What's the definition of happiness?
What is happiness? In this blog we aim to define the term happiness. We look at quotes on happiness from both ancient and modern, eastern and western philosophers. Based on the essence of these quotes we try to break down the term happiness into different components that can contribute to our experience of happiness. And finally, the link between happiness and yoga is being explored.
Happiness quotes by Osho, Rumi, Eckhart Tolle, Buddha, Socrates, Lao Tzu and more well known philosophers
"That is the simple secret of happiness. Whatever you are doing, don't let past move your mind; don't let future disturb you. Because the past is no more, and the future is not yet. To live in the memories, to live in the imagination, is to live in the non-existential. And when you are living in the non-existential, you are missing that which is existential. Naturally you will be miserable, because you will miss your whole life." - Osho
"Everything in the universe is within you. Ask all from yourself." - Rumi
You will never find happiness outside of yourself, everything is inside of you, you are the controller of your life, if you decide to live happily, you will be, if you choose to live unhappy you will be. Seek for the happiness inside of yourself; no external material can give you that one.
"There is no path to happiness: happiness is the path" - Gautama Buddha
Similar the mantra that the journey is the destination, the Buddha's take on happiness puts the greatest emphasis on people finding fulfillment in the experience of living, rather than arriving. There is no ultimate end goal. For the Buddha, we make our happiness along the way.
"The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less" - Socrates
For Socrates, one of the greatest ancient thinkers, happiness doesn't come from external rewards or accolades. It comes from the private, internal success people bestow upon themselves. By paring down our needs, we can learn to appreciate simpler pleasures.
"The more man meditates upon good thoughts, the better will be his world and the world at large" - Confucius
Confucius' sentiment about happiness has echoed through history in books such as "The Power of Positive Thinking" and recent research in cognitive behavioral therapy, which seeks to help people see the connections between their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. According to a Confucian mindset, happiness is a self-fulfilling prophecy that replicates itself the more we find reasons for its existence.
6. Ekhart Tolle
We can also approach the essence of happiness by looking at the opposite; unhappiness. Ekhart Tolle explains the primary cause of unhappiness in this quote.
"The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it" - Ekhart Tolle
No matter what you have been through, a situation is defined by the meaning you give to it. Some people can survive death and heartbreak without much hassle and others get frustrated at simple things. It's all about perspective and your thoughts about a situation.
7. Rene Descartes
"There is a difference between happiness, the supreme good, and the final end or goal toward which our actions ought to tend. For happiness is not the supreme good, but presupposes it, being the contentment or satisfaction of the mind which results from possessing it." - Rene Descartes
In the quote above Descartes focusses on the calm state of mind that results from the state of being happy.
8. Benthino Massaro
Similary, Benthino Massaro highligts emotions that are related to the state of being happy in his quote below.
"When we feel joy or excitement, it signifies that our belief system is in line with our true being" - Benthino Massaro
9. Paolo Coelo
"Happiness is something that multiplies when it is divided." ― Paulo Coelho
The more we share happiness, the more we experience it. With this quote Paolo Coelho suggests to approach the subject based on the law of attraction; by training ourselves to conciously share happiness we will naturally attract more happiness into our lives.
"The greatest step towards a life of happiness and simplicity is to let go. Trust in the power that is already taking care of you spontaneously without effort." - Mooji
Mooji bring the illusion of control to the table. Instead of putting effort into trying to control things that are often completely out of our control, we can find peace in letting go and surrendering to whatever is.
Breaking down the term happiness
Looking at all of the quotes above, we can deduct a number of components that seem to directly relate to the experience of happiness.
- internal focus
- the present moment
- being your true self
- letting go
Happiness is the state of being; a feeling. Feelings are created by our emotions and our emotions are created by our thoughts.
In fact we can simply (yes, simply!) train our thoughts on all of the components above, to experience more happiness which will have an impact on how our body feels as well. In fact it's very similar to the practise of asanas, where our discipline on mat is always reflected in other areas of our lives. By focussing on our postures we experience a calmer and more content state of mind. This is also where the eight limbs of yoga come in; it's a total mind and body package.
Interested in learning more about training your thoughts? Master in Happiness Maartje Derksen gives away some of her one-liners that serve as great affirmations to train your mind in her blog on happiness (Dutch). Maartje is an expert in the field of positive psychology, mindset training and personal development and shares her knowledge during her Masterclasses in Happiness.
Highlighted: Ishvara Pranidhana
In Sanskrit the term Ishvara Pranidhana (ईश्वर प्रणिधान - pronounced ‘Ish-va-ra-pra-nid-hah-na’) refers to the same principle to Mooji touches in his quote above. It's the very last of the Niyamas of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and there’s a definite reason this Niyama is the very last. Translator of the Sutras, Swami Satchidananda even says that if you’re able to master this Niyama, there is no need to practice any of the others. Isvara Pranidhana is the combination of two root words: Surrender (Pranidhana) and Higher Power/Source/Spirit (Isvara).
Instead of Self or Ego; the focus is on the Spirit. Rather than Clinging or Attachment; the focus is on Surrender. “Isvarapranidhana is a big picture yoga practice. It initiates a sacred shift of perspective that helps us to remember, align with, and receive the grace of being alive.”
If we’ve put a lot of effort into something which is important to us, we often worry about what might happen as a result; “Will they like me?”, “Will this be successful?”…. All this worrying about things we have no control over is a main cause of our ‘dukkha’ or ‘suffering’, which means we’re never fully engaged in the action we’re doing because our minds are already thinking about what might happen after…. The practice of surrendering here requires us to acknowledge that we can do our very best in each situation, but we can’t really do any more than that; realising this essentially allows us to fully engage and be present in what we’re doing, bringing all our energy to that moment and experiencing it fully just for what it is – what happens after, happens after.
In our yoga practise the term can be applied by taking a rest when you need it and by surrending to a pose. In the bigger picture it's about choosing our battles wisely; by choosing not to fight things we don't have control over. Instead, we can choose to surrender things to a higher power and trust that what is meant to happen will happen. By doing so we actually take back control, knowing that we always have a choice in our response to a certain situation.
Final reminder to self
We will close this blog post with another quote from Alan Cohen, which might serve as good reminder to ourselves on the subject of happiness:
"You have the power to take away someone's happiness by refusing to forgive. That someone is you." ― Alan Cohen
Please remember, there is no such thing a state of perfection. Everything is work in progress. Let's enjoy the road, realizing that every day we have the freedom to make choices that contribute to our experience of happiness in that specific moment.
We hope we've been able to inspire you to invite more and more happiness into your llfe and the lifes of everyone around you!
Jennifer & Deborah