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Happiness – Inside Out or Outside In…

June 2, 2009


How do you think the world works..? Outside in or inside out?

Let me explain the question.

What really makes you happy or sad..? What you feel inside or the outer stimuli? Who has control of your feelings, yourself or the outer world?

The basic question is how and when one feels happy?

One is happy when one’s wishes are fulfilled. Wishes could be anything as big as buying a home or going on a world tour or as small as getting to listen to their favourite song, or reading a good book when they wanted. That is enough to make one happy.

When our expectations are fulfilled we are happy. Getting a call from a friend when we needed someone or looking at a baby smile back at us. It could make anyone happy.

Why? Because we all want that to happen, we expect that. If it is fulfilled we are happy and when not, well.. we all know what happens then.

Let us see what happens when we are happy and not.

We feel happy; we make others happy in our own way, we would want to some good, we might even go out of our way to help someone. As we feel happy we become more tolerant towards others. Other people’s actions won’t make much impact on our feelings. If a person was to step on our tail or rub us in a wrong way we might let them do that without making a big fuss over it. That is when we are really happy.

And if we are angry or sad, we reflect that on others till they too feel miserable. We might pick a fight even at the slightest inconveniences. We would throw tantrums, make small issues big, and invite arguments. And end up with a bunch of angry people all around.

Haven’t we all seen that or to be more true haven’t we all done that.

One school psychology says that a person’s mind works from inside out. What the person feels inside is translated by him/her to the outer world. That is Emotions are internal.

Let us see a traditional example for that. Boss shouts at the employee because he is feeling angry, he is grumpy, everything pisses him off and then finds the outlet in office. Now this employee angry with the boss goes home and shouts at his wife as he has power to shout at her or the kids only and not at the boss.

The employee if really is happy inside will he actually shout at his family that he loves? If he is happy enough, the external situations must not affect him and he should continue with his life normally as he was doing before he was shouted at.

But that rarely happens. We react to the outer world. Our actions are not actually actions but reactions to the stimuli that hit us every day, every second. And our moods vary because of that.

That is what Behavioral psychologists say, that the brain works outside in. That if you give your body and brain positive a stimulus then it will surely react to it in a positive way and vice versa.

It is said that if you make up a fake smile the brain thinks that you are happy and releases the chemicals which are released actually when you are happy. And because of these chemicals now you actually start feeling happy. (Try it, its true)

I am sure that most of the time the world works outside in, everything around us be it things or people act as stimuli to us.

The people we live or work with play a major role in leaving us happy or sad or angry. Imagine someone saying something that doesn’t suit you.. Poof there goes the good mood to trash and out comes Mr. / Ms. Grumpy. If someone as much as appreciates your new bag / tie and there you are on the cloud nine.

What’s wrong with that..? Nothing

What else makes us happy..?

Comforts make us happy. All expensive things make us happy. They sure give us the feeling of comfort or security. But do they give us the actual happiness. Or the happiness we get from buying expensive items is the ultimate we could have?

The world sees the happiness from outside in and that is why everyone wants all the external pleasures in life that it will make them happy. It does for some time but will something new I buy today keep me happy for my whole life.. Or even a whole year? So I will need a series of new things to keep me happy. So I’ll need to shop more..

Window shopping is like the new national pastime.. People spend days in malls looking and drooling at items they would like to get their hands on. 

Uh oh..  There stars the trouble.. More things wanted.

Not having things (which we might or might not actually need) don’t make us unhappy. What makes us majorly unhappy is when we COMPARE our lives with others.

We see others flaunting their new cars and mobiles and vacation photos and we feel left out and JEALOUS. Agree or not it is the truth. That makes us more unhappy than anything.. To see others happy.

Why should outer events affect us? Why should we be happy only when the world allows us by behaving accordingly? Why should we let others take control of our emotions? Why should we be the puppet dancing according to other people’s actions..?

It is true that these do make an impact but we can atleast keep to a minimum by using our brain instead of our heart.

If we are really happy inside the external stimuli won’t affect us as much. Peace brings in the real Happiness. That can’t be affected by anything. Peace comes in with Contentment.

How can we be Content..?

We can be happy and content when we feel gratitude for all we have.

It sounds simple but is the hardest thing to do. How many of us are happy that we have a normal healthy body, a normally functioning brain, a family, friends, a job, and all the basic amenities of life. (Don’t forget we all have the most important amenity – internet)

When we wake up everyday we should be happy that we are alive to see the sun. We have 24 hours ahead in which we can do something useful for ourselves or for others. We have the physical and mental power to enhance lives, to move forward and achieve.

When I said we should be content it must not be associated with not wanting to achieve. It is like when the new day begins we must set new goals to reach before that day ends at the end of each day and when the day ends we should be content with what we have achieved in that day.

We all know that. But we always want more.

