Happiness is only found in heaven.
ST. PADRE PIO
Arthur Schopenhauer was a miserable human being. His pessimism on all things is depressing to the extreme. Yet, we find consolation in his brutally honest assessment of life. Why? This consolation comes from the confirmation of our sneaking suspicions that this world and this life are utterly messed up and that happiness will always elude us. This is what Schopenhauer had to say about the happiness project,
What disturbs and depresses young people is the hunt for happiness on the firm assumption that it must be met with in life. From this arises constantly deluded hope and so also dissatisfaction. Deceptive images of a vague happiness hover before us in our dreams, and we search in vain for their original. Much would have been gained if, through timely advice and instruction, young people could have had eradicated from their minds the erroneous notion that the world has a great deal to offer them.Schopenhauer was an atheist, yet people of faith can find much to agree with in his bleak assessment of life. This is because Schopenhauer tells us what we already know. This world is not Heaven and never will be.
Everyone wants to be happy. You, Gentle Reader, want to be happy. This is why you came to this location attracted by the title of how to be happy. If you were already happy, you would not need to bother reading this essay. The desire for happiness is universal and so is the frustration. No matter how much we desire happiness, this life fails to deliver. Some people try to make a heaven of this world by striving for utopia. Others seek relief through hedonism. Still, others try to quench the desire for happiness through some Stoic/Buddhist trick of the mind. What remains? No one is happy, but they still desire what they cannot have.
Some people may find this depressing since to find happiness is to die. Yet, this is exactly what is required which explains all of those words of Jesus about taking up your cross and following Him. Happiness eludes us in life which is why the yoke of this world is so heavy. You can see the poor and suffering of this world and understand their misery. The real depressing thing is when you see some rich and famous celebrity who has everything this world offers and is still miserable even to the point of committing suicide. A life without God is a life of emptiness. This emptiness of soul is the source of misery. Happiness cannot be found anywhere except in God. This is why so many have chosen to be paupers in service to God rather than rich in this world. The yoke of Jesus is an easy one because it is satisfying.Why did God make us?God made us to show forth His goodness and to share with us His everlasting happiness in heaven.
Though perfect happiness can never be found in this life because it is not Heaven, you can still move towards a more blessed state. Aquinas called perfect happiness in this blessed state beatitudo which is a state of perfection. In this life, we can move towards this state in what Aquinas called felicitas which is imperfect happiness. This is done by acquiring the virtues and becoming a saint. This is essentially the purpose of life. We were made to become saints. This is the great project of our lives.
Life is hard. Trying to become a saint makes it even harder. But no difficulty in this life can ever come between us and God. It is God's desire that we become saints, and it should be our desire as well. What other way is there? What other path can satisfy one's heart and soul? As someone who has been down all of them, the only path I have found to be satisfying is this path towards God. Happiness is found only in God.
Life is hard, but God gives us refreshment along the way. There are the small pleasures of life. There are the comforts of friends and family. There is the Bible and the Church. There are the eucharist and the sacraments. No one can say they are orphans because God cares for everyone and provides for them. God points the way and provides the means. You need to get on with it instead of wasting your life on dead ends that lead to misery.
Many will read this and leave disappointed. They come looking for happiness and get a dose of religion instead. But I tell you now, you are a fool if you seek some other path. There is no happiness in this world or the next apart from God. You will never find it. The most you will ever find is some momentary pleasure or vanity. Hell is the profound emptiness of never knowing God or even having the hope of knowing Him. It is to be closed off forever from God's love. It mystifies me, but people choose Hell. They want Hell, and you can see this misery beginning in this life. It is despair leading to death.
The difference between this life and Hell is that there is hope in this life. You can choose in this life. God wants you to choose Him. Happiness really is a choice. Choose God. Follow Christ. Become a saint. And as St. Pio of Pietrelcina put it, "Pray, hope, and don't worry." God wants you in Heaven with Him. He will pull it off. God can make a saint out of anyone including you. Go and seek this happiness.