In Pursuit of Happiness

"Happiness is a myth we seek, 

If manifested surely irks; 

Like river speeding to the plain, 

On its arrival slows and murks. 

For man is happy only in 

His aspiration to the heights; 

When he attains his goal, he cools 

And longs for other distant flights." 

Kahlil Gibran 

Happiness is fleeting. It is elusive. It encapsulates the firmly established paradox in human nature - valuing that which we cannot attain. The attained already a distant memory. The grass, after all, is always greener in the other side. 

For the young, social media posts serve as the yardstick for happiness. Older generations, dwell on exaggerated tales heard about their neighbours, their inner circles. Irrespective of our age and experience, we spend our days comparing ourselves to others and ruminating - a vicious cycle. Fleetingly content upon having attained that which we rigorously pursued. Soon to be disappointed as a new goal presents itself. Nevermind that what makes one person happy won't exactly elicit the same sentiment in another. But we continue to be relentless in our quest to achieve the ideals we believe make up the formula for happiness. 

Not surpringly then, according to the World Happiness Report, although there is considerable increase in happiness in 2016 compared to 2015 (an increase of 15 notches), the fact stands that we are still only at the 117th position. 

So on account of today being the International Day of Happiness (probably a sign from above, considering today is also a Monday), we asked people what happiness meant to them and how they hope to achieve it. Here's what they had to say. 

“For me happiness is a state of unconsciousness, with less or no attachments, less commitments less responsibilities. If you are searching for happiness, surely you'll be unhappy.” - Manula, 27, pilot 

“I believe that happiness means random acts of human kindness… I’ve been a recipient of one from a complete stranger. It wasn't much but it gave me perspective on a lot of things regarding humanity. So I try to do the same for random people in my own way, hoping they would feel the same way I felt and pass it on. That is one way of describing what happiness means to me.” - Thilina, 24, management trainee 

“Happiness to me is being surrounded by great friends, and being able to have fun and live life to the fullest. I do believe that there is happiness in materialistic things as well. So buying new clothes or books also makes me happy.” - Dilini, 15, student 

“One word: Family. I grew up being taught the importance of family. We had a big family, and our days were filled with love, fun and laughter. Today, people are all busy and don't have time for each other. Like in Western countries, we have to call ahead and make appointments to meet our own children. Nothing makes me happier than when the family all get together, because they are my happiness.” - Indika, 75, retired engineer 

“I believe that happiness is hard to define. But to put it simply, happiness is a lot of things. Family, excelling in my career, free time all bring me happiness. But then again, having all these doesn't guarantee happiness either. So I'd like to say happiness is a state of mind - reaching your current goals, wants, needs and then some.” - Shanika, 32, business analyst 

“Happiness is food! Food is guaranteed to make me happy. But jokes aside, what makes me happy today wont make me happy tomorrow. That is the sad reality. We always strive for more.” - Denise, 23, MBA student 

“Happiness lies in success - be it in family life, in career, financial status. I came from humble beginnings and fought my way to success. I worked hard for it. I educated myself and I educated my children. They are all well settled, successful and productive citizens. And in that way, I derive happiness not only from my success but also from theirs.” - Padma, 64, businesswoman


Rihaab Mowlana

Foodie • Bona-fide expert on Harry Potter universe • proud Slytherin • Unapologetic know-it-all • Keyboard warrior • Occasionally sarcastic • Incessant retweeter • Self proclaimed funny girl •


  1. Krisalyn says:

    Intnsertieg question Jim. Yes, gratitude could be a factor.But improving diet and nutrition is one of the best ways I know of improving attitude. Look at the example of the Appleton School project in Wisconsin.

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