The Happiness Safe Haven – the love for the people around you

Happiness means different things to different people. For some people, happiness is but an illusion. To me, in order to be happy, you need to choose to be happy and learn how to balance between the things that make you happy. Out of all the things, finding ways of expressing love for the people around is a constant source of happiness.

A more stable source of happiness

Wikipedia defines happiness as “a mental or emotional state of well-being characterised by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.” In this range of positive emotions, I would include for example satisfaction, peacefulness, cheerfulness, exhilaration and excitement.

Aristotle wittily observed that happiness is the only thing that human beings want for its own sake. Health, love, money and any achievement are wanted for the sake of happiness.

In the pursuit of money or professional goals, happiness is postponed until you become rich or you’ve reached your goals. And when the moment comes, you can’t be happy because you want even more or you want something else. As Henry David Thoreau, an American author, poet and philosopher said well, “Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you. But if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.”

I like to think of happiness as a garden where I plant seeds of love, compassion, empathy and gratefulness. Care and dedication are needed so that the seeds grow into beautiful flowers, which spread their scent into the soul and colour it with their colours.

The love you have inside does not need to be chased. It only needs to be put into light and nourished.

Cultivate your ability to love

There are many people around you who need your love: your partner, children, parents, friends or simple strangers. Cooking a special dinner for your family in the middle of the week, taking your child to his favourite playground, bringing a bouquet of flowers to an elderly work colleague in a cloudy day are all acts of love which fuel compassion and empathy in you.

Compassion and empathy help you to grow into a human being with constant consideration for the people you interact with. Ultimately, thinking how to make others happy is making you happy.

Whenever you have heavier issues to tackle in a relationship, use all the compassion that you have. How would you want others to tell you about their worries? Choose your words carefully. Careless and harsh words will hurt you both.

For example, in a marriage, it’s needed to acknowledge all the things that your partner does to make you happy. Being grateful for what you have is a basis for improving or just letting be what there is already.

To me, a happy life is based on the wise choice of thoughts, words and actions so that they create positive energy inside and around you. And when there is no sunshine in your life, hold onto all the love you have and embrace the strong belief that underneath all the troubles you may go through, the joy is lurking to shine through when the time is right.

Now about you? What is happiness to you?

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How Selfish Do You Think You Need to Be in a Marriage?

And they lived happily ever after. What a wonderful ending for childhood stories. I used to close the book with a smile full of anticipation and naiveté. After many years of taking the face value of these stories, I finally understood their deeper meaning.

Why did the princess and not the daughter of the witch win the heart of the prince?

Well, yes, everybody, especially children need to hear about happy endings. But if we take a closer look at the true nature of the character of the princess, she is the embodiment of kindness, altruism, and compassion. In exchange, the daughter of the witch is mean and selfish.

Passion and the initial love may change over time. As Mark Twain said in his Notebook 1894, “No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century …”. Interests, needs, beliefs and physical appearance change. One aspect stays constant: the true nature of each one of us.

What helps to mitigate marital conflicts?

Research on Americans and Europeans shows that married people perceive themselves to be happier than single, divorced or separated people (Dalai Lama, The Art of Happiness, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Handbook for Living).

“I think that if one is seeking to build a truly satisfying relationship, the best way of bringing this about is to get to know the deeper nature of the person and relate to her or him at that level, instead of merely on the basis of superficial characteristics.” (Dalai Lama, The Art of Happiness, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Handbook for Living)


Maintaing a healthy and happy marriage is a journey of spiritual growth. As much as it is about discovering the deeper nature of our spouse, as Dalai Lama wisely pinpoints, it is about fighting the demons inside us. And the biggest demon is the selfishness which characterises each human being.

Being open to improve ourselves

A happy marriage is built on the willingness to destroy the selfishness, which is the cause of most of the conflicts. Instead of wasting the time on being angry and pointing our finger at the faults in our spouse, a constructive attitude is to remember that both we and our spouses want to be happy and don’t want to suffer.

The perfect love after a quarter of a century of marriage does not come by the grace of God. On the contrary, it requires patience and team work to discover the “deeper nature” of our partners. I am not an expert in happy marriages, but one thing I’ve learned so far is that living happily ever after means knowing how to turn the selfishness into altruism towards our spouses.


Inspired how to Connect with Others

According to Dalai Lama, connecting with others is a source of happiness (The Art of Happiness). However, practising how to connect with others in an unfriendly environment may turn out to be very difficult, sometimes we may be tempted to give up. When we become parents, it is very important how we behave with others. Our children are there watching and they’ll remember when they become adults.

Connecting with others in a foreign culture

For me, the need to connect with others is like the need to breathe air. Maybe I wouldn’t have realised this, if I hadn’t moved to another country. After years of introducing myself to others as a foreigner, I have understood the importance of connecting with others to my lasting happiness. The problem is that the local culture is not encouraging the small talk. I have felt like a Don Quijote of modern times when communicating with others. Day by day, my small world was built on the foundations laid by the interaction with the few work colleagues and the few friends.

I sank into emotional distance. I was weeping in my loneliness as a foreigner surrounded by locals who are fond of silence and personal independence. I became faithful participant to the gym with the hope that I would stumble upon some friendly others. In vain! Years passed by, and I felt emotionally handicapped. The friends that I saw once a months were not enough to satisfy the thirst of human intimacy and closeness.

Connecting with other mothers is important but equally hard as with the rest

Having a family in the new country gave meaning to life. It saved my emotional life. For a while, I was so in love that nothing mattered. Alas, one day when I was walking with my baby, I realised that the family does not replace the basic human need to be able to connect with others. Becoming a stay-at-home mother makes things worse.The social interactions are limited. The emotional distance that I felt before becomes even bigger.

