THE BLOG

What Makes Us Happy?

25/12/2013 10:42 GMT | Updated 23/02/2014 10:59 GMT

A child lies solitary and silent on a grubby cart in Kabul. His tender feet and hands are caked in the same elements that freckle his baby face, soil his faux-regal clothes and bequeath the terrain around his fragile frame a strange equality of injustice. He is an Afghan child laborer working at a brick factory, exhausted of all puerile vitality on June 12, the date many countries celebrate as World Day Against Child Labor.

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The central Philippines city of Tacloban - the municipality bludgeoned flat and wild with a terrible redundancy in the wake of Supertyphoon Haiyan. Amidst the debris and desolation, conjectural winds flail the frayed wires of massacred palm trees as sanguine survivors recover fragments of their homes, possessions and memories.

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I continued browsing through the jarring realities of today via some of 2013's most powerful photographs as compiled by the Wall Street Journal to look back on the year that was.

Images of real tragedy captured raw and riotous in single stills evoking in me only empathy of disproportionate proportions. How could I even begin to understand the true extent of such unspeakable adversities from the pristine display of my MacBook Pro? Could I even handle it?

And to think that just moments ago I was stressing over school, work, friends and life! So much of humanity gets by with so much less - billions of people live without basic sanitation or the right to civil liberties, let alone have an Oxbridge education or access to the Internet whereon we tread miraculous - and yet here I was, complaining about comforts that elude but the lucky.

I began to wonder what it would take to make me happy; what indeed governs something as sacred as one's happiness in this world that is so clearly broken?

Sitting there alone in the marbled coagulation of my thoughts, I eventually realized 3 things:

1. Happiness is NOT the result of abundance - not of money, not of possessions, not of fame or even love.

Because no matter how much we have of what we think we need, we will always ask for more. We are inherently greedy and selfish. We forget our blessings and become desensitized to our successes too quickly and too easily that we will never have enough to be happy. Therefore, to pursue a means to happiness is to feed an insatiable hunger, which is why we are a species only impoverished by wealth.

2. The pursuit of happiness is a LIE. Because it isn't so much a pursuit but a discovery, for true happiness can only be found from within one's self. In case you are still unfamiliar with the happiness equation,

Happiness = Reality - Expectations

If your reality exceeds your expectations, you will have positive happiness. If it doesn't, you will have negative happiness.

We all have control of both components in the happiness equation. In fact, we have COMPLETE control of the second component, our expectations. If we were to just adjust our expectations accordingly, we could be happy for the rest of our lives.

3. Happiness proliferates through selflessness. Happiness is one of the few things that cannot be hoarded for it has to be shared to grow or it risks dwindling away. It is also one of the few things that when shared, is multiplied, not divided because it feeds off itself much like love.

So one of the best ways to be happy is to make other people happy, to do good onto one another, to be kind to one another.

Because as evidenced by NASA's wide-angle image of Saturn's ethereal rings (also featured in WSJ's 2013 photo compilation), Earth is but a pale blue dot in a black expanse of multiple infinities. We are insignificant and our problems, even more so.

So, be happy because you can be, there is no reason not to be, and it is the only thing that really matters in this inconsequential work of fiction that we call life.