We all want to be happy. For most of us, though, experiencing happiness is an ongoing process. Some days we’re happy, and other days, not so much. So what does finding lasting and healthy sources of happiness in our lives actually look like?
Here are five different experiences of happiness that define happiness for different people. They were initially discussed in the video 5 HAPPINESSES & IKIGAI: Finding What Truly Makes You Happy, recorded by the founder of karuna, Arun Sardana. If happiness is both the journey and the destination, karuna is here to be both your roadmap and your compass.
1. Borrowed Happiness
Borrowed or adopted happiness is the most dangerous form of happiness, as this is where the person is completely lost.
It’s when we don't really know who we are, and therefore don’t really know what it is we want. This type of happiness is short-lived and dependent on external factors.
We simply are living at a superficial level, borrowing happiness from different sources that are not our own.
It comes as no surprise that very quickly, you find no use for that borrowed happiness, and then you go back and return it—just like a borrowed book from a library. You read it, you digest it, and you go return it back. A lot of these books, in terms of this happiness that we are borrowing, are read and then forgotten very quickly. This is perhaps the most dangerous way of defining happiness, because none of it is really you. It's all borrowed.
2. Adapted Happiness
Adapted happiness is an adaptation—for example, if you watch a movie that’s been adapted from a novel or a book—it's an adaptation of something that someone else wrote. So, in this particular instance, you are actually adapting someone else's definition
of happiness and bringing it into your life for a fairly long period of time.
3. Imposed Happiness
The third is imposed happiness—we’re going to take a look at the story of Paulo Coelho, who is world-renowned and one of the most prolific Portuguese writers from Brazil. Coelho is most famous for his book, "The Alchemist."
When Coelho was 16 or 17, he was sent to the mental asylum three years in a row. The reason he was sent to an asylum by his parents is because they thought he was psychotic: he was lonesome, he was solitary, he was just not like a normal 17 year old in their eyes.
Well, that is a normal 17-year-old. He wanted to be a writer, and as he grew out of that phase, we all know what he became. But his parents wanted to impose on him what they thought was the way to live.
Many of us succumb to this kind of pressure, to become what is expected of us instead of what fills us with joy and purpose. Our parents are usually very well-meaning, and typically just want the best for us. Whether it's our own parents, family, or society’s idea of who we are and what we should become conflicting with our own desires, we may succumb to the need to please and conform. Succumbing to this kind of pressure turns into the imposition of the definition of happiness.
That becomes a challenging aspect of our life as we move forward, because we lose our identity. We forget who we are. Many of us are doctors when we wanted to be painters. Many of us are attorneys when we want to be photographers. Many of us are dancers, when we wanted to be cardiologists. That's the dilemma in this world of imposed happiness.
4. Personal Happiness
The fourth kind of happiness is where things really take off. Arun calls it personal happiness, or the happiness of the self, if you were to use the Buddhist concept of self and no-self. To illustrate the power of personal happiness, we encourage you to listen to Arun discuss the story of the famed dancer and choreographer Gillian Lynne. Personal happiness is doing what makes us feel most alive, most vibrant and fulfilled. It is when we are truly in touch with our soul’s purpose and expressing our own unique gifts and talents.
5. Sublime Happiness
This happiness of the self is incredibly important, but there is one level above that, the fifth level of happiness, and Arun shares why it is the most powerful. This is sublime happiness—universal happiness. The happiness of the no-self, as the Buddhists would call it. This is where the source of happiness is not inside you. It's outside, within the universe.
The fifth form of happiness, this universal happiness, or what the Buddhists would call the no-self, where the ego dissolves, is where all you're looking for is the happiness of others outside of you. To find this sublime happiness we must spend time being in service of others, and acting with kindness, empathy, and compassion.
Knowing and understanding these 5 types of happiness is an important first step on your journey towards discovering your own meaningful and lasting happiness. Even then, though, the journey does not become easier. It’s important to find a steady and knowledgeable source of guidance on this journey, as it can be easy to become discouraged if you’re surrounded by negativity or ignorance.
Start your happiness journey with karuna
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