Trying to make sense of life and to learn living it happily.

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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Why Happiness?

I am passionate about the subject of happiness. There was a time when I hardly ever thought about it - what is there to think about? It's all pretty clear - don't worry, be happy.

Recently I faced a challenge of teaching to my children how to be happy. That's when the questions started pouring in. Is it even possible to teach something like that or is it an inborn character trait? What exactly is happiness? If you are happy but don't recognize it, are you still happy? What makes us happy? Why some people achieved success in their lives, but feel empty inside? Why we may smile while something nice is happening and cry when it's over, immediately forgetting the nice part? How do you acquire the feeling of happiness and how do you make it last?

After some research, lots of reading and personal experience I came to a strong conclusion: Feeling happy is a skill, and it IS possible to learn. Not only it is possible, but it is quite necessary.

In fact, I realized it is a single most important skill for us to possess and to teach to our kids. Much more important that playing piano, or solving mathematical problems, or ballroom dancing. None of these skills by themselves will make us and our kids happy. And isn't it the ultimate goal in life - to be happy? 

In my research, I came across an article about schools in UK that incorporate "happiness curriculum" with their studies. I was very encouraged by it, and started looking for something similar for my kids.  However, there was nothing similar. It is not offered in schools, there are no afterschool activities that focus on happiness. There is an abundance of anything one can think of, but not this one single most important skill. 
That didn't make any sense to me.

Trying to rectify the situation, I resolved to create a Happiness Education program for kids myself. The more I was thinking about the happiness phenomenon, the more I noticed how the idea of "happiness" that is promoted in our culture has little to do with the actual feeling. That results in people chasing after the wrong thing, not really knowing what makes them happy. My goal was to look at the root of happiness and to empower kids to grow up with the understanding of it and the skills to achieve it. 

As I was discussing my ideas with friends, I noticed that adults are also in dire need of this program. That lead me to the idea that I should write a book about happiness intended to everyone. I will post parts of it in this blog.

I hope my convictions on the subject will help make all members of my family happier human beings, and I hope to take as many people along as possible. And I dare to hope that one not so far away day, the happiness subject will be included in all schools' curricula, making for a new, happier generation.


  1. Excellent idea that we need happiness education. However, it might upset pharmaceutical industry :) Seriously, happiness from within is what we should strive for. I would vote to have such class for my kids.

  2. If happiness is our goal in life, our natural desire, it does not necessarily have to be taught. Perhaps it is our limited stereotype of the idea that prevents us from achieving that goal. In other words we are living in the wrong society at the wrong time in history.

    1. Michael,
      Your comment contains enough topics for several posts :)

      I believe that the pursuit of happiness is part of our natural makeup. It's part a trait or our personality, part instinct, part emotion, part skill. It will develop by itself (in some better than others). But with training and conscious practice, it will be much better. Think of anger. It is also part of our natural make up, and there are anger management classes, and if people put their minds to it, they can control it. I believe happiness is the same, only on the different end of the spectrum.

      I absolutely agree that a lot of our attitudes toward life, including the pursuit of happiness, result from our (and our society's) ideas about abstract notions like happiness, love, success, etc. We try to shape them as we understand them. I read a book about linguistics, and it is amazing how much our language shapes our ideas, our way of thinking, and consequently our lives. One of the main mission of my blog is to dispel the conventional idea of happiness, redefine it, and thus, empower people to search in the right direction.
      However, I disagree with that we live in the wrong society at the wrong time. I think life is life, no matter when or where we live. I can't imagine that there was a time in the recorded history when majority of the humans were happy. Can you? There seems to be some part of us that just is never content with our lot, whatever it is. I guess this is partially what drives the progress, but it also keeps us unhappy. I actually love our times. And since we happen to live now, it is the best time for us to try and change whatever feels wrong, only not in the society, but in ourselves.
      Thank you for such thought-provoking comment.