What’s the Deal with Happiness?

Well, this post is not confined to Turkey (although the picture was taken in Turkey)20150417_171542, far from being a delight but certainly reminiscent of a bazaar. Labyrinthine, with countless possible outcomes. Just like the future, or the present, and even the past, having as many versions as witnesses and even more. My inner voice was awakened after a long “holiday” fully loaded with deadlines, articles, conferences, lectures, research, shouting desperately: “Sit down and think. Deep. And understand.” It started with 2016 (honestly speaking around 11 p.m, before New Years’s Eve). I was preparing my “Wishlist” for 2016. Done it. Concrete and clear goals related to my professional life, including deadlines (yes, again). And more abstract wishes related to my personal life. Among other “things”, I wished for happiness.

The thing is, happiness is not a “thing”, although many people confuse it or replace it with things. Happiness is a very subjective feeling, which according to the “happiness theories” is triggered not by external conditions, but is a personal choice. I agree, it is a personal choice to see the glass half full instead of half empty, but what if your glass is empty or has only a few drops? Well, you can still choose to see emptiness as an opportunity to fill it with your favorite beverage…  If happiness is not a thing, nor other external condition which we cannot control, how comes that when asked about our happy moments we generally name things, persons or situations that made us happy in a certain time of our life? This sounds like a contradiction… Yet, the theory is supported by our failure to relive the feeling as we remember it by recreating those very specific moments, actions, buying stuff or experiences, being around the persons who made us feel happy and good about ourselves in the past.

If something made you feel good once, it should have the same effect over and over again, right? So, what are we doing wrong? We grow. And in the meantime, our needs and means to meet them develop. Consequently, our happiness is periodically upgraded, reaching higher and higher levels and goals,  sometimes impossible or too difficult to achieve. In other words, pursuing happiness can sap all of our energy, strength, resources and … happiness. When our “happiness goal” is to high and painful to achieve we must reset your “system” and get back to the basics. Back to simple things, back to unconditional joy, love, friendship. Back to compassion and gratitude. Back to saying thank you and I love you to those who we care about. Back to admiring the sunset, the snowflakes, the clouds, the play of sun rays and shadows, listening to the sound of rain. Back to playing with pets. Back to listening to our favorite songs, dancing while cleaning up. Back to hugging our family members, talking to our grandparents, calling our friends. Back to wandering and “losing” precious time only with ourselves. Back to dreaming with our eyes wide open.

As Einstein said “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Can you define your happiness? What elevates your spirit? What makes you smile with all your heart? What makes you feel grateful? And last but not least, who you are? or better said, Who do you choose to be and what do you choose to make you happy? 

“Everything in the universe is within you. Ask all from yourself.”-Mevlana (Rumi). You have all the answers, all the tools needed to discover and understand yourself, even though you were not provided with an instruction manual. And no one will write one to fit you perfectly. You are the only person responsible for your feelings, even though it might seem harsh and unfair (Everything is easier when there’s a scapegoat). Don’t get me wrong, you are not responsible for others disappointing you, but you are responsible for giving them the opportunity to do it again and again. There is nothing wrong with happiness. It does not avoid you, nor is it reserved for some privileged persons, or limited. And there is nothing wrong with feeling blue sometimes. You need to let your feelings flow out, whether they are positive-in order to reach others and make them feel good, happy, grateful too- or negative in order to ease your mind and soul, to empty yourself from harmful emotions. Stop searching frenetically for happiness and no matter how awful you feel recall all those things you are grateful for, insist on them and don’t give up unless you succeed to change your mood. In your relation with others stop expecting without asking clearly what you wish for. Communicate and practice empathy. But never forget, you deserve the best. And you can have it.

P.S. It just started to snow. 🙂

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Dear Santa…

prozor         Photo credits: Blue Hortensia

It has been a (long) while since my last letter, since I believed with all my heart in your magic. I really miss those times. And deep inside me I know I can get them back. I can live all those magical moments again and again. And many others. It’s up to me. I can design my own reality. I can paint it in any colour I want. So, I choose to see the  magical side of reality. I choose warm sunshine, enchanted snowflakes, whispering breeze, dreamy clouds, dancing raindrops, smiles and…miles.  And I choose to believe in you again. Therefore, I’m sending you my letter, faithful that you will read it and make my wishes come true. Before starting, forgive me dear Santa, but what I’m going to ask won’t fit into your sack…

