Faranha Moosajee

Student in Psychology and Full Time Worker, Psychology Student

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Is happiness just an illusion?

People are talking about searching for this elusive thing called happiness. They believe that if they reached the "thing" they want they will find happiness, yet once they acquire or reach the "thing" they only realise they want more... People are not easily satisfied and will always want more and more, will there ever be enough for true happiness?
Is it even possible to have a constant state of happiness or is being happy just a fleeting feeling that only lasts a few moments?
Do we believe that the emptiness we feel inside of ourselves can be fixed by "happiness"?

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    Jan 27 2014: I'd agree, Faranha, that happiness is really a persistant state of peace and contentment, but would also add that it's a kind of positive affect bias: a tendency to rejoice in the good in people (even though we might not be blind to the bad); to be uplifted by sunshine and stirred by rain; to feel beauty and hope; to be compassionate, forgiving, benevolent (with ourselves as well as others).... I'm sure you get the idea.

    It's not an illusion, it can be enduring, and it fills that emptiness rather than fixes it. It's just often sought after in the wrong ways. Money and external 'things' aren't irrelevant to happiness - you've probably come across the same statistics in your studies as I have in mine. It's harder to be happy when you're stressed about the bills or you're in a dead-end job or you're externally isolated in some painful way. But, I think, rather than creating happiness, money and things just clear the way for it.

    There are probably many paths to happiness. Some things that work for me are nuturing positive affect and countering negative affect - not just joy and sorrow, but nuturing things like compassion through giving (time, love or money) and countering things like anger though understanding (yes, sometimes easier said than done). I think that happiness begets happiness, just as despair begets despair. Or, as Colleen puts it, what we focus on expands.
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      Jan 28 2014: I love your juxtaposition on joy and sorrow. You feel happy when you see the beauty in your life and sad when you see the bad. However, this shows that happiness cannot be a consistent feeling, a state that can be naturally felt for long periods of time.
      I have noticed the same things you have, forgiveness, compassion, joy in the little things, the way you view the world all brings positivity to your life. For me, the reason I can do all these things is because some part of me has found inner peace. The light you give the world is the light you get back, and then your contentment grows.
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        Jan 28 2014: Mmm. I get your points (and nicely put). I draw a distinction between joy and happiness - joy being that short-lived euphoria, happiness being...perhaps the opposite of depression. If a depressed person laughs, it doesn't mean they're no longer depressed, any more than a happy person crying means they've lost that general, underlying state of happiness. And the effects in both these cases are short-lived. In fact, perhaps it's fair to say all those symtoms of depression are the reverse in happy people. Emotional resillience for emotional fragility; self-confidence for self-doubt; tendency to forget the bad for a tendency to forget the good; seeing beauty all around for beauty blindness; outward focus for inward focus....

        Your second para - I completely agree. It's difficult, in some cases perhaps impossible, to take that sort of control over one's mind without some inner peace or happiness. So I think the key there is to begin by doing, and just the actions bring psychological change. And then, as you get that light back, as you put it, and you become stronger, you can start with the internal stuff. This is one of my favourite talks - an example of how doing brings happiness: http://www.ted.com/talks/michael_norton_how_to_buy_happiness.html
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          Jan 28 2014: Thank you for the link. I cannot wait to watch it!
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    Jan 24 2014: True happiness is never stopping to think about if you are happy
  • Jan 27 2014: Yes, happiness is a just an illusion.
    Misery is also just an illusion.

    Choose your illusion.
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      Jan 28 2014: Describe how happiness is a illusion.
  • Feb 5 2014: Wow, there has been so much said on this discussion, the ? or statement has definitely touched some deep chords with people and myself. For me happiness and gratitude are some how linked together and that you can find one beside the other if given the opportunity. With that said many factors can hinder a healthy balance of happiness, please let me try and explain by my example. I being a suicidal survivor was a person who loved life to it's highest plateaus yet I also experienced life's lowest landscapes so my joys/happiness fluctuated greatly. With a simple dose of medication I seem to have discovered a joy that is not based on finding the highs but on discovering a more level landscape. Fluoxetine, which adjusted my serotonin levels helped reduce the highs and lows and in the end I can honestly say that i am a happier person while witnessing happiness around me. Maybe that what happiness is a witnessing of the joys in others and ourselves with gratitude thrown in? Thank you and sorry if subject matter offends others.
  • Jan 31 2014: Happiness is completely an illusion , happiness is never a long lasting thing !! even if you work at any place or the work you love the most and you happy with it !! its just for few days as it goes that happiness is not there when you started it . If you even are not in a mood just go out somewhere at a calm place you'll have the happiness for the only time being till you feel the nature ..
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    Jan 27 2014: I'd prefer a stable and lasting sense of balanced wellbeing to happiness.
  • Jan 25 2014: Sometimes I think Life is an illusion. 8>))
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      Jan 28 2014: I think this whole world is just an illusion, we are just here to do the best we can with what we have. Life plays games and it all depends on what kind of game player you decide to be?
      • Jan 28 2014: Shakespeare said it best in "As You Like It" or if you are in a bad mood, "Macbeth"

