Happiness and contentment are closely related.
Verywell Mind defines happiness as “Happiness is an emotional state characterized by feelings of joy, satisfaction, contentment, and fulfillment. While happiness has many different definitions, it is often described as involving positive emotions and life satisfaction.”
And Wikipedia defines contentment as “Contentment is an emotional state of satisfaction that can be seen as a mental state, maybe drawn from being at ease in one’s situation, body and mind. Colloquially speaking, contentment could be a state of having accepted one’s situation and is a milder and more tentative form of happiness.”
However, some might not find contentment as meaningful as happiness. Some others might realize that contentment is the right way to define happiness.
But there are a lot of things that Islam says about being happy.
“Whosoever does right, whether male or female, and is a believer, we shall make them live a good life, and We shall pay them a recompense in proportion to the best of what they used to do.” (16: 97)
How to Be Happy?
We, Muslims, believe everlasting happiness could only be attained in the Akhirah (afterlife). That does not mean you have no happiness or enjoyment in Dunya.
Islam stresses finding ‘the balance’ because many people tend to go overboard. If you want to be happy, you need to unlearn the things that you’ve been fed with.
Our society has made us believe that happiness is accumulating assets and wealth. Of course, money plays a major role in leading a comfortable life, but happiness goes way beyond that.
On top of that, society has created the stigma around taking risks, or if you are making mistakes, it means you are failing. Thus, people don’t feel like trying new things, or if they are making mistakes, they feel as if they’ve failed because exploring isn’t even an option. But Islam does not say it rather it says:
“Every soul shall have a taste of death: and We test you by evil and by good by way of trial, and to Us is your return.” (21: 35)
Islam says it is part of life to struggle and thrive; hence instead of looking at struggles as failures, you can treat them as challenges. For example, fasting isn’t easy. You restrain from food and water but what’s worthy is the happiness you feel when you’ve acknowledged that you’ve done it for Allah (SWT).
Doing good for others reciprocates, and Islam highlights it. When you do good for others, you tend to feel good about yourself. But that’s not all, it makes you realize that you are blessed with a lot of good things although you’ve failed to see them.
Happiness comes from helping the needy and building a community that is stable and self-sufficient. If you have the knowledge, please do share it with others and see how it feels. Reaching for the less fortunate and uplifting them is a joy that you’d love to experience repeatedly.
There are different ways to help others, such as giving a good compliment, opening the door for them, giving charity, visiting an orphanage or elders’ home, or anything that makes your heart full.
An article on Psychology Today mentions, “According to a study in Social Science & Medicine, a person who volunteers more than monthly, but less than weekly is 12% more likely to report being very happy, and a person who volunteers weekly is 16% more likely to report being very happy. Volunteering weekly is like moving from an income of less than $20,000 to an income between $75,000 and $100,000! So, there are definitely some perks to helping others. With all of these benefits, it’s important to get youth involved in making a difference at an early age.”
Gratitude is a beautiful feeling that triggers dopamine. The article “The Neuroscience of Gratitude and How It Affects Anxiety & Grief” explains the direct connection between gratitude and neurotransmitters.
When you offer gratitude, neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine release positive emotions such as happiness, they make you feel good about your life and yourself. Thus your mood gets better instantly.
In the Quran, Allah says,
(And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]) (14:7)
Islam promotes gratitude. It explains how being grateful helps one’s emotional health and makes life better. The more we worry about the things we don’t have, the harder it gets. Instead, we have to focus on the things that we have and should be grateful for.
But this doesn’t mean that working hard or trying to become financially independent is unnecessary. Happiness doesn’t always correlate with money, although it is one of the most important things.
Islam also mentions that gratitude to Allah alone is not enough. It’s important to thank people. It’s important to make people around you feel valued and loved.
Showing gratitude leads to happiness and better mental well-being.
Struggles and sadness are often equated, but it’s not actually true. Or at least from an Islamic perspective.
For example, waking up for Fajr isn’t easy. You have to struggle to keep your hand away from pressing the ‘snooze’ button. You have to struggle to put aside the bed’s comfort and wake up to pray.
Similarly, fasting for 30 days requires a lot of patience and perseverance. You have to struggle to restrain from food and water during the given time. Likewise, many things in Islam deal with struggle, but the point is after every struggle, there’s comfort.
Although it is hard to wake up for Fajr, the happiness we get when we pray Fajr is worth the struggle. The same applies to fasting, and it’s a feeling that I personally wouldn’t trade for anything. It’s peaceful and happy!
Even if we look at the non-Islamic perspective of struggle, it is still the same. When a person finally gets something that he worked hard for, happiness tops his struggles.
“God does not burden any soul with more than it can bear” – (2:286)