With the Wind

Measuring Happiness

Tulip Chowdhury

29 May, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Measuring Happiness

Tulip Chowdhury

To question how content we are in life, we often ask, “ Can we measure happiness individually or in general ?” We may weigh our emotions to some degree, but we cannot find a perfect piece to the puzzle set. Having a cup of coffee in the morning makes my day, but to others, it might be drinking five to seven cups a day.  

Life seems to be all about being happy, and Happiness is the golden goose we chase in our lives. As Rabindranath Thakur writes in his song, “Amar shonar horin chai, tora je ja bolish bhai, amar shonar horin chai..” ( I want my golden deer, say what you wish, but I want my golden deer…) resonates with how we crave to be happy. Who does not want to attain that blissful state of mind anyway? Life feels good when we have our basic needs and security. Society has people vying after each other for status and wealth. The changing circumstances, people are moving up and down the social ladder, could make us feel like walking on eggshells. In those moments, we focus less on what really to us, is it walking with our strides or join others in the rat race?

However, when our backs are against the wall, choices are limited, the path to happiness becomes easier. For instance, with the Covid-19 taking lives worldwide, the moment’s joy is in being alive. We think less about houses and cars, clothes or luxury, and more about how to be alive. It’s a cruel reminder of what matters in life at all times. When I look at the seasonal flowers, how they come to life, and wither when their time is up in the world, it is a reminder that my time is limited. In those moments, there is only gratitude for life. “Thank you, my Lord, for how much I have achieved in life,” I say. Wisdom tells us that simplifying life is a big clue to finding happiness. A simple life can bring us joy with more ease than a complicated one. There are many ways we can add or subtract to our lists of “How happy I am” here are some points to ponder.

1.            The fact that one is alive is a miracle. So, focus on breathing, and do it with freedom. Inhaling and exhaling with a sound body and healthy mind is the key to finding joy. The saying, “Health is wealth,” can never be out of date as long as one is alive. Think of every sunrise like your gift; your eyes work, and that is the blessing. If you hear the birds twittering by your windows, another “Thank you, Lord,” you are not deaf. And for the rest of the body, if they are working and your heart is running, Amen to that. When you fell asleep last night, no one guaranteed that you would be wake up alive and healthy—gratitude to all that.

2.            There is the pitfall of going after material wealth and forgetting little things that add to our happiness. Covid-19 has taught us to thank the Lord for things we take for granted, including a glass of water from our tap, meeting a friend in person, and walking outside without fearing a virus that could spell death. The pandemic has changed our lives in countless ways. The documentary by David Attenborough on “The Year the Earth Changed”  on Apple TV is an incredible show on how the pandemic has changed lives around us. Simple pleasures like watching a bird on the tree, enjoying the sun rays that seep through the curtains into your room, feeling the raindrop with your hands add up to blissful feelings that money can’t buy. When we find joy in every heartbeat and all that it holds in life is true Happiness. It is like loving the root of a tree before falling for the fruits it bears.

3.            Money is necessary to keep us afloat in life, but it is not the key to happiness. Millions of affluent people are miserable inside, and in the process of accumulating wealth, they lost the small things that make life pleasant beyond money. There is a rude awakening when we realize that we get lost in greed and have more than we need. When two shirts are good enough for workwear, why buy four? When we are good with a two-bedroom house, why go for a grand one? In between that, we could easily donate the amount not needed for charity. There is the necessity to look at the seas and the deserts to witness the miracles of drops of water making the vast oceans and the grains of sand that make the Sahara desert.

4.            Charity is essential to feel good about oneself; it’s a form of gratitude to the Giver in life. When wealth or fame comes to us, they come with the underlined message to be shared. Charity is sharing what we have; it doesn’t have to stem from significant bank balances. The joy of sharing one apple when you have two is where charity begins. As Mother Teresa has said, “If you cannot feed a hundred, then just feed one.”

5.            Experts suggest that telling yourself positive thoughts like, “I am happy, I am content, I have what I need” enlightens the days. Put your days in the filled part of the hourglass and not wait for the empty portion to be complete. As often life coaches tell us, “What you need is already here.” Beyond the “wanting-lights” igniting unnecessarily, dwell on the light already lit around you. In the hectic life of the modern world, negativity can creep in when getting through the days become more and more challenging. The world is divided in many ways between the “have and the have-nots.” Those on the greener side of the field may not feel the pinch. Life is more complicated with the less fortunate. It all comes life with its message of giving, that is, to have eyes opened to the well-being of people who live around you.

The beauty of silent charity is more gratifying than putting up Facebook posts of charity work one does. Giving from one’s self is the best form of giving.

6.            Life comes with sorrow and joy, and when we try to measure which is more, often the trap is self-pity and comparing to what goes around us. As Kahlil Gibran says, 

“But I say unto you; they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.”

It is never too late to do a good deed, for there are always people in need. As Neemat, a school teacher, says, “ When I pass by the blind man on the pavement near my office, it’s a reminder that he needs my help, that God has given me the ability to help others. I am healthy and can earn; that is my blessing needing to be spread.’

Finally, in the words of Dianne O’Leary, “Happiness is not measured in the amount of money you have. It is the people in your life that create wonderful memories!’ Success, happiness, sorrow and joy: all are parts of the years we live, all like a smoothie to live a full life. They cannot be separated and weighed to make life worthy: being alive and healthy is having your glass full.


Tulip Chowdhury

writes from Massachusetts, USA.