  • Courage. To overcome all my fears and to surmount all the obstacles in the way of happiness and success. To follow my dreams.
  • Patience and calm. I’m the kind of person who wants everything at once. My life has been a little bit “fast and furious” lately. I’m like a marathon runner. Deadline after deadline. Dream after dream. Patience is just out of my league. So is calm. Although I really need them. I even tried to meditate, but is useless. I cannot get rid of all my thoughts, future projections, plans. I have many of them. More than I could use in 5 lifetimes. I’m so good at scenarios, I even developed the ability to guess or “foresee” other people’s possible futures. When a friend tells me something about his/her studies, activities or hobbies, I’m like wooow! you could do “that” by doing “this” or you could… Stop!
  • Santa, show me the Way. I know we, adults, are unable to see you or talk to you, because the older we grow the less we know about magic, but still, Santa can you please, help me to figure out what do I really want? You can choose any method you wish, visit me in my dreams or hit me with an apple, just like you did with Newton. I don’t care, just do it! Help me to choose one of the many paths I’ve projected. And I want the best option! + a SWOT analysis attached. Ok, ok, forget about the SWOT, I totally trust you.
  • Happiness to spread around. Happiness for all. Tons of smiles. Don’t worry, it’s not as heavy as it seems. Actually smiles defy gravity, so it’s going to be a child’s play, just pretend you are running kites. Bright kites for every child and every adult. Bright kites to end prejudices, sadness, fear, envy and wickedness.
  • More dreams and dreamers, in order to live in a dream world.

Oh, and Santa, I promise I’ll be a good girl! Better than the one I was last year 🙂

 

 

 

Deniz~The sea

9533004939_a06b10be80_o(1)                            Photo credits:Sam Agnew

Deniz gibiyim… Dalgaların beni istedikleri yere alıp sürüklemesine rağmen geleceğe güvenle bakarım. Dalgalara güvenirim. Ancak, çoğu zaman onları kontrol etmeye çalışırım. Hiçbir rüzgar, hiçbir fırtına, hiçbir yağmur, hiçbir gök gürültüsü, yıldırım ya da siyah bulutlar hayallerimi ve umudumu yok edemez. Cünkü soyadım İyimser. Her zaman hayallerinin peşinde koşan birisiyim. Hiç durmam. Duramam. Başarılı olsam da olmasam da önemli değildir. Seyahat, varış yerinden daha önemlidir ve de daha güzel, daha manalı. Umutsuzluğa vakit yok. Bir limana er ya da geç ulaşacağım. Ve eğer o benim hayalımdeki “limanım” değilse yolculuğuma devam edeceğim. Bir denizim, duramam. Her gerçekleştirilmiş hayalin ardından yeni bir hayal doğar. Her hüsran sonrası yeni bir umut doğar. Her ölen dalga yeni bir dalga doğurur. Bu denizin güzelliği. Deniz kontrol edemez. Mevlana’nın da dediği gibi “Kalp deniz, dil kıyı gibidir. Denizde ne varsa kıyıya o vurur.” Nasıl olsa.


I’m like the sea… The waves carry me where they want, but still, I am confident about the future. I trust the waves. Although most of the time I’m trying hard to control them. No wind, no storm, no rain, no thunder, no lightning or black clouds can take my dreams and hope away. Because my second name is Optimist. I’m always chasing rainbows. I never stop. I cannot stop. It doesn’t matter whether I succeed or not, the journey is more important than the destination. And more beautiful. More meaningful. There is no time for desperation. Sooner or later I will reach a port. And if that’s not the „port” of my dreams, I will continue the journey. I am a sea. I cannot stop. After every fulfilled dream a new dream is born. After every defeat a new hope is born. Every dying wave gives birth to a new wave. That’s the beauty of the sea. The sea cannot be controlled. As Mevlana said “Heart is a sea, language is a shore. Whatever sea includes, will hit the shore.” Sooner or later.

Mutluluğun Formülü- The Happiness Formula

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Günün öğütleri-Advices of the day

Mutlu ol!-Be happy!
Merak et!- Be curious!
Herşeyden ilham al!-Find inspiration in everything!
Başkalarına yardım et!-Help others!
İyi olduğun şeyleri yap!- Do things you’re good at!
Kitap oku!-Read a book!
Televizyonu bırak!-Leave the TV!
İşini sev!-Love your job!
Egzersiz yap!-Workout!
Korkularınla yüzleş!-Face your fears!
Kendine inan!-Trust yourself!
Arkadaşlarına ve ailene yakın ol!- Be close to your friends and family!
Kalbin, pusulan olsun!-Let your heart be your compass!

