear ones?
We all know about Intelligence Quotient (IQ), but do you know about Happiness Quotient (HQ)? To be happy, you need to know about the latter. While IQ reveals your ability to take up and excel at logical and analytical tasks, HQ, tells how one responds to challenging situations. The experiences we have are neither right nor wrong. Things happen to us and we respond to them. In between the happenings and responding is what lies your ability to make a choice that has the potential to make you live a happy life in the long term. Hence the idea of pursuing long term contentment over short term pleasure. Take the Buddhist outlook on life, the Nirvana approach, to simply experience and not judge. You’ll stay focused on the present and reflect inwards on yourself rather than worry about the world.
Living a happy life can get hard at times. Gretchen Rubin, the best-selling author of The Happiness Project, went on a year-long quest to find happiness in life. She cultivated habits, passions and routines that were in line with her overall health and personal values. Research shows that when we’re in a positive frame of mind, our relationships are deeper, actions incline towards growth and we operate with clearer thoughts. This positive frame of mind is a result of having a healthy diet, proper sleep and adequate exercise.
Such activities might seem small on the outside but habits, when held for months and years, have the potential to change you for the better. If your diet, exercise and sleep are not in check, it is hard to manage stress at work, have difficult conversations with your partner and maintain focus on your long term goals. Now to mention, a person not living in harmony with oneself becomes prone to obesity, anxiety and similar ills of the body and the mind. Take Grethen’s advice on the art of happiness and start building healthy habits from today onwards.
Can actions change your thoughts? They surely can. We know that the mind controls the body. But our physiology also directs our psychology. Dr Amy Cuddy, who has done research on the same, would tell you that it’s strange but true.
There is a reason why people who play sports regularly engage in fist bumps, high fives and chest bumps. If you get people moving, walking, standing, it helps get the physiology right. Eventually, the body primes the mind into action. Add to that physical engagement a regular practice of sharing circles, team-building exercises and day to day chats over lunch and tea and you’ll build deeper connections with those around you. Such small practices help build a work culture based on collaboration and growth. As a result, work-life balance happens and one rekindles their inner joy.
Conclusion: the pursuit of happiness is perpetual
In short, the pursuit of happiness is the sum of how grateful you are, how much compassion you have to offer and how optimistically you approach life. At the workplace, the art of happiness is all about aiming for collective growth and healthy work culture. Because when everyone has a balanced sense of self-esteem, “me” and “we” are in line. At home, the art of happiness is letting go of judgements and building mutually fulfilling relationships. To sum it up, the pursuit of happiness is not a goal in itself, but an everlasting process. Walk on this path to be happy by letting go of limiting beliefs, building healthy habits and being your most authentic self.
Of all the routes you can take to become happier in life and work, the one that begins with acceptance is the trusted one. Did you find this post useful to apply in your own lives? Write to us with your perspectives and experiences at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay tuned for more insights on happiness from the leaders and speakers at the Nudge Talks.