A mother once told her 5-year-old son that happiness was the key to life. When he went to school his teachers asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he wrote down… happy. The teachers told him he did not understand the assignment, he told them that they did not understand life. Happiness is something that we are all looking for in our own particular way. Our idea of what makes us joyful is greatly influenced by the world around us. In a recent study by Harvard University a group of young people were asked about what they felt was their most important life goal. 80% of them explained it was to become rich, and 50% of the same young audience said another important goal was to become famous. We are programmed to think that becoming rich and famous is the formula to become happy. But, interestingly one-fourth of CEO’s suffer from depression. People chase money, hoping for a big house with a comfortable bed. Yet, 30% of people who have it all struggle to sleep at night. People chase fame, not knowing that it cannot appease the empty feeling inside. As a society, we work hard for money to provide for a family, yet the average American family spends only 37 minutes together in a day. We take photos everywhere we go but we do not capture the moment. Today we have fast cars, fast food but we forget to fast-forward to see the direction that life is moving in. What does research say about what makes us happy? A study by Harvard University studied the lives of 724 men over 4 generations for over 75 years and in the last 10 years included their wives as well. The health and happiness of the participants were tracked with a series of questions about their home life, work life and family life. The director of the study concluded that it wasn’t wealth or fame or assets that made people healthier and happier, rather it was good relationships embracing community that actually kept us happier and healthier. The study showed that those who had fulfilling relationships with their friends and family were happier and healthier than those who did not, however much wealth and fame they had. Things are meant to be used and people are meant to be loved, but today the tendency is to love things and use people to get and keep those things. We chase fame, money and recognition often forgetting to balance our time in what really matters; our relationships and our inner fulfilment. You can tell how rich you are by counting the number of things that you have that money cannot buy, and counting the people that are there to help you in a time of need. Just as we invest in our careers, we need to balance our lives to invest in our relationships and in our own inner growth. The more we are self-aware the greater we can connect with those around us. We need to be careful not to take near and dear ones for granted. Remember, appreciation and affection that is not expressed is rarely understood. Happiness of the heart is happiness that is shared.
Published on September 10, 2020 by Radhanath Swami