How To Be Happy?


Dada… you had promised to take me to Kidz Adda!”, my 6-year old son, Varun reminded me as soon as I reached home.

I was tired and desperately wanted to rest on the couch. Initially I ignored the reminder and tried to distract him by offering my iPad to play with.

Varun wouldn’t budge. He stuck to his demand. “Dada, I don’t want to play on the iPad. I want to play at Kidz Adda. There are others kids playing there. I will be sad if we don’t go“.

Nobody wants to make children feel sad. So, I bargained for 20 minutes to get ready and we were on our way to a nearby indoor-playground. While I sat in a corner, watching Varun play with other kids, I started wondering what made him happy.

It’s so easy to make kids happy. The problem starts when children become adults.

Being happy is something we all want, although not everyone seems to be that good at it.


Intrigued, I set out to learn more about happiness. Upon some introspection, observation and research, I figured there are 3 major routes to happiness, each appealing to different personalities.

The fact that the “well-being” industry is worth billions of dollars every year is an indicator of how important it is to people.

Here are those 3 ways or methods you can use to make yourself happier and also help others cheer up.

  1. Sensory Hedonism.

This is the most direct form of happiness. Feeling happy using information from your senses. Looking at nature, the colors of the rainbow, the softness of a bunch of flowers, the aroma of great food, the feeling of touch, listening to music, watching movies and so on. Sensory pleasure also involves seeking adventure like skydiving, mountaineering, rafting etc. and of course, sexual encounters as well. Even meditation is in this category of being happy.

The key here is to do different things because a lot of ‘same’ gets boring. Something new or something you have not done for a while can be more fun.

This is called ‘sensory’ because we experience the world through our senses. Stimulation may also be gained by illegal means such as smoking, alcohol or drugs. However, such methods have dangerous side effects and in the long run, make the person way more sad than happy.

The word ‘hedonism’ of often associated with excess, though excessive indulgence will not lead to sustained pleasure. Over-indulgence fades the pleasure and won’t last for a longer time. It works best when it is done in moderation. The first bite of chocolate is always the best. After a lot, chocolate is just calories.

There are other theories on sensory hedonism as well.

Bentham, Mill, and Sidgwick say things that strongly suggest their own sensory hedonism about happiness. This is the view that a person’s level of happiness is equal to the total amount of sensory pleasure he is feeling at that moment, minus the total amount of sensory pain he is feeling at the same moment.

Daniel Haybron, on the other hand, presented a series of arguments against sensory hedonism about happiness. One of these is based on the case of the new mother. At the moment when she gives birth the new mother is experiencing very severe sensory pain (and no sensory pleasure) but at the same time she is profoundly happy. Thus, a person’s level of happiness at a time cannot be identified with the net amount of sensory pleasure she is feeling at that time.

Okay, let’s get back to our senses. If you are reading this, your aren’t likely giving birth to a baby at this moment!

So, let’s say, under normal circumstances, Sensory Hedonism is one of the three ways to happiness.

  1. Achievable Challenge.

This is happiness derived from hard work. The reward one gets from taking on challenges. The keyword here is ‘achievable’ because goals that aren’t achieved will do the opposite of happiness, which are frustration and anger.

People set goals, objectives, to-do lists and when they check off those items, feel happier than before.

In order to become happier, make sure the challenges you take on are achievable and incremental. In addition, the challenges should motivate you to get out of bed every morning and at the same time not too easy. The focus here is on the doing and not just ‘being happy’.

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (give yourself a pat on the back if you could pronounce the last name) uses the term ‘flow’ for the state we get into when we are engaged in something enjoyable, where time seems to fly by.

Also note that in order feel happier by achieving challenges, it is also important to focus on physical and mental well-being because it takes a lot of practice, repetition and persistence to achieve challenges, apart from having a healthy body. It takes proper hydration, nutrition, exercise and rest to take up new challenges, leading to happiness from achieving those challenges.

  1. Devoted Service.

This route is all about getting happiness by helping or serving others. This is a more respectable and sometimes surprising route to happiness. Author David Straker writes that for some, their career doubles up as a devoted service, such as teachers, coaches, nurses and so on.

Service starts with respect and care for other people. It does not mean putting yourself lower than others or taking a position of superiority.

Being other-focused requires empathy and being able to sense their emotions. You should seek to stand in their shoes and see things from their point of view. Seek to understand their beliefs and values and why they hold these. It is difficult to dislike a person you truly understand.

Happiness through others is a vicarious activity. When you see their joy, you can bask in the reflected pleasure, taking private comfort in the knowledge that you are engaging in work that is socially very respectable.

It is said that ‘what goes around, comes around’ and ‘as you sow, so also shall you reap’. Service can be a powerful way of building personal security. When you help others, then the likelihood of others helping you also increases.

A classic example of joyful service to others is Mother Teresa’s lifetime work in Kolkata. And she is far from alone: many have spent much of their lives helping the poor, the needy and just the public at large.

So, to round up and summarize, there are 3 way to happiness and many methods in each way to make it happen. Go ahead, mix-and-match and choose your ‘happiness potion‘.

One last thought.

Did you know that you could become happier just by consciously thinking about being happy, without any reason?

Come on, give it a try.

Did you notice it took just one thought?

That’s it. For now, all it takes is “one-second to happiness!”

Be happy :-)