By Dr. Srikant Manchiraju, an Assistant Professor at Florida State University’s Jim Moran College of Entrepreneurship
Inner peace is closely related to happiness. From Buddhist philosophy to Mahatma Gandhi and the Dalai Lama, they have all been strong proponents of inner peace.
“The pursuit of inner peace is more important than the search for happiness or success.” – Chris Shea
If you want to find inner peace and happiness, you have come to the right place. In this article, we explain the concept of peace (as well as inner peace), its relationship to happiness, and strategies to engage in which may result in an increase of one’s inner peace and happiness. Additionally, some practical mantras and useful quotes are noted as well.
What is Peace and Happiness in Life?
Peace is a word, which has multiple meanings. It is a word with several dimensions used in varying contexts. For instance, Anderson (2014) posited that peace can be used in macro as well as micro contexts.
Global peace (e.g., peace treaties between countries; the harmonious relationship between societies) is an example of macro context usage.
On the other hand, personal peace (e.g., interpersonal peace and inner peace) are examples of micro-context usages. In this article, we focus on the micro context of peace. More specifically, inner peace in particular.
The dominant meaning of “peace” in Western civilization is the absence of violence (Anderson, 2004). However, the concept of associating inner peace within an individual is rooted in non-Western languages, cultures, and religions (Anderson, 2004). Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew, and Sanskrit have several words for peace.
In Sanskrit, words for peace also include Shanti and Chaina, which refers to an individual’s spiritual or inner peace and mental calmness (Anderson, 2004). Apart from a linguistic inquiry into peace, in some religions (e.g., Buddhism, Jainism, etc.), peace is used to underscore inner dimension (i.e., the person) more than the outer dimension (i.e., the environment) (Barua, 2014).
In general, peace of mind or inner peace refers to a deliberate state of either psychological or spiritual calmness despite the potential presence of stressors. It is a homeostatic psychological state, which results in the optimal functioning of the mind.
It has to be noted that given the complexity of the word – peace or inner peace, there is no general consensus with regards to its precise definition. Therefore, for the sake of clarity with regards to this article, we prescribe to the inner peace definition proposed by Ward (2010), Barua (2014) and Gogava, Poghosyan, and Aslanov (2018), which has also been employed in several works (e.g., Day, Casey, Ward, Howells, & Vess, 2013).
“Inner peace refers to a state of being mentally and spiritually at peace, with enough knowledge and understanding to keep oneself strong in the face of stress”
(Barua, 2014, p. 24).
Inner peace refers to
“a state of calm, serenity and tranquility of mind that arise due to having no sufferings or mental disturbances such as worry, anxiety, greed, desire, hatred, ill-will, delusion and/or other defilements”
(Gogava et al., 2018, p. 4).
“Inner peace refers to emotional self-regulation and the ability to achieve a state of dynamic emotional equilibrium and competence”
(Ward, 2010, p. 48).
Like peace, the wordhappiness is complex and subjective (for various definitions on happiness, see Kim-Prieto, Diener, Tamir, Scollon, & Diener, 2005 and Delle Fave et al., 2016). In fact, some scholars have even questioned the usefulness of happinessdefinition, equating it as a qualia concept (Wierzbicka, 2009).
For the sake of this article, we prescribe to the most popular definition that has been used by researchers from various fields (e.g., psychology and economists) (Delle Fave et al., 2016).
Happiness is typically associated with the concepts of life satisfaction and subjective wellbeing, which are a total score of cognitive and affective components of one’s mental state. Therefore, the following definition – happiness – refers to “to people’s evaluations of their lives – evaluations that are both affective and cognitive” (Diener, 2000, p. 34).
Peace and happiness are associated concepts (Cohrs, Christie, White, & Das, 2013). For instance, at the macro level, peaceful countries report a higher level of happiness in general. Likewise, a perusal of the definitions related to peace and happiness above makes their association quite clear. Some commonalities between these concepts include (Cohrs et al., 2013):
Peace and happiness concepts are related to positive psychology, which includes peace psychology as well.
Peace and happiness have been described as a positive human experience.
Peace is associated with terms such as serenity, harmony, happiness, and well-being.
Peace vs. Happiness: Is One More Important?
Given that peace and happiness are related concepts, the obvious question that arises in one’s mind – is one more important than the other? The answer to this simple question is more complicated than one might think. Scholars are not sure which one leads to the other.
That is, does peace lead to happiness? Or, conversely, does happiness lead to peace?
In other words, the causality is not clear. Perhaps, the best way to describe their relationship for the time being, lest empirical studies prove it otherwise is – there is a symbiotic relationship between these two concepts. To elucidate, both inner peace and happiness are associated with positive emotions (e.g., Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener 2005).
Therefore, experiencing positive emotions can lead to increment in one’s inner peace as well as happiness levels.
It is extremely likely that these two concepts are not mutually exclusive.