It started with an article in which a neuroscientist mentioned that changing the way lonely people think about other people helps best in curing their loneliness. Then, continued with an article on why many smart people are so unhappy (the reason: they’re so focused on achievements that they lose sight of what really matters in life). And it popped up again while reading an interview with a cognitive scientist who claims that what we perceive to be has nothing to do with reality. All the time, this mantra of the Buddha kept humming in my head: with our thoughts we create our world, what we think we become.

Though the Buddha could not foresee the kind of world we live in today or the kind of issues modern (wo)man grapples with in daily life, his insights into the human mind and the power of imagination seem even more relevant than ever before. Despite unprecedented levels of wealth, health, and interconnectivity through social media, a growing number of people feels left out or too stressed to enjoy the benefits of life in the so called developed world. And these are not just marginalized people, but members from all age groups and cross-sections of society.

Unforgiving as it may seem, studies on mental wellbeing point out that we may indeed be the creators of our own happiness. It’s basically a matter of perception: is the glass half empty or half full? But the good news is that unhappiness isn’t some fixed state of mind. We can alter it. We only need to take a cue from the Buddha: nurturing positive thoughts makes us feel better about ourselves, our lives and other people. Positive feelings that translate into the choices we make and the way we interact, adding to a balanced life with harmonious, meaningful relationships. It’s what happiness is all about.

Whatever happens in life may be fate, but how we deal with it is a matter of choice – our choice. Seeing is not believing – believing is seeing.

(cartoon: Baloo – Rex May)