If you ask someone they might say I don’t want more.. I just want something different. But that would mean the same. That they are not happy with what they have.

Does wanting something different solve the trouble..? No. It remains the same.

We must first understand that this is the life we have and this is where we are to start from. Now what we make out of it is in our own hands.

Think about it.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. June 2, 2009 2:30 pm

    I agree Oorja!! Lovely post. Wants and comforts make nobody happy! I feel we are happier if we find happiness from things like a lovely morning, a pretty flower, a good meal, a nice conversation, a new blog friend 🙂 ….

    ya when we enjoy the morning or a flower we never think that we have or we could enjoy a better one.. we just feel the moment.
    unlike the materialistic things which always can be compared..

  2. June 2, 2009 3:25 pm

    Quite true… peace and contentment are those that eventually lead to a true state of happiness and one with the world. Materialism will not provide happiness.

    Hmm.. materials will never be able to compete with peace of mind.

  3. June 2, 2009 3:47 pm

    very interesting!

    must think kind of matter….

  4. June 2, 2009 4:38 pm

    I sing songs to keep myself happy. Whenever I feel that there is a rise in my blood pressure, I would find some song to hum ! 😀 A few minutes later, I would be as cool as a cucumber! LOL !

    now that everyone must learn.. 🙂

    songs provide such divine mental peace.. (not the Gaana songs of Tamil movies) i mean real nice songs..

  5. June 2, 2009 7:06 pm

    thought-provoking post! never thought about it this way… outside in and inside out! hmm….

    but i m not sure about the fake smile eventually leading to a real one. even if one fakes a smile but is feeling sad,angry within, will the chemicals still get released??

    that happens. i have tried it.. even if you don’t actually get happy atleast the BP goes down till the smile is there.

    i think that is what Dr. Asthana practiced in Munna Bhai MBBS..

  6. June 2, 2009 7:33 pm

    I think the only thing which really makes me happy is some dream which comes true. Nothing materialistic, but it might be just a simple dream like a place I wanted to visit since a long time.

    dreams.. one more word for expectations.. fulfilled makes us happy.. 🙂

    would you not be happy if you can’t visit that or any place…?

  7. June 2, 2009 10:20 pm

    I can find happiness in lot of things and the same things can make me sad at other times. A beautiful morning usually brings cheers but there are times when I absolutely hate it. My daughter’s smile in the morning is one thing which brightens even a dull day.

    Even jewelry, new car, house and such materialistic things bring happiness too because it makes life easier. When life is easy things look rosy. I am someone who believes money is also important for happiness.

    very true.. even Maslow’s theory talks about it.. Roti, Kapda ,Makan the basics of life, only when this is achieved we tend to look for anythng further in life. and money gets us this. no one can deny the importance of money in our lives.

    only that many a people are not happy even when they have all this. and i talk about that discontentment with life due to unrealistic expectations.

  8. June 2, 2009 10:22 pm

    BTW Oorja, very thoughtful post.


  9. June 2, 2009 10:38 pm

    I’d like to take on the cognitive psychologists’ perspective — the way we think (about situations/events/things) makes us feel a certain way. So, if we think something small is valuable, we are likely to feel happy but if we think that it’s not good enough, we are likely to feel frustrated. 🙂

    yes.. a 4 bedroom villa could feel invaluable to a person who has his eye on a bigger mansion.. so that is totally relative and subjective… so we are responsible for our own feelings. 🙂

  10. June 3, 2009 4:26 am

    Yes, very true.

    We feel the way we think, we feel.

    That’s the one liner for me.

    Everything is upto us. If complacency is a sin, discontentment is an even bigger sin.

    yes discontentment is really a sin. we are letting ourselves down by not really being greatful for all we do have.
    which i am sure is much more than a lot of world’s population.

  11. June 3, 2009 8:37 am

    dont worry….be happy….:):):):)

    😀 now… why did i waste so many words… this is The Mantra… 🙂

  12. June 3, 2009 8:58 am

    its been ages since I heard Maslow’s theory 😀
    but the theory does hold true na?

    oh ya Maslow’s theory would hold true any day…

    only when we fulfill the needs on the base of the pyramid, then only our mind will start considering the next level… and so on..

  13. June 3, 2009 9:20 am

    well it seems dese days all r writing abt being happy….urs is d 3rd or 4th blog dat i came across where someone has written abt being happy….well i am no exception in dis case..but wen i wrote dis ppl labelled me as their granny….

    chk dis out….

    Hmm.. it is like a theme for these days or maybe we need more of these as all of us are suffering from some kind “unhappiness epidemic”.
    or else why would everyone be writing about it.

  14. June 3, 2009 11:12 am

    Beautifully written post Oorja..
    Peace comes in with Contentment.

    I would agree comepletely..