        "As You Like it"

        All the world's a stage,
        And all the men and women merely players:
        They have their exits and their entrances;
        And one man in his time plays many parts,
        His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
        Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
        And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
        And shining morning face, creeping like snail
        Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
        Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
        Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
        Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
        Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
        Seeking the bubble reputation
        Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
        In fair round belly with good capon lined,
        With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
        Full of wise saws and modern instances;
        And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
        Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
        With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
        His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
        For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
        Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
        And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
        That ends this strange eventful history,
        Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
        Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
      • Jan 28 2014: "Macbeth"

        She should have died hereafter;
        There would have been a time for such a word.
        Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
        Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
        To the last syllable of recorded time;
        And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
        The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
        Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
        That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
        And then is heard no more. It is a tale
        Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
        Signifying nothing.
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    Lejan .

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    Jan 24 2014: On 'things' it takes surprisingly little to have all one needs. From there, happiness is only choice ...
    • Jan 25 2014: If one can simply choose to be happy why is depression and suicide on the rise not mention that they exist in the first place?
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        Lejan .

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        Jan 25 2014: I don't think this choice is as simple as it looks, like a 'switch on' switch off' button, yet I agree that me using 'only' in the given context was a bit provocative ... maybe on purpose? :o)

        To me it is more like the process of learning a new language. The decision itself may be quick, but to finally get there, it usually takes a long time of learning and practicing and an ongoing personal motivation.

        Depression does not represent a healthy state of mind to me, in which the decision for happiness may still spark, or the desire for it, yet it seems psychologically (maybe even physically) incapable to finally execute, experience and to reach it.
        • Jan 25 2014: I believe as well that there are a lot of choices that people can and do make that effect their happiness some can help raise their levels or at least decrease their distress while others pile on. I figured this is what you meant I just wanted clarification. Depression is becoming the norm at least in the US unfortunately. Doctors have been reporting significant increases in diagnosis and this isn't counting the untold numbers that self medicate.
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        Jan 25 2014: I am well aware and highly concerned about the rise in depression you describe for the US, Sklar, and similar tendencies are spreading in Europe too. I myself still suffer from a burnout syndrome and many of my former colleagues do too, or are close to get into one. A tendency we as a society have to realize and to accept to finally change the underlying reasons for that. When this is going to happen, I don't know, but it is about time already.
        • Jan 25 2014: I am in a similar boat and don't wish it on anyone. May you and all our brothers and sisters know they are not alone and find peace in this life. Thank you for sharing.
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          Jan 28 2014: I think depression has increased in the world all over. I think this is because we fed the need to want more and we fed an idea of normalcy and how life should be. For example, you not complete until you have a significant other. Every society we are born into has their own ideas on what normalcy is and if we do not tick all those blocks we are different. We are judged. So we reach for the unattainable, because we weren't born to tick all the boxes it is unattainable, yet we do it anyway because society says we should.
          I suffer from Chronic Depression, this could be due to some sort of chemical imbalance or this could be due to the fact that I spent most of my life feeling as if I could find happiness by reaching the next stage, acquiring the next thing. However, in the past year I have found that the secret is not to search for happiness and normalcy but to find peace in yourself. Give to the world positive light and you will receive positive light back. There are moments that I still feel completely crazy and sad but I have learnt to keep moving and to keep going to the place in me that has that light. A huge part of it has been compassion, caring about humanity, wondering about the world and why exactly we are here, finding a purpose in my life. It has been a long and painful journey. But one of extreme enlightenment.
          I wish for everyone to find some sort of peace in their souls.
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        Jan 25 2014: Thank you for your kind words, an may you find your peace too!
  • Jan 24 2014: “Wanting is pain”- Paramhansa Yogananda
    No more wanting.... no more pain.
    Contentment is happiness.
    The Dalai Lama said "The purpose of our lives is to be happy"
    So when we are content, we are happy and fulfilling our purpose.
    When we are not content, we are in pain.
    The Buddha put it like this:
    "Nirvana is this moment seen directly. There is no where else than here. The only gate is now. The only doorway is your own body and mind. There’s nowhere to go. There’s nothing else to be. There’s no destination. It’s not something to aim for in the afterlife. It’s simply the quality of this moment."
    Once the Buddha decovered this he was perfectly happy to sit under the bodhi tree in bliss until he died, however as more and more disciples come to him for advise it became apparent that he should spread the message far and wide which he did for the rest of his life.
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      Jan 28 2014: The power of now, know the now, realise the now and you will find peace. Happiness? But yes, peace.
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    Jan 23 2014: Welcome to TED conversations Faranha. Are you aware that there are lots of conversations on this topic? You might want to check them out?

