Kamran Mir Hazar
Letter to Editor
An Experiment in Happiness
By Sarah Lake
Do you really know what happiness is?
We all seem to be striving for this concept called 'happiness'
but what is it really? After all, how many people do you know
who are truly happy?
What does it take to be 'happy' for more than just a brief or
transient period? Until we can answer these questions we are
effectively 'stabbing in the dark', going from one thing to
another hoping to find that elusive goal!
How can we ever hope to achieve it if we don't know what it is?
But where do we start?
An Experiment in Happiness
OK - Happiness - we all know about 'happiness', don't we?
Well, we all know it exists, and we all know that we are trying
to achieve it - even if some of us have forgotten this - it is
what we are reaching for, in whatever way we can, right?
But what is this 'elusive' thing called happiness - I mean,
REALLY, what is it?
Think about that for a moment. If it was obvious we would all
have it, right??! But, take a look around you; how many people
do you see that are really happy?
Endless words have been written about it, books and films have
been portraying it since time immemorial - people have lived
whole lives searching for it and died in the name of it. But
WHAT is it?
We all know that it's something we want - it's almost a foregone
conclusion that it's what we are all striving for - but how many
of us really know what it is, what it would take for us to be
You might immediately think, 'Oh, it's love', or it's 'having
children', or it's 'being healthy' or it's 'being rich' - and
while those things may well contribute to your feeling of
contentment - do they, in themselves, really bring happiness??
The answer to that must surely be 'No' otherwise there would not
be so many unhappy people in the world.
Well, let's take a look at this from another angle then. Let's
take a look at what is it that makes us UNHAPPY? I bet if you
sat down for a few minutes and just listed out the things in
life that you feel unhappy about it would be much easier to do -
OK - so, it's easier to list out all the things are make us
unhappy - so let's start there!
Try this experiment - just make a list of all the things that
upset you or make you unhappy. Don't hold out - just list out
everything that you can think of.
Alright - now that you have your list in front of you - take
each point on the list and work out what the OPPOSITE of that
For example: let's say you wrote down that one of the things
that makes you unhappy is the state of the government - so what
is it about the government that you don't like? Maybe it's the
fact that you feel that they don't listen to what it is that the
'common people' need and want - or maybe it's because you don't
feel that they are running the country in a way that helps the
average person have a good standard of living - or that you
think that they are not stopping crime or you think that they
don't do anything effective to help the homeless or unemployed.
What ever it is that you don't like about it, just jot this
Another example might be that you don't like the way that other
people treat you. OK - so what is it about the way that others
treat you that you don't like?
Or maybe you get upset by the fact that your work environment is
not as good as it could be, or your relationship with your
parents could be better, or the way the planet is being polluted
Whatever you can think of that makes you unhappy, just write it
down - be as specific as you can and don't worry if it doesn't
seem to 'make sense' - put it on your list anyway.
NOW: Once you've completed the list take each point and ask
yourself this question; 'What is the OPPOSITE to this - if this
point makes me unhappy then by turning it around and looking at
it from the other side what would be the opposite of that -
because it is THAT opposite that would actually contribute to
your happiness - do you see?
For example - you don't like the way your colleagues treat you
at work - this makes you unhappy. You've noted down that the
thing you really don't like is the way they speak to you and
treat you as though you are less important than they are.
OK - so let's turn that around. IF your colleagues spoke to you
with common courtesy and treated you with respect and listened
to your opinion and in doing so make you feel that you were
important to them, wouldn't that make you happier about your
Or - if one of the things you wrote down that makes you unhappy
is that you don't like 'lazy people' or people who tell lies, or
the fact that there is poverty in the world - then just note
down the opposites of those things, or the concept that these
By doing this you are starting to answer your own questions
about what happiness is. Because it goes without saying that if
you don't know the answer to this question - 'What makes me
happy' then how on earth can you ever expect to achieve it??!
Knowing WHAT you are trying to achieve is the FIRST step to
getting there - right?
Feel free to send any comments or thoughts on this as I'm really
interested in hearing back on what you discover doing this
© 2006 Sarah Lake