    Sometimes life forces us to ponder about things..
    I remember that even otehrwise we were and are a pretty happy content family..but after we came really close to losing a loved one…we changed and are now more thankful for all that we have..
    which is the company of loved ones…

    thats all that matters in life..

    money too…yes..because the absence of money can cause some friction in life too..with loved ones in life..

    how much money is required to lead a content life is the main question…

    There may be an end to our ‘needs’ but never to our ‘wants’, and the problem begins there…

    we should have money enough to fulfill needs because without that life will really be difficult (like the ones living below poverty line) but as our needs get fulfilled our ‘unlimited wants’ start flourishing and to handle that and be satisfied with what we have is really difficult.

    and i totally agree that when we experience a seperation or fear of losing a loved one we start valuing the life we have a lot more… but i hope not everyone has to go through that to learn that lesson. 🙂

  15. June 5, 2009 11:26 am

    Thought provoking!!!

    Very well written 🙂


    Welcome here.. 🙂

  16. June 5, 2009 7:22 pm

    Please help me, please. You have been tagged to help me :

    on my way..

  17. June 6, 2009 3:15 pm

    Thoughtful post oorja… I have read about somewhere before and you have reminded me about that again 🙂 its a very difficult state to attain… being not affected by external happenings but if we muster that them there is nothing to worry us 🙂

    yes if we ever attain that we will never have to worry about anything. but it is really difficult to condition your mind that much so that outer things don’t affect us.

  18. June 7, 2009 9:08 am

    I truly believe that happiness is an “inside job”. No other person, or thing, can “make” us happy. The rest of the world is there, of course, but we can choose how we react, or if we do.
    This is very thought provoking, as is much of your writing. I am still thinking about how “pretending” to smile actually makes us start to feel happy!
    I have wanted to comment for a long time, because I admire your writing and thinking very much. There is a lot to read here, and I’m looking forward to catching up! 🙂

    Thank you so much.. and welcome here Muse..

    yes we must make the impact of outer world lesser and lesser on our real happiness. and it needs a lot of practice.

    pretend smile surely lowers the blood pressure.

  19. June 7, 2009 9:16 am

    Nice post. Contentment – Not a easy one to attain 🙂

    oh it is the most difficult thing to attain. 🙂

  20. June 9, 2009 5:03 am

    I don’t think what we make out of our lives is in our own hands. If that is to become true, then we need to get completely detached from others. Now, that’s not exactly why we live in societies.

    And secondly, I feel that we should not always want to be happy. Some times pain, sadness, hurt etc. translates into achievements and learning.

    Destination Infinity

    Our thoughts become our words and actions. what we think definitely affects our lives and so we can shape our life upto a large extent.

    detachment in a different context is good but it is no solution here. the real idea is to make your own self positive enough that the negative stimuli don’t affect you much.

    yes one who goes through pain CAN learn a lot from it. but mostly people prefer to sing their pain than do something about it. it is not only about being happy always. it is to learn to be happy even if the world is not favouable. then only you can succeed.

  21. June 9, 2009 10:34 pm

    Mother ener-ji,

    Nice post. Well not to discredit you, I too had thought on these issues. And also quite agree that it’s contentment that’s required to be, well, content 🙂

    But how does one feel gratitude? And towards whom? Well for theists, the second point becomes moot. So concentrating only on the first point, I’d like to point out that it’s not necessarily gratitude that one ought to feel. I’d call it introspection–no, the issue is not merely semantif one. Introspection would also entail taking a stock of what we want and for what reasons. Just because something we want has a heavy price tag, doesn’t make its desire or purchase unjustified. If I’m sure that I want to watch my movies, and listen to my music on the best equipment that market has to offer because I’m passionate about them, then there’s nothing really wrong in desiring them.

    Yes, it’d be silly if I’d want to buy them only to outdo my neighbors.

    Very integral to the desire to live, is a desire to want. Yes, this desire gives rise to suffering, disenchantment and pain, but it’s the fulfillment of same desires and resolution of the same sorrows that serve as incentives for us to wake up the next day.

    You’ll find a discussion very much related to these issues in last 7 to 8 comments on this post, where you’d also commented in the past:

    Well, you might feel that half the times I comment on your blog, I request you to go through one post or the other, but believe me, here you’ll truly find something pertinent and will offer you a different perspective.


    Very integral to the desire to live, is a desire to want. Yes, this desire gives rise to suffering, disenchantment and pain, but it’s the fulfillment of same desires and resolution of the same sorrows that serve as incentives for us to wake up the next day.

    There comes my point.. if your desires or wants are not being fulfilled (not considering the basic needs) will you not want to wake up..? is happiness only about getting what you want..?

    There is one more conccept that has been in my mind for some time now..

    What you ‘WANT’ might not be what you ‘NEED’ and/or ‘DESERVE’.

    one might want to watch a movie in top class equipments but he can surely live without it.

    rest of it.. let me come to your blog we’ll discuss it there.

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