    You are correct...people are searching for happiness/contentment "out there" somewhere, and in my perception, it is in us....part of us....something we can create in our "self", and bring wherever we go:>)

    You ask..."will there ever be enough for true happiness"?
    Depends on your perception of what is "enough":>)
  • Feb 6 2014: cant be said as an illusion, it can be said as a state of mind. But mind for sure is an Illusion as it lasts only till we breathe and hence not permenant.
    Happiness depends on our body and mind.
    Assuming A is happy if he/she shops and goes for shopping happily. Suddenly she is hit by a vehicle, and is hospitalized. She now would only be happy, if she gets discharged without any physical and mental disabilities.

    In my opinion, as long as our wants are limited and enjoy out of our limited wants, we do good to the society by being happy. (Because our happiness is others sorrow in most of the cases.)
  • Feb 5 2014: I think that every body has some purposes and thinks if reach them ,will be happy. bus as our mind doesn't satisfy at all and the time doesn't stop,every day we want something new and after a period of time when we look at our past and see our accomplishments we unconsciously smile... and I think this SMILE might be happiness :)
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    Feb 2 2014: If you can feel it and reflects in the way you carry yourself it is real. Real happiness comes from the heart, induced happiness comes from the mind. but they are real. you can be happy if you are happy for others, and this demands meditation,prayer,compassion, understanding, acceptance and being content with the surrounding.
  • Jan 31 2014: To reach true happiness, we need to know what is the purpose of our life.
    People need to eat every day to supply their bodies with energy and to keep themselves healthy. If they stop eating for a period of time, diseases will sneak up upon them and overtake them, and perhaps even kill them. Similarly, people also need food of another kind, food for the spirit and heart. It is unfortunate that while people are careful never to forget to feed their bodies, they do not show the same concern for the health of their souls and hearts. The heart needs food as the body does. The diseases of the body and the debilitating effects they have are not more dangerous than the diseases of the heart and soul.
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    Jan 28 2014: Happiness is real, most of the time. But most of what is described as happiness is fleeting. Contentment and serenity are more meaningful ... and lasting.
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    Jan 28 2014: I think Happiness comes to you like a blow. When you least expect it. Just like any other feeling. You can't make happiness just come as you can not make sadness or anger. It just comes. My goal in life is to find happiness. To find that I just follow my heart.
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    Jan 28 2014: Hi Ms Moosajee, Is happiness just an illusion? This being a debate I must say yes and no. Happiness is an abstract word. In time true and lasting happiness can be found but you don't get there without going through the illusions. The ego's direction to happiness leads to seeking and never finding, always wanting more to fill the void of an empty existence. Nothing in this physical world can fill that void. True happiness is derived from something much greater. It comes in installments through time and understanding. Follow the principles and you will find real happiness beyond what you can imagine. Although I have not found a constant state of happiness, I have found a consistency. Happiness, by the way what's my other choice?
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      Jan 28 2014: But then true happiness is not actually happiness. True happiness would then be peace. Because understanding brings peace to the soul, and peace to the soul equals contentment and contentment is not the "happiness" we expect to feel. Contenment is a sense of calm, a consistency like you have mentioned.
      I appreciate what you say about the ego. The ego drives us to this sense of ecstatic happiness, chasing that illusion of things and needing more and wanting more, nothing will ever be enough.
      People assume that if you not happy you are sad or miserable or depressed? But maybe instead of searching for "happy" we should search for inner peace, love, light and laughter.
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        Jan 28 2014: I agree. Great Answer Faranha!
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        Jan 28 2014: Faranha, You can call it happiness, peace, love, enlightenment or whatever you want. It is simply the opposing energy of the ego mind. You can call that what you want, negative thought process, devil, ignorance, or ego. Beyond the different words is the content. Words and symbols are twice removed from reality but that's a part of trying to express oneself and communicate. Love can not be defined by words, only extended from source. That is the Love of Creation, Love of Life or I may call it Love of God.
  • Jan 26 2014: Hi Faranha,Happiness is what you think about in your mind.
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    • Jan 27 2014: Nature has no purpose. Nature is merely a convenient way to refer to the universe as a whole. The universe has no purpose, no intent, no thought, it just is.
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    Jan 25 2014: Yes, it is. If you know how to make it or how people make it, you can create your own and enjoy it in a healthy way.
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      Jan 28 2014: But for how long can you live in the illusion you have created to constantly feel this sense of ecstatic happiness?
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        Jan 30 2014: :) I have my personal understanding on the "illusion", I don't think I have to live in illusions. And I've noticed that Bryan Maloney also said the same things as I did. And he's got thumb-ups which is to say this is not only one person's thinking. I'd like to hear other's reason first, if it's as the same as mine, it'll be a great surprise and joy for me. Thank you for your attention.
  • Jan 25 2014: Happiness is actually a state or feeling produced by many different chemicals most of which occur naturally in our brain. Some people regularly produce more while others produce very little while many are situational and triggered by an event or circumstances. That is on the software side. The hardware side has to do with structure and activity in certain regions of the brain. On the flip side many with illnesses and abnormalities such as chronic depressives often have a hyperactive sadness center which as the name suggests controls sadness levels and can disrupt and even prevent those fuzzy feelings.
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    Jan 24 2014: .
    The INVALID HAPPINESS part only is illusion.
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    Jan 24 2014: Take a peek at some of these: http://www.ted.com/topics/happiness

