What does happiness mean to you, and most importantly are you feeling happy right now? The fascinating thing is that your answer to this question might easily reveal what country or region of the world you’re from. There’s a night and day difference between the Western conception and the Eastern understanding of happiness.
While Buddhism and Hinduism promote the idea of true, long-lasting happiness, many Westerners perceive happiness as a momentary, transient feeling. They think that the intensity and duration of their happiness is dictated by circumstances outside their control. For instance, a typical Westerner might experience happiness when they win a lottery, graduate from university, or meet their childhood idol.
But happiness is much bigger and can’t be confined to such fleeting occurrences. True happiness is deep and profound, and involves cultivating a healthy state of mind unhinged from past memories and future concerns. Essentially, it’s about focusing on the here and the now — on the present. That’s why the key to living a happy and fulfilling life is letting go of all the mental baggage and being at peace with the present.
The Buddhist thought resonates with this perception of happiness and advocates the idea that an individual can attain a state of continual, deep and holistic well-being — denoted with the Sanskrit word sukha — when they are freed of all negative emotions.
Real happiness isn’t ephemeral; it’s a long-term mental state that we all need to consciously work toward. Studies have shown that a quarter of our potential for happiness is dictated by our genetic makeup. That means 75 percent is in our control! So, we do have a significant power over the extent to which we experience happiness in our day to day life.
Our level of happiness, at the end of the day, relies heavily on our interpretation of the world around us. We can’t change people, things and events, but we can definitely change how we interpret them to live a more peaceful and joyous life. In other words, the way we think, act and perceive the world has a big influence on our mental and emotional well-being.
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