This article was submitted by Zita Torok, a Masters of Professional Economics student.
If we were asked the million-dollar question – ‘What makes us happy?’ – off the top of our heads, we would very likely come up with the most obvious and superficial answer, ‘winning the lottery’ (especially when burdened by the responsibilities of paying for bills, debts and mortgages). Certainly, this would enable us to buy the luxurious beach-front house, the V8 Supercar, or we could finally travel to a dream holiday destination. And why not pick the Seychelles islands?
It all sounds great, doesn’t it? Especially in this high-tech world, where every moment of our life is documented on social media. Most of us want to post the perfect family shots on Facebook, or secretly desire to be followed by millions on Instagram (disregarding the fake ones), or tweet stories painting the perfect picture of us having fun and being happy – which, most of the time, could be described in dollar terms.
But can we discover happiness in pure materialism? If fellow soul-seekers start digging deeper, the answer can be found very easily. We are not purely physical but also spiritual creatures – the joy caused by financial advantage can make us forget about our problems for a short while, and temporarily place us in a state of euphoria, but would not resolve our relationship issues, family matters, health problems and disturbances in our social relationship networks.
Is this what happiness looks like?
Healthy social relationships are essential to our mental wellbeing, since humans are social beings. Our batteries are recharged by laughing together, by caring for one another, by friendly conversations, and so on. Some people might not have these strong attachments. For instance, I love my children more than anything in the whole wide world, but can they really fill my emotional cup to the top? If we were to express it as an equation, the final figure might not be a positive one, because kids tend to drain our energy with the occasional emotional top-up. A mum would die for those beautiful moments in life when they give you a hug or make you laugh.
Recalling our past (apart from blissful moments), most of us battled through bad times that may not be that easy to let go off, embarking us on the road to depression. Other times, we are worried about the outcome of certain actions, future events causing anxiety in our mind. To avoid these common mental health problems, we need to find our inner peace.
Now, I could list all the wellness clichés – ‘enjoy the moment’, ‘find self-awareness’, ‘find your bliss’, not to mention mindfulness, relaxation and serenity. But being present by letting go of worries and unpleasant memories is not as simple as it sounds. In the pursuit of true happiness, we need to gain self-awareness – we need to establish a connection with our inner spirit by acceptance, forgiveness, and avoidance of self-judgement.
When we engage in hobbies and activities we truly enjoy, we can easily experience an exhilarated state of mind. So, at the end of the day it all comes down to the question: what do you love to do in your spare time? Thrill seekers might enjoy bungee jumping, rock climbing, paragliding or abseiling. None of these are for me – I’d probably get a free laugh-out-loud session (yes, it is a form of psychological therapy!) rather than an adrenaline rush.
Yeah. Not for everyone.
One criterion for achieving happiness is guilt. Whatever you enjoy doing should not give you a feeling of guilt afterwards. For instance, retail therapy on a Sunday afternoon sounds perfect, until I witness my bank balance. Or indulging in a piece of delicious chocolate cake in the Lindt Café is very inviting, but just the mere thought of doing that piles two kilos on me.
I am more of a lone soul, feeling blissful while trekking in the bush on a bright and sunny day, or going trail running (although 5kph might not fit into the running category). Or a nice coffee, while reading an interesting book in my favourite psychological thriller genre.
Some others might be into painting, drawing or writing, which I am practicing here right now. Please feel free to suggest any other activities you think I should try while working on my writing skills. But please don’t be too harsh on me, as my self-confidence has yet to grow. A couple of hints though (this is on the funny side): please don’t recommend singing, because it might turn out to be a very lonely activity for me. I am okay with dancing (as long as it is not the Vienna Waltz) and I am best at producing art pieces for the rubbish bin.
Hopefully I made you giggle, giving you a cheerful moment along with my thoughts about soul-searching for those blissful moments when anxiety creeps into our hearts. Citing the words of our ex-PM Robert Hawke, “The things which are most important don’t always scream the loudest.” We should always remember to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. It is not materialistic wealth that makes us happy, but those small moments in life that offer peace to our soul.
This might only be a quiet minute sipping herbal tea from our favourite cup, listening to the birds singing outside and taking a few deep breaths. Or it might be a mindful walk, or doing yoga practice at home before bed, or just spending quality time with our loved ones.
Happy soul-searching to your true happiness,
There we go. Much better.