I'm going to go out on a limb here and claim it's not about happiness, people. There has been a lot of talk about happy this and happy that. Getting to happy is assuming it is some end goal in itself. The truth is happiness is fluid. It is a byproduct of something entirely different, which every human being needs. That is, we all crave a sense of purpose. When our lives feel senseless, we are left unfulfilled and, yes, unhappy.
The word ‘happiness' is a short cut for a much longer explanation of what we truly mean. My guess is we are really looking for overall satisfaction, a sense of well-being and a purpose for our lives. The founding fathers tapped into happiness as an inalienable right. They penned the world-famous ‘pursuit of happiness' into the Declaration of Independence. Now happiness was a founding notion, like later the right to vote or bear arms.
According to Pursuit-of-Happiness.org, our study of so-called happiness can be dated back to the days of Confucius and Aristotle. They delved into the meaning of social connection and our life's journey. Not much has changed in 2500 years!
Today we use technology to remain connected with loved ones. Our transient society leaves us often uprooted from our origins so we rely on the Internet and wireless communication to stay in touch. It gives us a false sense of connection, really. What people share on Facebook is not necessarily a reflection of their real lives; it is that which they choose to reveal. Body language and tone are completely lost. Having information is not the same as having knowledge.
In response to Deepak Chopra's recent Huffington Post entry "Why is Happiness So Unhappy?", I would argue that positive psychology has indeed led us down a path of great inquiry into what is right about the human condition.
Deepak bemoans the current state of consumerism and pill-popping as a treacherous path to happiness. "[C]onsumerism, although it provides little fixes of pleasure, is one of the worse ways to achieve lasting happiness. "
Positive psychology is, if you'll pardon the pun, a positive step forward, looking at what we are doing right and building on that versus just trying to solve 'the problem' or mental illness. As the father of positive psychology, Martin Seligman has done admirable work in the field of the human psyche. The issue I see with 'happiness research' is that we are somehow tempted to look outside ourselves for sources of joy. In my own work I encourage people to find 'flow' as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi terms it. That utter state of timelessness uplifts our souls as we nurture that which is good about ourselves.
Is it not oh-so-human to wish for the quick fix? (Or perhaps it is distinctly Western in thinking). I agree we need a path to wisdom, relying on our inner knowing. We are all born with an intrinsic voice. It is a most joyful experience to lend it its song.
As Gretchin Rubin, Deepak Chopra, and others will tell you, happiness comes from within. How we view our surroundings is a reflection of our inner being. The first step towards happiness, if we can call it that, is to recognize we all have the power to change. Transformation requires time, but as you all know, time, unlike happiness itself, is the one thing we all have.