The constant desire to be happy in today’s society is everywhere. There is so much proof out there. Every second guru publishes a book teaching us how to be happy. There are thousands of articles on that topic too. Go figure. Go to Amazon and see how many books have got the word “happy” in the title; or Google “find your happiness”, “happiness courses”
There is nothing wrong if you want to be happy. But I think most people get it the wrong way. They seem kind of obsessed with it such as the alchemists are so obsessed with finding the Philosopher’s Stone. And in regards to that, I will try to shed some light for those in need by sparking the light bulb moment of “Well, I have never thought about it that way.” And even for my own reminder. Yeah, because we are all in the same boat.
Happiness? What is This?
I will start with what happiness is not.
Happiness is not:
- Unrealistically pretending to be happy all the time
- Being rich or affording everything you want;
- A goal that you accomplish;
- Going extreme in life;
Let this resonate for a second. Now, think about it. There are people on the street who beg for money and live their lives out of scarcity. There are those, who live with less than a cat needs to sustain her life, always take the last seat in the public transport to avoid paying the ticket, and spend their last money on alcohol.
And indeed, so many of them are miserable, poor, unhappy and are looking for ways to ease the pain life causes hoping for a little happy time. That’s understandable, it’s too extreme.
Now, let’s take someone who is financially secure. Someone who’s got enough to cover for his basic needs, and even afford a nice car, maybe a nice house, too. He must be happy, right?
So, what does being happy really mean? Or more precisely, what are the benefits of being happy when so many people are deliberately seeking it? There must be something good about it, right?
- Happy people feel more optimistic about their lives;
- Happy people have a support network of people who support their goals, both personally and professionally;
- Happy people tend to give back to society and help others;
- Happy people choose healthy behaviors like eating healthy, exercising; they avoid potentially risky behaviors such as drinking an excessive amount of alcohol, overeating or playing with the orifices of others without precautions (I wasn’t good at that one.);
- Happy people sleep better and are more creative;
- Happy people have a better sense of enthusiasm, hopefulness, and engagement;
- Happy people are more likely to experience pleasure and meaning from their work;
- Happy people don’t become dependent – dependent! – on drugs to help them make unreal things seem beautiful while escaping the reality of life because it seems unnecessary;
- Happy people, actually, do understand the benefits of perceived negative emotions such as anger, guilt, anxiety and mindlessness.
As you can see, not a single point from what I said above is oriented towards a nice house and shiny cars, although sometimes they might be a way for one to remind themselves of what they work for. But happiness does not care what car you drive, or in what house you live.
All of the above are based on scientific discoveries from cross-cultural, experimental, observational, and so on and so forth findings. And are attained by systematic work with a definite aim. They are real, okay? So you can rest assured that they are not some sort of hap-hazardous proclamations I am trying to push on you to prove how happy/unhappy you are.
All of the positive airy-fairy fluff which is being propagated in all its forms, causes us to care about things we shouldn’t care at all. And thus ignore those that deserve our attention. For those, who receive more of the mainstream media and advertising, they feed into this.
Media tells you that you are not good enough, strong enough, thin enough, pretty enough, smart enough. You’ve been sold that you are not because there is so much money to be made. They try to push all kinds of stuff on you in order to sell their crap.
Media also makes us buy into the worst one percent of the things that happen in the world. These are two extremes again. We are bombarded with all kinds of things in our hyper-connected world.
And most of the time we see the images of fascinating and awesome stuff that make us want nothing but the best for ourselves as like we are not good enough yet, but we will be when we get them, right?
The world is designed in a way to teach us ridiculously sickening things. To teach us how to make life hard and complicated all the time. There is such thing as one step forward, one step backward. Seems like some vicious cycle, and it is. When you follow some fashion you never catch it because you follow it.
There is a difference between getting what you like and getting what you need. Do you think you necessarily need an expensive car and clothes to be happy? Or maybe you need to wait until you get promoted. Then you will be happy. What about finding your soul mate? You think that will make you happy?
You Don’t Know What Makes You Happy
Your mind is biased and can be exploited in a lot of ways. There are things you think will make you happy, but most of them bring you a superficial sense of happiness. Which means that happiness and satisfaction feels just as real, although it’s a temporary rush of happy chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins. The reasons for this are broad and various. Some of them include:
- Chemicals like coffee, drinking alcohol, drugs;
- Cheating on your partner;
- Buying things you don’t really need;
- Aesthetics and beauty;
- Searching for external validation;
- Making money;
- Detachment from society;
- Love, food, sex, music;
Apparently, each one of the above has its advantages and disadvantages and not all of them create a false sense of happiness. You can become happy through one or more of these. For example, I really love to spend time alone writing, researching and the rest on self-development, which is basically doing whatever I feel like.
For you, it may be going out with friends to have a beer or two; maybe even pass by McDonalds for a Big Mac. While, for instance, the self-indulgence with tasty junk foods can produce a momentary satisfaction, and after years of eating it your health worsens, you will no longer even think about “Oh, let’s go get some Chicken Fillet ala King”. In fact, the thought of it will more probably make you puke in the side door pockets of your new family car. So now not only you have lost the balance of your psychological well-being but of your physical health as well.
Happiness is not only about feeling psychologically healthy. It’s about finding the balance and bringing your physical and emotional states into alignment. That’s how I see it. And I need to start paying more attention to my body and what it tells me. Thus I will increase my emotional quality as well.
I think happiness is more about how wisely we choose to live our lives as we also consider the contemporary environment we all live in. If five hundred years ago our ancestors were homeless and the food was hard to find, they were forced to eat everything that caught their eye or run away from threats to save their lives. But think for a moment, with all these shops full of food, it’s kind of hard to not go and get a kit-kat, isn’t it?
Our brains carry a lot of deep-seeded fears, inclinations, and understandings in our unconscious from the past. So our brains are not wired to help us and make us happy in our culture. In fact, they’ve never been. But now we have to work even harder than before in order to make our mind our best friend, not our worst enemy.
There is no one-size fits all answer for what it takes to be happy. But there are some theories suggested by scientists who have dedicated their lives to studying this phenomenon. And they suggest that:
- We have to learn how to manage our perspective through which we choose to see things (hopefully not a self-destructive such.)
- We have to pursue activities that produce meaning and satisfaction.
- We should not be afraid of embracing our dark side from time to time as there is an upside to it.
- We should express our values, in an effective and understandable way.
- We become less self-indulgent and think how we can be more of a benefit to the society.
The conclusion I can draw here is that, in a sense, you have to learn how to be less of an asshole in your life, and more of value to others, which is technically impossible without developing enough self-awareness.
Ultimately, In life, you will never know what makes you happy until you have put your happiness to the test. Everyone is different, so you have to experiment with those things that make you happy. Whatever you will do, bear in mind that you are not going to find your happiness from a single person or idea. So do your research, check out the sources, and experiment.
What else would you add to that?