This is a very quick post about happiness in Buddhism from a talk I attended by a Buddhist monk.
I might have oversimplified it a bit for the sake of brevity but I think the essence is still there.
The idea is that there are only two basic things that everybody wants: to be happy and to avoid suffering. Maybe you want to get a good job because you believe it will make you happy to work there or at least it'll help you avoid the suffering of not having enough money to pay your bills. Maybe you want to find someone to share your life with because you think they'll make you happy or you'll be able to avoid the suffering of being lonely. Maybe you want to help people and animals because it gives you a good feeling to end other's sufferings. Basically most of the things we want can fall into these categories.
If it’s that simple, why can it be so difficult to be happy?
It's usually because we don’t know what really makes us happy.
If something is a cause of happiness, it can never be a cause of suffering or pain. If you eat a delicious cupcake, it will bring you pleasure. But if you eat too many cupcakes, it will give you a stomachache. You might love your job but if you are a workaholic, you’ll soon get burnout or at the very least feel exhausted. And so on.
The bottom line is that none of these things can truly make a person happy.
Nothing that we have or even the things that we do can make us happy. They can bring us pleasure but they have limits.
According to Buddhism, only what you feel can bring you real happiness because positive feelings cannot cause you pain even when in excess.
You can feel love, compassion, respect, forgiveness, patience as much as you want without any negative side effects. It's important to practise these good feelings and try to bring them into your everyday life. This is not always easy, but it's a path worth trying :)