Visiting the playground became the daily challenge to reach out to the other mothers. Unlike me, they seem to be self-sufficient in their small world. No eye to eye contact, not a polite smile.

My baby smiles and comes closer to other babies. He is puzzled by the lack of response and he looks back at me. I shrug my shoulders, “What can I tell him?”. After few seconds, he approaches again other babies. Again and again, until he finds one baby that reciprocates and they start playing.

When the inspiration stroke

One day, I decided to imitate my baby’s behaviour. I initiated the small talk. I started talking to other mothers at the playground. I pretended I don’t see their reluctance to talk and smiled back. Deep inside, I was infuriated. I considered buying plane tickets and fly us far away from the country. In that moment of fury, Dalai Lama’s wisdom seemed but an utopia.

Why bother to reach out when you seem to be  the only one doing it?

Connecting with others means tapping into our compassion and building the strong foundation which makes us human:

“And once you encourage the thought of compassion in your mind, once that thought becomes active, then your attitude towards others changes automatically. If you approach others with the thought of compassion, that will automatically reduce fear and allow an openness with other people. It creates a positive, friendly atmosphere…And with that attitude, even if other person is unfriendly or doesn’t respond to you in a positive way, then at least you’ve approached the person with a feeling of openness that gives you a certain flexibility and the freedom to change your approach as needed.” (Dalai Lama, The Art of Happiness)

To my mind, connecting with others is not only about being open or any other fear. It is also about knowing how to deal when you offer a part of you to someone who does not appreciate it. Here it is the point where we need to learn how to cultivate compassion and stay calm when confronted with unfriendly behaviours.

It’s worth to keep on fighting for connecting with others, despite their coldness and indifference. There are days that bring wonderful surprises. Some of the others reciprocate with friendliness and they share stories from their lives. I smile and I feel warmth. I feel human and energised.

A simple but friendly interaction can increase the daily happiness. My baby feels the positive vibes in the air as well. He continues playing happily.


When we become parents, we embrace the responsibility to be a role model for our children. Those of us who live in multicultural contexts, we want to show to our children that despite the multiculturalism where we may not always understand others, we can choose to relate to others as human beings, and not as national identities.

We want to expose our children to multicultural interactions. If others turn their back on us, we can explain to our children that it is OK to be sad.

It is not OK to become the centre of our sadness. Instead, we can try to relate to the unfriendly others at a human level, thinking that “She must have a bad day!”. Maybe tomorrow will bless us with a positive interaction.

The important lesson is to keep on practising our attitude to others on both occasions: when treated with friendliness and when treated with unfriendliness. It is a painful work, but it is one of the tickets to our lasting happiness! And an excellent example to our children!


The Dormant Richness Inside Each One Of Us

Where does happiness come from?

“Happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasures that occur every day, than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom.”, Benjamin Franklin, the Founding Father of USA.

Most certainly, it is easy to agree with Benjamin Franklin’s view on happiness. We all have our small joys in life, such as watching a TV series or going to an ice-hockey game in the weekend. The problem is that we don’t perceive these small joys as real and long-lasting happiness. Instead, our minds are wired to chase the happiness, which comes from the “good fortune”. And this is how we go through life feeling empty, depressed, miserable, self-disillusioned and bitter.

The hope helps us survive the bottom line. We will be happy when we find love, when we get our dream job, when I get promoted, when we become a mother, when our sexual life gets better, when we are rich, after I divorce, etc. Yet, all these future expectations are beguiling and the very source of unhappiness. For example, if you do become rich, there will always be room for making more money. Therefore, the chase after happiness continues and the present is a struggle. Or, if you do get promoted, you may be disillusioned to realise that it is not bringing as much happiness as you expected.

Are there any chance for us human beings to be happy at certain points in our lifetime?

Research on happiness has flourished in the last ten years, offering to individuals self-help tips on how to find their own happiness. Here are few books, which I consider worthy of mentioning: Sonja Lyubormiski, The Myths of Happiness, and Robert Biswas-Diener and Ed Diener, Unlocking The Mysteries of Psychological Wealth. Scientific studies show that we can at least reach happy moods and irrespective of what causes these happy moods, they “lead people to be more productive, more likeable, more active, more healthy, more friendly, more helpful, more resilient, and more creative.” (Sonja Lyubomirsky, The How of Happiness, pp. 265)

Have you ever made this test to observe people from the distance? If you did, I am sure you agree that you can spot the unhappy ones by the way they carry themselves. Especially in the case of us women, the gloomy atmosphere in our minds reflects in our body movements.

Has it ever happened to you to adopt new ways of thinking for few days and think you are finally happy just before you slide back into the old way of viewing the world? Is sustainable happiness but an abstract concept that exists in the work of psychologists such as Sonja Lyubomirsky?

Can we reach a steady level of happiness?

How we relate to happiness differs from one individual to another, depending on our genetical heritage, our childhood and adulthood experiences. However, I strongly believe that we all can find our glimpses of long-lasting happiness by digging out the dusty characteristics which make us human.

Compassion, empathy, love, gratitude, altruism, soul-to-soul connection: they all live in us, the problem is that they have been forgotten. The age of science has brought wonderful advancements into the world at the cost of taking us away from who we really are: human beings.

If we want to be happy, we need to take a good look inside and cultivate the seeds of all these characteristics that make us human. Yes, it hurts when we feel that there is not love in our life. While we are waiting for love, we’d benefit from turning our face and soul towards the people around us and offer them the crumbles of love that there are in us. When we hear about a sick person who needs money for surgery, why not donating few euros from our income? Why not joining a group of people with similar interests?

Life happens now and we fool ourselves if we think we have control over it and we’ll be happy tomorrow. If we can control something, well that something is the humanity in us. The happiness will follow it.