“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” – John Lennon.
It is unusual to write in a lawyer’s magazine and begin the article by a quote from one of the greatest rock stars ever, John Lennon. So simply put, yet it covers every aspect of our life. The pursuit of happiness found its way in the American Declaration of Independence in 1776. “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This shows that happiness is not just philosophical, written in novels and acted in movies. It is much more, something that even the Constitution framers recognized centuries ago.
We have had the Intelligence Quotient, then came the Emotional Quotient and now it’s the Happiness Quotient. So what is Happiness? Most of us probably don’t believe we need a formal definition of happiness; we know it when we feel it, and we often use the term to describe a range of positive emotions, including joy, pride, contentment, and gratitude. In her 2007 book The How of Happiness, positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky elaborates, describing happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.” What makes happiness worth pursuing is that it is not selfish. It comes from making others happy, sharing and caring and doing things that are meaningful.
With the increasingly busy pace of life and our hectic schedules, we find it a task to make time to be happy. But actually if we make being happy a mindset, we would not find it to be a task to perform. One doesn’t need to allocate some time of the day to be happy. It is there within us, we just need to feel it. In a lift or a supermarket, whenever we see a smiling child, and we smile back, that is a moment of happiness. Our beautiful nature is always a source of happiness, be it the flowers, the sunrise, the sunset, the mountains or the rivers. It never fails to bring joy to us. A home cooked meal by our loved one, warms the heart instantly. A word of praise by our teacher or boss swells the heart with pride and happiness. Accomplishing a task brings with it immense satisfaction. There are moments of happiness scattered in our daily life, we just need to feel them and remind ourselves of those moments when life seems a bit dull. That is why it is advised to think positive and be grateful. If we delve on negative thoughts, how can we be happy?
In a very interesting move, UAE has appointed a Minister of Happiness with the Ministry taking care of happiness amongst its people. Happiness is a way of life and there are measures to evaluate it and improve on it. The reasons for being unhappy are discussed and measures are taken to resolve the same. It is heartening to see, that happiness is being taken seriously by governments and policy makers, because ultimately the people of the country should be happy.
Happiness and the law seem unrelated, don’t they? Diametrically opposite if I may say so! The law sternly prohibits people from doing things and then backs up its rules with frightening punishments. But imagine what life would be if there were no laws. Most of the benefits of civil society we all take for granted would no longer be possible. If we think about it, the whole point of having law is to make our lives better.
Good laws help people live happier lives. And fortunately, there’s been a recent explosion of research into happiness. The tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has long proposed using happiness as the explicit goal of its laws and policies, replacing “Gross National Product” with “Gross National Happiness” as a measure of national success.
As lawyers, we are happy when we do good work for our clients or simply when our clients are happy. Meaningful work boosts the happiness for the lawyers. In society, if we were to make happiness a goal, every aspect of life would be nurtured – the education system, medical facilities, infrastructure or a progressive legal system.
To end, I would like to put down these three quotes that capture the essence of happiness.
“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” – Buddha
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – Dalai Lama
“Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” – Helen Keller