Continue the Conversation on Happiness!

CNY hosted its first official conversation on December 3, 2012. We discussed Happiness and divided the topic into “What is happiness and where does it come from,” and “How can one become happier?” More specific questions were, “Are Americans obsessed with being happy,” “Who’s the happiest person you know and why,” “Have you ever given up anything to be happier?” and “Is happiness a choice?”

In one group, the conferees sharply questioned the whole idea of pursuing happiness as the overriding goal of life.  It was pointed out that pessimists may be more in touch with the realities of life which are often quite negative, and American culture brainwashes us into the expectation that we can “have it all.”  Such interrogation of the ideal of happiness is reflected in the recent book, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America.

In another group, participants largely agreed that happiness comes from relationships, community, and identity. Some participants recounted tragic experiences that led them to this conclusion. Still others discussed how their belief in Buddhism as a philosophy, and psychology as a science, helped them understand themselves and others better, which led them to a greater happiness.

One specific technique for happiness which intrigued many participants was Laughing Yoga, an experiential exercise in which people are encouraged to just start laughing even if they are “faking it.” Pretty soon the ridiculousness of the situation impels widespread genuine hilarity.

The conversation ended by recounting what struck participants, or if any new perspectives had been gained. It was noted that life is filled with ups and downs, and that oftentimes happiness naturally results as a byproduct of daily interactions and experiences that you never expect, rather than resulting from a concerted effort or search for happiness.

What do you think? What idea stuck with you after the conversation? Whether you were able to join the discussion or not, we’d love for you to continue the conversation by leaving a comment on this blog post!