“How are you?”
“I’m fine. As good as can be.”
Is that really true? Does that answer really mean the respondent is happy, or is it just the way one answers such a question?
I know that, regardless how I really feel, I do not want people to pity me.
William Shakespeare said: “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”
The cold, the wind, and the rain are not “bad” weather. Skilled sailors can take advantage of the wind no matter what direction it blows. How you react to things makes them good or bad to you. The way you interpret the world is the way you approach it.
My formal studies never taught me how to read people’s inner feelings or discern their personalities and temperaments. However, I have been interested in understanding people’s feelings since I was a small boy. I would wonder about how happy they were and whether they were content or ill at ease.
When I grew older, I learned about the science of psychology and it appealed to me immensely. Most of my classmates thought differently. It was one of their least favourite subjects. From reading books and reading people, I learned a lot about myself. I also became more aware of how other people saw me and what they expected of me.
If I were to have taken up any other specialisation, I think I would have become a therapist to help people overcome their inner pain and anxiety and improve their relationships with their friends and spouses. I would do what I could so that they could lead better, happier lives.
As it is, the advice I give to others comes from my life experience. I advise people to do what I have tried myself and found beneficial. I discourage them from doing the things that I have done and realised I had made a mistake. This I show I am with the people who share my life. I try to get to know them well, understand their feelings, and solve their problems.
People’s facial expressions help me to understand what they are feeling deep inside. I can tell whether they are contented or worried. When they speak, their words either confirm this or deny it.
I have gained the courage to say something I did not learn about in a book, though I am sure it must be recorded in many books. This is to declare: “Happiness is a language.”
Happiness is a Language
What you say reveals how happy you are. More than that, what you say can bring about your happiness or undermine it.
Allah says: “Did I not give him two eyes, a tongue and two lips, and did I not guide him to [discern] the two paths?” [Sūrah al-Balad: 8-11]
The eye sees, the ear hears, and the tongue gives it expression. Based on this, a person chooses what will either be good or bad. Your happiness and sadness do not depend on what you see and hear other people doing. It is your reaction that counts, what you do and say in response.
I have never, in my life, found those who speak negatively and always expect the worst to happen to be successful people. Likewise, I have never found those who speak positively and expect the best to happen to be failures.
I do not doubt that if pessimistic people were to adopt a positive discourse, even if it proves unnatural for them at first, they would find themselves feeling much better as a result. Their lives would improve and they would become more successful.
This would not happen overnight, of course, but it is within people’s power to change themselves. Allah created everyone with the capacity for happiness, goodness, and success. When we attain something of happiness, we do not take away from anyone else’s share, because our share comes from the grace of our generous Lord.
Do not entertain useless arguments. Say what is good. Expect what is good. Anticipate it. Do not let your thoughts run after fears, suspicions, and misgivings. When your friend tells you that you seem uncomfortable, respond that you are happy. Let your positive response improve your mood and make you happy for real.
Do not weigh yourself down with negative thoughts. Do not call yourself a loser, an idiot, or weak-willed. Do not think that the doors of opportunity have been slammed in your face or that your life has no point. Make it your habit to say things that are positive, wholesome, and good, like Allah instructs us to do in the Qur’an. The people around you should only hear warm, agreeable and hopeful words from you.
The first challenge you will face in changing the way you speak to from the members of your immediate family who have grown to expect certain attitudes from you. When you come to them with something different, they are not going to believe it. Your spouse will be shocked when you say something nice to them. Your children will be surprised. One will laugh and the other will stare at you with mouth agape in surprise. You will be in an awkward position, but do not worry. This is only the beginning. A lot of happiness lies ahead for you and for them. Allah knows how many lives will be improved because of your change.
Keep in mind that you are training yourself for happiness and success. You have what it takes. Pray to Allah with hope, keeping in mind that you are strengthening your abilities, building confidence in your future, reinforcing your will, and expecting the best from your Lord. Fire up your imagination by envisioning what you hope to achieve.
Even if you sometimes lapse into your old ways, do not get frustrated. Say to yourself that you will try again and get it right.
Say: “I will succeed, because I am doing what is right and I draw my faith from Allah with patience and prayer, and He will not disappoint me.”