TODAY -

A glimpse of happiness

Lungsetmang Hangshing *



Many of us would agree that the whole purpose of life is pursuing happiness. Everyone said the path to happiness was success, so search for that ideal job, that perfect soul mate, that beautiful apartment and many others. But instead of ever feeling fulfilled many felt incomplete and adrift. Empirical Statistics even proved that chasing happiness makes one more unhappy.

Even though life seems objectively better by nearly every conceivable standard, more people feel hopeless, depressed and alone. There is emptiness gnawing away at people, and one doesn't have to be clinically depressed to feel it.

According to research, what predict this despair is not lack of happiness, but it's a lack of something else— a lack of having meaning in life. But this could raise a question what is the difference, between being happy and having meaning in life?

Many psychologists define happiness as a state of comfort and ease, feeling good in the moment. Meaning, though, is deeper. The renowned psychologist Martin Seligman says meaning comes from belonging to and serving something beyond yourself, and form developing the best within you. Though our culture is preoccupied with happiness, but it seems seeking meaning is the more fulling and promising path.

And studies showed that people who have meaning in life, they are more resilient, they are productive, they do better in their work field and are more responsible. So, then how can we each live more meaningfully? This can be achieve, according to Emily Smith, by pursuing what she called the four pillars of meaningful life. And each of us can create lives of meaning by building some or all of these pillars in our lives.

The first is belonging. This comes from being in relationships or association where you are valued for who you are intrinsically and where you valued others as well. But some groups and relationships deliver a cheap form of belonging: you are valued for what you believe, for who you hate, but not for who you are. True belonging springs from love.

It lives in moments among individuals and it's a choice— you can choose to cultivate belonging with other. For example, most of us ignore others even in a small way without realising it. We walk by someone we know and barely we acknowledge them. We check our phones just to avoid someone's. These acts devalued others.

They make them feel invisible and unworthy. But when one lead with love a bond is created that lift each of us up. For many people belonging is the most essential source of meaning, those bonds to family and friends.

Purpose comes second. Finding purpose is not the same thing as finding that job that makes you happy. Purpose is less about what you want than about what you give. For a hospital's employees their purpose is healing the sick people. And for parents their purpose is raising their children.

The key to purpose is using your strengths to serve others. Of course, for many, that happens through work. That's how we contribute and feel needed. But that also means issues like disengagement at work, unemployment, low labour force participation aren't just economic problems, they are existential ones, too.

Without something worthwhile to do, people flounder. This doesn't imply that a purpose have to be sought at work. It gives you something to live for. Purpose is the 'why' that drives one forward. The next —-third element— a rather delocalised object which is beyond oneself but in a different way, is transcendence.

Transcendent's states are those rare moments when you are lifted above the hustle and bustle of daily life, the sense of self fades away and there is a felt of connected to a higher reality. For one, it could come from seeing art or at a religious institutions. Sometimes the actor get so in the zone that they lose all sense of time and place.

These transcendent experiences can change one's life, more toward a healthy life. Storytelling comes the fourth among them. Creating a narrative from the events of your life brings clarity. It help you to understand how you became you. But often we forget that we are the author of our stories and we can change the way the narrative flows.

Life is not a list of events. One can edits, interprets and retells its story, even as facts constrain the individual. For a moment let's turn to Emeka, a young man who had been paralysed playing football. After his injury, Emeka told himself, "My life was great playing football, but now look at me...".

People who says — "My life was good. Now it's ' bad"— tends to be more anxious and depressed. And that was Emeka for a while. But with time he started to weave a different story. His new story was," Before my injury my life was purposeless. I partied a lot and was a pretty selfish guy. But my: injury made me realise, I could be a better man".

That edit to his' story changed Emeka's life. He started mentoring kids and he' discovered what his purpose was: serving others. The psychologist Dan McAdams call this 'a redemptive story' where the bad is redeemed by the good. People leading meaningful lives tend to tell stories about their lives defined by redemption, growth and love.

Some take the help from therapist but it can be done by own too, just by reflecting on life thoughfully, how your defining experiences shape you, what you lose and what you gain. (That's' what Emeka did). Things cannot be changed overnight, it could take a week, a year or even more, and yet it could be painful.

After all we have suffered and we all suffered. But embracing those painful memories can lead to new insights and wisdom to finding that good that sustain you. These pillars formed part of the architecture, and their presence helped us all live more deeply.

Of course, the same principles applies in a strong communities as well- good ones, bad ones, gangs, cults: these are culture of .meaning that use the pillars and give people something to live and to die for. That is exactly why we as a society must offers better alternatives.

We need to build these pillars within our families and our institutions to help become one their best self. But living a meaningful life takes work. It is an ongoing process. As each day goes by, we are constantly creating our lives, adding to our stories. And sometimes we can get off the path.

Happiness comes and goes. But when life is really good and when things are really bad, having meaning gives you something to hold on. In a nutshell, every things has a meaning and so does happiness too has one, without it happiness cease to exist.


* Lungsetmang Hangshing wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on December 28, 2017.


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