Photo: [1]

Celebrate a better world?

happy

As you already know Turkey and other Muslim countries are celebrating Ramazan Bayramı. Even though I’m not a Muslim, and I am not even living in a Muslim country at the moment, somehow I’ve felt the spirit of Bayram since the arife, the eve of the holiday. I’ve turned on my holiday mood and I… even prepared cookies. My inner self has been wearing her best bib and tucker and was kind of surprised to see people going to work, acting normally … as I was expecting to see them celebrating. I felt like it was Christmas! I felt happy that it was someone else’s “Christmas”. Although the “basic” reasons for celebrating Christmas, Ramazan Bayramı or other religious feasts are different, we cannot deny their common message: be human, love others. So why not to celebrate humanity with others? I can already hear my critics: “Wake up daydreamer! We cannot celebrate everyday! We need to earn our living!” I totally agree. But… I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t work during the celebrations of others… Not nearly. All I’m saying is to let the spirit of the holidays invade our souls and act accordingly. People tend to be kinder, more willing to help others and happier during celebrations. So why not celebrate more? And become better human beings.

Of course, in order to celebrate and to feel happy for others, we should know them, understand them. Information and empathy. We all have the keys to them. If we use them properly we can avoid the stereotypical traps, which have the power to separate us. Before judging others we must inform ourselves and instead of being indifferent we should imagine ourselves in their shoes. The more we know someone the less we judge, hate, discriminate, hurt … Logical, right? But not so easy in a subjective world. As humans we tend to blame others for what’s happening to us, we refuse to take responsibility. It’s easier. It’s easier to label people than to understand them. It’s easier to hate than to communicate and search for solutions. Some may argue that life is too short and there’s no time to waste with others. And after all Machiavelli taught us that “the ends justifies the means”… But what are the consequences? Hate, lies, egoism, wars… the metamorphosis of humans into soulless bodies. Following this path we may obtain what we want, but still feel miserable, unsatisfied, as we cannot share our happiness. To a certain degree we already live in these realities. I’m not talking only about unprincipled, bloody politics, although there are many things to be said about but I’d rather keep this blog out of politics, I’m talking also about unhappy, intolerant people, isolated from reality, in a cold, superficial world. Ready to fight back but afraid to communicate, ashamed to show their feelings.

So what does celebration have to do with this? Well, celebrations bring people together. Celebrations make us more human. Celebrations usually celebrate humankind, culture and origins, identity. We can better understand others by observing the purpose and meaning of their celebration, and recognize ourselves in them. By joining them. Because celebrations are usually a source of happiness. Moreover, happiness is a source of “good”, while “bad” seems to be the weapon of unhappy, frustrated people. Who cannot understand. Cannot tolerate difference. Cannot accept their own weaknesses. So they try to destroy the happiness of others. As if happiness would be a limited resource…

When we’ll realize that we are all the same, but painted in different shades, that we have similar needs and dreams, but different ways to express them, and speak up against the imaginary barriers that separate us, we’ll live in a better world, celebrating humanity day by day…

Photo: [1]

Duygular. Aşkistan’dan sevgilerle

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“Aşk bir seferdir. Bu sefere çıkan her her yolcu, istese de istemese de tepeden tırnağa değişir. Bu yollara dalıp da değişmeyen yoktur.” (Love is a journey. During the journey travellers change from top to toe whether they want or not. No one can travel into love and remain the same.) Elif Șafak-Așk, Rule 12

Today I’m inviting you in a unique journey  to Aşkistan, the Land of Love. We will speak its language and learn the recipe of love. Are you ready?

If yes, open your heart, close your eyes and spread your love all around.We need it, we live it. Because love makes us human. Love creates the Good and chases the Bad away. Love prevents us from hurting others. Love draws smiles on our faces and in our souls. Love is happiness. Love is compassion and empathy. Love takes care of others. Love wipes the tears away. Love creates beauty… We can neither enjoy nor recognize the true beauty of nature or people without watching them with the eyes of our hearts. Love is understanding and discovery. We fall in love with moments, places, people…  We fall in love with life. It’s easy, free and beneficial. So what’s the recipe? Love is usually buried in negative feelings, from sadness, hate to egoism, jealousy. All you need to do is to take a hoe and dig it up!

