Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What Makes You Happy?

What makes people happy? And , what is the secret to happiness, if there is any.

This is a question that has been debated, discussed , answered in so many different ways by great religious, political, literary personalities, philosophers and ordinary people over the centuries, but it seems that even at present, we have not come up with the one answer that could satisfy everybody.

A very close friend of mine who originally came from Southeast Asia who is from a very affluent family once told me that money can buy happiness. He said with money you can live luxuriously and even buy love. I argued vehemently against this view. He retorted back , by asking me how many young women in this generation would refuse to marry somebody if they were offered a mansion, ten million dollars cash, 1 million in shopping allowance a month, the spa, house help. Not many, I answered.

Another friend who is a Moslem said - Allah. Dave, a co-worker who is also a runner (he specializes in shorter distances - the 5k and 10k) proclaimed that Jesus Christ is the only way to happiness. Jeff, another co-worker suggested that there is no God and no heaven so just make yourself happy by pampering yourself with a big house, nice car, good food, nice clothes, a pretty wife, booze , as long as you can while alive because when you die, that is it. That is the end.

Monty, another close friend, who actually I consider my mentor (he was first to encourage me to try running) shared to me his one experience that made him feel so much happiness. He said, that one time, his 5 year old daughter surprised him by jumping on his back and playfully tried to choke him by the neck. So, he played along, pretending that he was getting hurt and fainting. And, then they both started laughing and hugging, and then out of the blue his daughter blurted out, " I love you Dad". He asked his little girl, "Why do you say that ?" . His daughter looked at him affectionately and with an innocent smile said, "because you're a good Dad". My friend confided to me that hearing those words from his daughter was one of the happiest moments in his life.

My sister-in-law and my wife jokingly said give them more shopping money (they're really sisters) and they will be happy. My two daughters on the other hand, would be happy if we could eat out more often in our favorite Japanese restaurant and If I could pay half of their vacation expenses to Paris in March .

I am pretty sure for my runner friends, a new PR, finishing a longer race or running a dream race would make them happy (just like me).

Some people may understandably choose fame, beauty (good looks), intellect, success in their chosen profession, physical prowess/skill or a combination of these as reason/s for their happiness.

One day, while driving home with my "rich friend" (we carpooled that day) , he confided to me that although he has everything a man needs to be happy, money, big house, healthy beautiful children, a good wife, a big inheritance he was expecting from his parents (he's the oldest son), he does not feel happy. He then asked me, "Are you happy?". Considering that my friend was much better off than me financially, I was surprised by the question and I surprised myself even more by answering truthfully, "Yes, I am ."

I remember my late mother telling me that for one to live a happy life, he has to be a good person. A good person has to take care of himself first, so he could take care of his family, relatives and friends, his neighbors, his community. You also choose your friends and try to surround yourself with good and happy people. Happiness is contagious, and when you're with happy, optimistic, kindhearted people you become just like them. She also taught me that when you do good to your fellowmen, you feel good about yourself, and good things happen to you. Another advice that she gave me is to try to live a simple life and not to be too materialistic. If one is contented to live simply, he would not have to perpetually try to keep up with the Joneses. Lastly, engage in activities that you love that are fun, clean, wholesome and healthy .

These are ideas from my mother that I try to adhere to and live by.

So, why am I happy? Simply, because I try to be a good person , I live a very simple life and I try to surround myself with good and happy people. In addition , I was lucky to discover and get into a sport that attracts the friendliest, smartest, most health/fitness conscious, optimistic, supportive and happiest people around - running.

What about you, what makes you happy?



  1. Excellent entry. I believe that true happiness is not found outside yourself or in the accumulation of material goods. Material goods become obsolete so quickly that they leave you wanting the next new version. That wanting doesn't make you happy. Friendship, laughter, love these are immaterial things that bring joy and happiness. Learn to live and love simply and you will attain happiness.

  2. Bong, I am happy that I have "met" you because of running and blogging. You just don't know how much you have changed the course of my destiny. Your comment in my blog came at that precise moment when I was about to publish my last and final entry, my ULTIMO ADIOS so to speak. I didn't publish the reason why I had to stop blogging but some runners knew that I was deeply hurt by a runner I greatly admire. Anyway, I already buried that hurt in 2008 and thanks to you, my interest in blogging (and running) has been miraculously renewed.

    Again, a million thanks to you Bong. Now that you have your own blog, I'm sure you'll continue making others happy.

    (And I disagree with you that you're not a great writer. You write with your heart, with truthfulness and clarity that touch other people's lives. Keep it up, Bong!)

    God bless you and your family!

  3. Thanks Wile for passing by. Glad to know that we share the same ideas on how to be happy.

  4. I appreciate your encouraging words Nora. Thanks so much.

    You're still not writing enough posts to satisfy our hunger for your stories though.

    Hope to hear from you after your first 10k race (it'll be nice if there are pictures too).

    Happy running!

  5. Bong,
    The thing that made happy last sunday was, i didn't have the cramps. You've read in my blog that cramps is more often happen to me and I thank God it didn't happened last sunday.
    Thank you so much Bong. Take care and keep on running.

  6. Maybe happiness is a fickle and transitory thing. What made me happy before may not even bring out a smile now. And things I was apathetic to in the past may be what gives me happiness today. We change, and what makes us happy changes too.

    But fulfillment is another matter. I think you "get" it when your achievements and deeds are in attunement with your values. If you believe being good is important, then you feel happy when you perceive you are being good. If you believe in compassion and brotherhood, then helping others and having friends will make you feel good.

    I believe there are core values we all share, regardless of our different religions and upbringings. Compassion, kindness, giving, forgiveness are but a few. When we do things in line with these values, we feel happy.

    My personal belief is, there is an unending well of happiness inside all of us. It is there, always there, but in the noise and excitement of daily living we forget it, or we lose attunement to it, this inner self of ours that's perfect, complete, ever-joyful and eternal. We have to be quiet, to breathe in and out without thoughts and judgment, and then we savor oneness and happiness.

    We do not "get" this kind of deeper, "reason-less" joy. We become it, because it is who we truly are, our essence. We tap into it unwittingly when our thoughts are silenced, when we "live in the moment" with no worries and no thoughts. Much like when we run, unthinking, innocent, free as the wind, just running and running.

    Haha. I got carried away. Sorry :-)