I quote this content from a book that I read – I Lost My Way: Finding Happiness After Despair by Yasmin Mogahed. What a great book! I read this book twice. There is a chapter that catches my attention – Happiness.
So, here you go…
“What is happiness? How you define happiness?
People define happiness differently. We know that true happiness is the happiness of the heart. It is not the happiness of the flash.
There are people who have a lot of money, they have a lot of power, they have a lot of status and they feel miserable. They do not have true happiness. They are many people – celebrities – who commit suicide, died of drug overdoses. Because happiness is not how much money you have in the bank.
Happiness is something internal.”
I couldn’t agree more when I read this. In my case, whenever I feel down and don’t know what to do with my feeling, I go for a walk in a shopping mall. And I realize that I fall into a hedonic treadmill of buying things to cover the miserable feeling.
Books, handbags, clothes and small things that I don’t even need it. Yes, I’m happy when I buy them. I get instant happiness. But to be honest, I feel horrible after that. I kinda ‘waste’ my money that I work hard for.
While a lot of people right now are struggling to put food on their table, I on the other hand easily spend the money for my desire. Thus, I’m grateful when I have this book. It tells me how I can fix this.
“How can we find internal happiness after despair? Understanding why despair happens is very important. Then now, how to build happiness?
Happiness is a combination of two things. First is the way we think. Second is the way we act.
Psychologists find that people are born with what they call as happiness set point. That people are born with a certain set of happiness, like where you are going to act genetically. This is something you inherit.
For some people, their set point is higher and for some, their set point is a little bit lower. However, what psychologists say is that only 40% of happiness is determined by this set point. In other words, it is only 40% is something you can say, “That is just the way I am.”
In conclusion, psychologists say that about 40% is from the set point that you inherit, 10% is about having basic needs and 50% is in your control. Entirely. Within that 50% is how you think and how you act.
It is not just about what happens to you in your life; it is about how you respond. It actually comes down to how a person thinks and a person behaves.”
How Can We Change The Way We Think In Order To Increase Happiness?
“This is something also psychologists study. They have done a lot of studies about thinking and how it affects your happiness. One of the things that they found is that people have something they called Cognitive Attributional Styles (CAS). There are positive and negative CAS.
It is the ways in which they interpret the world, the ways in which they think about and define what happens in the world.”
Here, how you can practice ways to increase happiness.
#1 – External Attributional Style
“When something bad happens, how do you interpret it? A person with an Internal Attributional Style will internalize the bad thing. Internalizing the blame for whatever bad thing happened. Beating yourself up.
If something bad happens, they will say, “It is because of me. It is my fault. It is because I am a bad person. I’m not good enough.”
While an External Attributional Style would be a person who says, “It is outside of me.” It’s not internalizing the blame, but maybe saying it is situational.”
#2 – Stable Attributional Style
“When something bad happens, how do you think? Do you think it is going to always be bad or do you think it is just a temporary? That is the difference between Stable and Unstable Attributional Style.
Let’s study the thinking of the Prophets (peace be upon them). One of the duas which I really love because I feel like it summarizes the thinking that a believer should have is the dua of Ayyub AS.
Ayyub AS went through trial after trial after trial. He was sick, lost his wealth, lost his family. After years and years of these trials, he calls out to Allah with this dua: Indeed, difficulty has befallen me and You are The Most Merciful of the merciful.
The first part of his dua is to acknowledge the difficulty. He was not trying to pretend with Allah. Sometimes, we try to be strong by suppressing and numbing. We do not want to feel the pain so we pretend that everything is fine.
Ayyub AS was not pretending that everything is fine. He was saying to Allah SWT that this is hard.
Now look at the second half of Ayyub AS’s dua. What is so powerful about his dua is he in the midst of his suffering of his difficulty. And while he is in it, he still does not lose hope in Allah. Do you understand what he has done?
He is truthful with Allah, he is acknowledging his difficulty and at the same time, he has not fallen into despair. Ayyub AS is not saying, “It is always going to be bad, I might as well give up.” He still has hope in the mercy of Allah.
This is a believer in hardship.
It is the realization that even if it dark right now, the sun will rise again. A person who thinks negatively will say it is dark right now and it is always going to be dark, the sun will never come and rise again.
The believers, they did not think like that. What happens to Ayyub AS then? Allah SWT completely turned the situation around – gave him back everything he lost and more. His situation was changed. His trial did not last forever. No trial lasts forever.
#3 – Non-Global Attributional Style
“So, when something bad happens or there are some trials, a person with a global attributional style will say, “Not only is it my fault and because I’m a terrible person, and not only it is always going to be bad, but this bad aspect is not just in one part of my life but everything in my life is bad.”
When you have a difficulty in your life, it is in one aspect, perhaps. It is not in everything. It might be affecting, maybe your relationship with your spouse or your family, or maybe it is financial situation, maybe it is something to do with your health or your children, but there are countless other aspects of your life that are going well.
You might have financial trouble but you are healthy. You might be healthy but you have an issue with your family. You might be healthy and have money but there is a problem with your spouse. It is never in everything that you have trials.
There is a principle in the Quran: “Indeed with difficulty is ease.” In every situation, it is never all bad. With one difficulty, Allah gives us many eases. At the same time. It is not after. In this verse, Allah says with.”
Changing the way we think has a big effect on changing our response and our own emotional state. Never give up on hope as I remind myself too.