Young people in Europe explore the Science of Happiness
August 2, 2018 - Herrenberg, Germany
What is it that constitutes true happiness? How does one find it? How can today’s generation of youth ground themselves in it to bring a better future to our world?
Participants in AYUDH Europe’s 14th Annual Summit explored these questions at the culmination of nine days spent together at MA Center Germany. AYUDH is the youth chapter of Embracing the World. The goal of the session, called The Science of Happiness, was to explore solutions for both internal and community peace.
Swami Amritaswarupananda Puri attended the event. He is the Vice-Chairman of the Mata Amritanandamayi Math and the most senior disciple of Amma. From a fascinating perspective, he brought in sadness as part of the solution.
“There is a common misconception that sadness is bad, that it is a curse, but it is not bad if you can use it correctly, as it has a tremendous energy,” he said.
“Amma says do not be ashamed of your sadness, for all of the great devotees of God had great sadness, but they transformed it into pure devotion. Let your heart break. You can imagine you are expelling all of your sadness from the conscious mind. Scream, cry, and shed tears, and you will feel immensely relieved and unburdened.”
The Science of Happiness session brought together youth perspectives along with expert opinions regarding the happiness, mental health and emotional maturity of young people today.
Thoughts from Senior Panelists
I believe every single day has a lesson. Happiness is something we are sold and told, but I think we need to manifest it within ourselves.
- Emma Kenny (UK) is a psychologist, presenter, writer, and expert commentator in the public media and press.
Happiness is a combination of contentment, resilience, and sense of understanding everything is cyclical and fleeting. And a good cup of coffee!
- Simon Kuany (South Sudan/India) is a specialist with Prevention of Violent Extremism through Education at UNESCO MGIEP. A global nomad from South Sudan, he completed his high school education in Kenya while a refugee.
Happiness is not in the pursuit of perfection, it’s in acceptance.
- Lucia Rijker (Holland) is an undefeated former kickboxing and boxing world champion who was known as the “Most Dangerous Woman in the World”. She is also a Buddhist and practises meditation and chanting. Since her retirement from professional sports, she has dedicated her time to motivating people to explore their true selves.
While there might be individual approaches to the pursuit of happiness, all panelists agreed that the foundation for lasting peace and happiness lies in a value-based education, the willingness to give, and the empowerment of the younger generation with tools for mindfulness and emotional resilience.
Overall, The Science of Happiness session came to the conclusion that happiness is something that needs to be cultivated from within, and cannot be found exclusively though the pursuit of external excitement.
Nath Hirsch is the Director of AYUDH Europe. He explains that they will find practical ways to apply the ideas from the discussion to AYUDH’s service projects in the community at large.
“AYUDH is dedicated to translating these conclusions into action by continuing to provide opportunities for young people to develop personally as they participate in service projects. This will foster a community of like-minded youth that are striving to make a difference.” he concluded.
Thoughts from Youth Panelists
I like to think of happiness like a pendulum. It may swing from side to side, happiness to sadness, but whenever the pendulum comes to a rest, there is great stability and contentment.
- Simone McLaughlin (Donegal, Ireland) is a primary school teacher. Having encountered many mental health and anxiety issues in the young children she teaches, she initiated a well-being programme in her school with a focus on positive mental health.
I believe happiness is a really complex feeling, which can be created and take shape from different sources, but ultimately it’s an experience of love.
- Robert Westmore (Milan, Italy) is with AYUDH Europe where he coordinates all tree planting activities and is the Project Manager of the National Youth Leaders.
Secret of happiness to me is being able to accept the ups and the downs. It’s beyond the short lived happiness we experience from material things.
- Aiknaath Jain (Nottingham, England) is in his fourth year of study in medical school at the University of Leeds and has an interest in the mental well-being of students.
My greatest happiness is having Amma in my life and knowing I’ll never be alone to face whatever comes my way.
- Gabrielle Auban (Toulouse, France) is a Project Manager in Communications at a consulting firm. As a young professional, she is often confronted with long hours, high responsibilities and stressful deadlines, so has to remain positive and self-motivated.
More than 250 youth from 23 nationalities gathered to participate in the AYUDH Europe Summit overall. For the first time, young people from China and Pakistan also took part.
The different elements of the event–talks, interactive panel discussions, youth-driven working groups, creative workshops, sharing groups–all aimed to explore the theme of true peace. It was subdivided into three categories: Peace with the Environment, Peace with Others, and Peace with Yourself.
Perhaps the best step in moving forward to solve the suffering in our world is found in Swami Amritaswarupananda’s address. First, take the time to go within and see who you really are.
“The best solution is to understand yourself. Know who you are,” he stated.
“That is the most effective way to find peace within yourself. Understand your limitations and your weaknesses. Accept and admit them to your own conscience. Detect your first enemy—it can be anger, jealousy—then work on that. If you succeed in tackling that, it’s like tackling all of them. All of the others will have a natural death. Just focus on one.”