For a very long time in human history, the happiness for the common people meant having proper food, clothing and shelter (home). With the changing times, these basics were considered not enough and many more physical needs and material comforts have been added as yardsticks to happiness. For illustration, people now are more demanding with a long wish-list for material comfort including all electronic equipment and gadgets for comfortable living, freedom to choose a life partner and a place to live, a stable family and friends, choice and mastery of their vocation and vacation, and so on so forth.
The point is whether all this really leads to happiness of a person. On the contrary what we observe is that life has become more competitive, taxing and stressful for a majority lot. It is quite obvious that physical achievements or fulfilment of the criteria of modern living are not suffice and real indicators of happiness. Happiness is not guaranteed even if a person is highly educated, skilled and rich. In fact, in majority cases these accomplishments would lead to the person being more stressed and unsatisfied in life and consequently happiness would continue to remain a distant dream.
There are a good number of people who believe that being wealthy is a key to happiness. Consequently, for the most part of life they run after money cultivating means to amass it. On the contrary, the material wealth seldom brings true happiness. For instance, let’s take the case of a common man serving in a multinational company in a managerial post. In return for his hard work, he continuosly aspires for promotions and increments in the salary package. Each promotion and increment brings him immediate happiness but soon this situation becomes a part of routine and less exciting and he starts craving for more. This trend continues for the most part of his (or her) active service with eternal (real) happiness ever eluding.
As a matter of fact, once our basic needs are met, more money earned seldom brings us real joy and happiness. Reportedly, a study by Daniel Kahneman found that in Americans happiness rise with their income only until they earned approximately $75,000 a year and after that, their happiness plateaued. The 'Easterlin Paradox' is another key concept in happiness economics. In a research made by the economist and USC professor Richard Easterlin, it was suggested that in the long run, countries don’t become happier as they become wealthier. This perhaps explains why many people who prioritize material things over other values are found to be much less happy.
Actually happiness is a state of mind and it largely depends at the level of satisfaction one derives in doing things. At the same time, one thing is for sure that each one of us wants to be happy and in the process often we tend to do strange, and even bizarre, things to achieve this. A friend of mine utterly frustrated and disillusioned with the environment surrounding him finds solace and satisfaction in an affectionate spiritual relationship with a woman friend. Both have their respective families and commitments; hence while honouring and allowing their personal space, commitments and limitations, they continue to seek happiness in sharing small moments and things in their beautiful platonic relationship.
Ultimately, the degree of satisfaction one derives in doing things or living a particular way decides the state of happiness in a person’s life. Way back during the student life, I had seen a rather controversial film named ‘Siddhartha’ based on Hermann Hesse's novel and directed by Conrad Rooks. The film narrates the turmoil in the life of the young protagonist Siddhartha, born in a rich family, who is utterly confused and is in search for a meaningful way of life.
This search led him through spells of harsh asceticism, sensual pleasures, material wealth, self-revulsion and eventually to the oneness and harmony with himself. What eluded him among the midst of the material wealth and sensual pleasures, he ultimately achieved that happiness and solace in a simple way of living at the banks of Ganges. The story concluded that the secret of life (i.e. eternal happiness) cannot be passed on from one soul to another, instead must be achieved through inner experience.
What we need to be happy and contented is fairly simple. We must do introspection to find out what is that we really find meaningful - an act or deed or a routine we get really lost in without an urge or feeling of incompleteness seeking more of it.