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.


Messages In Our Eyes

I love travelling. Touristic attractions are of secondary interest. My main interest are the people who live in the destinations that I visit. How do those people look, how do they behave, and what perspective on life do they have?

I am not a fan of souvenirs in the form of objects. I do take my own souvenirs, which come as short stories told by a pair of eyes. For example, the story of the candid eyes of the 70 year old taxi driver I met in Lisbon. In a very passionate voice, he told me about the general Gomez da Costa – my introduction to the history of Portugal. I couldn’t understand most of his story since my Portuguese is quite poor. But the most important story was the one spoken by his eyes – compassionate and humble; they spoke of a life of struggles. I would have wanted to know what kind of life he had. In the end, I was just happy to have been touched by the humbleness in his eyes.

I was in a metro in Paris, on my way to the Sacre-Coeur Basilica when a young man, aged between 25 to 30, stepped in the metro and took a seat right opposite to where I was sitting. He looked into my eyes with the intensity of his witty hazelnut eyes. “I’d like to know you”, his eyes said. I blushed and looked away. In another life or at another moment in this life, I would have dated him.

In our latest trip to Athens, during the first breakfast at the hotel, my eyes met the eyes of a middle-aged woman who was sitting next to our table. She looked at me as if with fear (I don’t think I look that bad). She was sitting with her husband (I checked their rings). He was eating with his eyes fixed on the plate. There was no communication between the two of them. She had finished her breakfast first. When he finished his, he stood up without saying any word and she instantly followed him.

The second morning, they were having their breakfast when I entered the breakfast room. Their body postures were the same – she staring in the void and looking as if she was sitting on needles and he was eating, looking at the plate only. My eyes and her eyes met again. For few seconds, she gave a faint smile but then she stopped as if she was doing a bad thing.

The third morning, I met them again. This time, I took a table, which was farther from their table. I could not stand any longer his energy of a grumpy man. But this time, when I met her eyes, I could read, “Help!”. He was her dictator and she was his obeying servant. I would have wanted to go to her and tell her, “Set yourself free, woman! You’ll be happier without him”. Instead, I just gave her the most comforting smile. I wished it was possible to send her with my eyes the strength that she needed to break free.

Of course, I do not know the history of that couple, but I could clearly see that she was like a chained dog. She didn’t know how to carry herself. I can’t save her but at least I’ll be thinking of her.

As strange as it may sound, there are moments when these eyes pop up in my mind. They are the souvenirs stored safely inside me. They come out of the hidden place when they feel they may be forgotten.

According to the common belief, the eyes are the mirror of the soul. In addition, I think that the eyes remind us that despite the fact that physically we are independent human beings, deep inside we are all the same – in search of connecting with other souls.