    This one and the Martin Seligman might be a good place to start: http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_gilbert_asks_why_are_we_happy.html
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    Jan 24 2014: SOMETIMES!
  • Jan 23 2014: I don't see any real alternative.
    I suppose you could lock yourself up somewhere with the right choice of drugs and meditative techniques and be in an elated mood all the time, but you won't lead a very productive life. Eventually, reality will catch up--funds run dry, drugs come with side effects, your health will eventually begin faltering, and someone needs to be out working the fields so we don't all starve.

    Learning to feel content, if not ecstatically happy, is a more realistic goal, and more easily sustainable over long periods. Has more to do with temperament then anything.
    Another option is learning to enjoy the journey rather then the final destination, and set a destination which keeps on moving the goalposts. Two different forms of "happy", of a less hedonistic kind, I suppose.
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      Jan 23 2014: I agree Nadav.....happiness/contentment is a way of travel....not just a destination:>)
  • Jan 23 2014: The evidence seems to show that most people's happiness level fluctuates around a personal norm. If good or bad things happen, we are more or less happy for a time, but soon return to our personal happiness norm level.

    So, I don't think happiness is an illusion, how could it be? However, the search for a perpetual peak of happiness is probably self defeating. To be really happy, I believe is to be "in flow", which is incompatible with constantly asking ourselves the question "how happy am I?"

    I liked Andrew Solomon's conclusion, that “People … don't want to be cured or changed or eliminated. They want to be whoever it is that they've come to be.”
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      Jan 23 2014: I feel that people are seeking a constant state of happiness because that is what is portrayed in life. In the books and movies we watch as kids to the media we have around us as adults.

      I do not think that people can be fixed, they definitely just looking to be accepted as how they are. Unfortunately I believe society has a preconceived notion of normal. Whoever does not fit the criteria of normal will probably not find acceptance, may not even accept themselves.

      I think the "happiness" we seek is actually just a state of peace and contentment. I always say that all I ask for is to be okay. The opposite of sadness is not happiness.
      • Feb 5 2014: !!Hi Farhana as a New comer nd very young 20 my age I want to confirm upto my xperiences de person feels hapiness in the state of Peace & a person can acquire this peace only in a way when he is Obedient to his her duties nd Responsibilities wether fmly duties,personal duties, friendly responces, or orders by his her GOD's or even Duties of GOD . As per my Little xperiencd concept dis is a way man Acquires Peace to his soul n body dn he feels Happiness n joy in evry aspect of Life.
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      Jan 23 2014: Jim and Faranha,
      I agree that continuous, genuine happiness/contentment is a flow, and if one has it, we don't need to constantly ask ourselves if we have it or not!

      Accepting one "self" is a big part of happiness/contentment, in my humble perception:>)
      • Feb 5 2014: Hi Evry body....! I am Khursheed Dar here as a student of BSc 1st Yr 2014. I want to make U sure I didn't want to go continue fo BSc and my family r trying inforcing me fo Engeneering ! My own wish is to b a Future Scientist wether I may hv to Stop fo Years bt I want to Becme a Great physicst . PLEEZ Give me Ur Bettr Opinion nd Commentment so I shall move Ahead !!!Hi Farhana as a New comer nd very young 20 my age I want to confirm upto my xperiences de person feels hapiness in the state of Peace & a person can acquire this peace only in a way when he is Obedient to his her duties nd Responsibilities wether fmly duties,personal duties, friendly responces, or orders by his her HOD's or even Duties of GOD . As per my Little xperiencd concept dis is a way man Acquires Peace to his soul n body dn he feels Happiness n joy in evry aspect of Life.