So far we have understood that emotions are states of a body that undertakes actions aimed at transforming its environment (avoiding threats or taking advantage of opportunities). The feelings on the other hand, are the way the mind perceives these bodily changes. Based on this information, we could attempt the following definition of happiness:
Happiness is a particular state of the body that is experienced by mind. This state arises in a body that is recognizing that it is in full balance, in full harmony with its environment, and therefore does not seek to transform it.
To understand this better, imagine any situation that you think could make you feel happy. How do you feel when you imagine this situation, how does your mind react to this mental story?
Let’s do a little experiment. Imagine that something that stands in the way of your wellbeing – disappears. How do you feel? Have you noticed that a little part of mental tension that was previously present disappeared? Now imagine that something that is in your opinion missing in your life suddenly appears. Again pay attention to the state of your mind. How does it feel? You’ll probably notice that in both cases a little bit more of relaxation appears in the mind. Merely imagining positive circumstances causes a small part of mental tension that is present in the mind to disappear.
Understanding that happiness is a state of a fully relaxed body-mind has significant implications. It is a pointer that allows you to bring your mind closer to happiness. In short it’s enough to just keep the mind as relaxed as possible, for happiness is inversely related to the amount of tension in the mind. Hence the recipe for happiness is very simple and reads as follows:
if you want to be happy – relax
Right now, you may feel a little disappointed about the lack of freshness of this brilliant advice. You may even think that you are the only one who, despite your best efforts, is unable to really relax. You’ve probably experienced more than once the frustrating situation when you were trying to relax and feeling even more tense as the result.
This is exactly the point. No one can force the body-mind into a relaxed state. There is no way to make your body-mind relaxed by an effort of will. Relaxation and the resulting happiness are states that occur naturally when the body and mind are prepared for it.
To understand this point better, let’s take a closer look at stress.