  • Whenever you feel sad add a pinch of smile to your day and you’ll feel better
  • If you hate somebody, remember that you are the one who suffers the most from hate! If someone hurts you, forgive him/her and free yourself from negative feelings.
  • Unfortunately we are all egotists to a certain degree, loving ourselves more than others. Act contrary! Help others as often as possible and the egoism will fade away gradually in the light of the happiness you create to others. You will definitely feel better when seeing the smile on your mother’s face after you cleaned up, the satisfaction on that poor puppy’s face after feeding it, the gratitude of your colleague when helping him/her, the sparkles in the eyes of a homeless child when feeding him, playing with him or teaching him to read or count… There are so many things you can do!
  • Are you jealous on other people’s success or happiness? Then contribute to them! Help them to become more successful and happy. This way you’ll learn to be happy for others!

Now let’s learn some useful words/ expression you’ll need in Așkistan:

  • așk, sevgi-love
  • duygular-emotions, feelings
  • biraz sevgi göstermek-show a little love
  • gerçek sevgi-real love
  • seni seviyorum-I love you
  • sevmek-to love
  • sevgi bütün kalpleri yumuşatır– love makes all heart gentle
  • fall in love-aşık olmak
  • yürek, kalp-heart
  • kalbini açmak-open one’s heart
  • dünyayı daha iyi bir yer haline getirmek– make the world a better place
  • gülmek-smile
  • gülümsetmek-make someone smile
  • mutluluk-happiness
  • mutlu olmak-be happy
  • mutlu etmek-make happy
  • mutlu son-happy ending
  • merhamet-compassion
  • eşduyum-empathy
  • özen göstermek-take care
  • ruh-soul
  • bencillik-egoism
  • bencil-egotist
  • kıskançlık-jealousy
  • kıskanç-jealous
  • üzüntü-sadness
  • üzgün-sad
  • sinir, öfke-anger
  • sinirli-angry
  • gözyaşı-tears
  • acı çekmek-to suffer

 

Photo by: Kessie from Brighton

Why Turkey?

Elif Karagoz

This question is haunting me… ever since I’ve started my Ph.D… Initially it was asked only by others, but lately I have been the one to ask myself: Why? Why Turkey? Of course, I had my answers prepared long time ago and served to the curious ones. The logical answers, starting with the motivation and purpose of my Ph.D. thesis about Turkish identity… and continuing with my attraction to everything “oriental”: landscapes, architecture, ezan, perfumes, olive threes, belly dance, music, turquoise, lokum and I can continue the list for 1001 nights… But I’ve always felt that my answer is incomplete, and maybe too logical to catch the essence buried deep inside me… There must be more, much more, and more to discover. And it is. I know it. Even though I’m not sure if I’m prepared to answer, to express myself, to find a way out from my inner labyrinth. It’s complicated! Really it is…

Today I had a “half” revelation. I missed Turkey, and somehow I knew why. I had a “so and so” day, balanced more in the direction of “not so good”, quite unusual for an innate optimist… I instantly knew what I need, a sweet escape… and my sweet escape is Turkey. The real Turkey or my imagined Turkey? I don’t really know and I don’t care! I’m aware about the fact that I might have created my own version of Turkey, a flawless Turkey, just like young lovers do closing their eyes to mistakes and imperfection. So what?  As far as I  enjoy this “image” or “improved” memory and find in it an oasis of relaxation, escape and dream sparkles it doesn’t matter whether it fits 100% to the reality or not…

So why I love Turkey? Besides delighting my eyes and my taste buds, Turkey works  for my soul as some kind of medicine. For me Turkey is synonymous with happy, friendly, welcoming and relaxed people, with contagious good mood, with never-ending holidays and strong human relationships. No rush, no stress, just smiles! People know how to enjoy life and seem to have a balanced lifestyle. They are not control maniacs, and neither antisocial, solitary, overly preoccupied or depressed, a definition which fits more and more the modern man. When it happens, however, to feel in a bad mood, people express their sadness, anger and disappointment, getting rid quickly of negative emotions. And when they are happy they share their happiness with the whole world! No pretending, no hidding. Everything seems to be easier in Turkey, …that’s why Turkey!

Photo taken by Elif Karagoz @Flickr