In Pursuit of Happiness
Caught in the tentacles of ‘all-pervasive connectivity,’ human lives have become a tangled mess. But there are ways to transcend all such trappings and find genuine bliss, say happiness experts.By Renjith Leen
Tucked away in the bosom of the mighty Himalayas lies a tiny enclave of peace and happiness. Yes, you guessed right. It is Bhutan. Though dubbed the Land of the Thunder Dragon, this tiny nation boasts no martial qualities. On the contrary, it is a little slice of the mythical Shangri-La, having one the most peace-loving and cheerful folks on the planet. Little wonder it surpasses many a mighty nation to rank high in the global happiness index.
There have been studies galore about what makes Bhutan a nation of bubbly, cheerful people. Studies say this country is still pretty much unaffected by the mad craze for technology and gizmos and the all-pervasive connectivity. At a time when connectivity is the buzzword elsewhere, the Bhutan phenomenon drives home an important point.
With the ever-growing wireless connectivity dominating lives and linking it with practically everything—from homes and cars to gadgets and health devices—the quest to stay connected is growing exponentially, but at a cost. Experts say it is robbing one of genuine happiness and the sense of fulfillment, giving hypertension and depression a free run. This can have disastrous consequences.
But then don’t people experience ‘happiness’ when they have achievements, receive gifts, buy a new house or swanky vehicle, go on vacation and connect with friends and family? Many tend to equate that fleeting sense of euphoria with genuine bliss. On the other hand, world-renowned happiness evangelists like Gretchen Rubin thinks otherwise. In an interview to CNN some time ago, the author of the best seller The Happiness Project said, one can only realize true and lasting happiness by “building a blissful life on the foundation of one’s own nature. You have to know what makes you happy.” Of course, you needn’t sell your Ferrari for that. All you need is to look within and identify your true self.
“IF YOU’RE TRYING TO CHANGE A HABIT, LIKE YOU’RE TRYING TO EXERCISE MORE, IT’S REALLY HELPFUL TO KNOW ONE’S TENDENCIES. BECAUSE THEN YOU KNOW WHAT BUTTON TO PUSH.”
In other words, this means taking the eudaimonic approach towards life rather than the hedonistic one, focusing on authentic living for the greater good. Says life coach and happiness guru Dr Saloni Singh: “Once we start realising our ‘inner self’ needs to find harmony with others as well as life, it is the beginning of true happiness. We should stop chasing happiness outside and start cultivating it within. It is ‘you’ who brings happiness and joy into things, not the other way round.”
But then, the million-dollar question is how can one attain genuine happiness? One of the most profound observers of human nature, Rubin advocates a ‘revolutionary formula’, which says one should ‘feel good, feel bad and feel right in an atmosphere of growth’. “To feel happy, it’s not enough to have fun with your friends, and not feel guilty about yelling all the time, and feel like you’re working in the right job; you also need to feel growth—a sense of learning, of betterment, of advancement, of contributing to the growth of others,” she says.
Named one of the ‘22 brilliant thinkers one should follow on Twitter’ and one of the ‘100 most influential people in health and fitness’ by Business Insider, Gretchen waxes eloquent on the ‘Four Tendencies’ framework to help each person develop habitforming strategies to transcend clutter and escape the siren song of ‘connectivity’ to find happiness in everyday life-be it at home or the workplace.
The ‘Four Tendencies’ are loosely based on how one reacts to outer as well as inner expectations.
With the ever-growing wireless connectivity dominating lives and linking it with practically everything—from homes and cars to gadgets and health devices—the quest to stay connected is growing exponentially, but at a cost.
Upholders: They never allow let themselves or anyone else down and they meet inner and outer expectations. They form habits with relative ease, compared to others.
Questioners: People in this category meet only inner expectations, questioning everything. They would like to do something only if it makes sense, knocking out everything that is arbitrary. In the words of Gretchen, questioners “resist rules for rules’ sake”.
Obligers: They meet outer expectations more than inner ones. They tend to stick to things that need external accountability.
Rebels: They fight against inner and outer expectations, prioritising self-determination.
According to Gretchen, most individuals fall into the ‘obliger’ category. She says once an individual figures out which tendency best describes him, the correct habit-forming strategies can be chalked out to bring positive transformation. Once you’ve figured out which tendency best describes you, you can pinpoint habit-forming strategies that will work for you. “If you’re trying to change a habit, like you’re trying to exercise more, it’s really helpful to know their tendencies. Because then you know what button to push,” she says.