Self-Transformation Series:
Issue No. 1

On Happiness and Unhappiness

I. Why Important

Problem of happiness and unhappiness is one that concerns us all. Many people are not aware that there are time-tested guidelines that can lead to happier and more fulfilled lives. Many wise persons have studied this problem for thousands of years. We can learn much from their insights.

  1. Whether one is happy or not does not depend on external circumstances. It depends on one's attitude. Many famous people have suffered very unfortunate external circumstances who showed that they can lead happy and fulfilled lives. E.g. Bernadette of Lourdes, with painful bone cancer; Helen Keller who was blind, deaf, and mute. Many poor people who are happy, while many rich people are unhappy; many celebrities have committed suicide despite their "success." Again these show that happiness does not depend on external achievement. Be aware of your moods and the times when you feelings are heavy, either when you are experiencing fear, anger, resentment, jealousy, etc. These are the times when you feel unhappy. Master your moods, rather than be their slave. Feeling heavy is often due to habitual behavior. Awareness of them is a first step to dealing with it.

  2. Learn to relax and take care of your health. Stress and tension are the common sources of daily unhappiness and heaviness. Learn how to relax, such as by breathing exercises; or by tensing each muscle and then relaxing it. Ill health can often be the cause of unhappiness, including fatigue. A sound mind in a sound body, is a short but full description of a happy state in this world. - John Locke. Do regular aerobic exercise -- research shows that it reduces anxiety. Maintain a balanced life, a balanced diet, and sufficient rest.

  3. Be positive and optimistic. Let your thoughts dwell on positive things rather than negative things. Some people habitually think of the misfortune of others -- gossip; or complain about small inconveniences during the day -- traffic, heat, etc. They dwell on the negative and tend to induce their own low level of enthusiasm or fulfillment. (But it does not mean we are blind to the problems around us. We accept them but not habitually dwell on them, unless there is something positive that we can do.) In every thing there is always a bright side and a dark side. It is within your choice whether to appreciate the bright side, or whether to complain about the dark side.

  4. Be more selfless; do not be constantly absorbed about your own self-interest. This is one of the most important secrets of happiness -- forgetting oneself. Unhappiness is always accompanied by egocentricity -- including self-pity, need for attention, expectations, etc.

    Geoffrey Hodson's advice on marital happiness: "Think always of the welfare of your spouse; and never of yourself."

    In every part and corner of our life, to lose oneself is to be gainer, to forget oneself is to be happy. (Robert Louis Stevenson)

    To me there is in happiness an element of self-forgetfulness. You lose yourself in something outside yourself when you are happy; just as when you are desperately miserable you are intensely conscious of yourself, are a solid little lump of ego weighing a ton.-- J.B. Priestley

  5. Awaken love and caring within you. Love creates a state of being in us that makes unhappiness less likely to come. Love is a genuine and unconditional concern for the welfare and happiness of others. Start with your family.

    After you have sought over the wide world, you learn that happiness is to be found only in your own home. - Voltaire

    The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have past at home in the bosom of my family. . . . public employment contributes neither to advantage nor happiness. It is but honorable exile from one's family and affairs. --THOMAS JEFFERSON

    Awaken genuine compassion and concern for every person you encounter every day. There are only two roads that lead to something like human happiness. They are marked by the words: love and achievement. . . In order to be happy oneself it is necessary to make at least one other person happy. . . .The secret of human happiness is not in self-seeking but in self-forgetting. - THEODORE REIK, A Psychologist Looks at Love

  6. Learn to develop compassionate detachment. Attachment is often the cause of our sorrows. It is a form of psychological dependence, an inability to let go.

    I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them. (John Stuart Mill)

    The secret of happiness is renunciation. (Andrew Carnegie)

    Learn to appreciate rather than be attached. You appreciate and enjoy ice cream or sunset, but you won't be unhappy if you don't have them. Learn to transcend daily ups and downs by entering into regular meditative silence.

  7. Help others in their need. You will discover joy in helping others.

    The harvest of happiness is most often reaped by the hands of helpfulness. (Anonymous)

    Only one thing I know. The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve. (Albert Schweitzer)

  8. Devote yourself to some worthy cause or noble pursuit. This is an important key to living a meaningful and fulfilled life -- to devote oneself to a cause one recognizes as greater than oneself.

    Many persons have a wrong idea about what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose. (Helen Keller)

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Copyright 1995. Permission to reprint is granted provided acknowledgment is made to:
Peace Center
Theosophical Society in the Philippines, 1 Iba St., Quezon City, Philippines

"If five percent of the people work for peace, there will be peace."