Some Thoughts on Happiness
I guess you can create a binary. There’s happy people and unhappy people.
I don’t dispute this binary, but I do think there’s a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to what defines these groups.
I used to think happy people were somehow immune to the moments of despair, loneliness, lethargy, cynicism, and frustration. I thought that these people had somehow conditioned and modified their way of life and their way of living to the point where these moments were rare and only came by occasionally.
But I’ve come to the understanding this is simply not true. Happy people have just as many of these negative moments as do unhappy people.
Happy people are just better at handling these emotions and know how to respond to these feelings when they do come.
I know its a nuance, but I really think it’s a critical point.
Unhappy people look at happy people and think, “Damn, look at their circumstances. Because of their circumstance, they are happy.”
But in reality, the idea that happiness is derived from circumstance is truly an illusion.
It doesn’t matter how rich, how poor, how many friends, how little friends, how beautiful, how ugly, how skillful, how skill-less.
Despair, loneliness, lethargy, cynicism, and frustration come as they will. Because we are human.
So now that we’ve established the surprising disconnect between our circumstance and happiness, what then can we connect happiness to?
I think we can connect happiness to rituals and habits. Rituals of both the mind and body.
Happy people have just as many unhappy moments as unhappy people, but they know how to respond. They know certain mental tricks, certain physical tricks, that can make these moments much more endurable, and much less lasting.
Unhappy people live in fear of these negative emotions. They flee. They shudder and run.
Happy people learn to accept these negative emotions. They seek to understand them. They embrace the discomfort knowing that it is their only choice. But as soon as you you embrace it, you are now in control of it. It is no longer a invader. It is just a fact.
You are back in control.
It’s when you feel like you’re not in control that you are unhappy.
Funny isn’t it, I guess paradoxical in many ways.
Instead of spending so much time terrified of all the little bumps in the road, you learn to ride with them. You take the bumps, the jolts, the sharp turns.
And in doing so, the ride becomes smoother.
When I feel unmotivated, I know how to get myself motivated again.
When I’m feeling lonely, I understand the emotion, where it comes from, I learn to recognize that loneliness in no way takes away from my value.
When I am bored, I know that it is short sighted to simply run from the emotion through the most available medium of television and games. I know that boredom is one of our primary human struggles and can only be successfully dealt with through the art of creation.
When I am feeling ugly, I can take a step back and critically analyze the way our culture has toxified our way of thinking, making us attribute value to the wrong things. I then refocus my mind, I repeat maxims, I jump into the things that make me beautiful. In this process this feeling sheds.
And of course, stepping back a little bit. My favorite, all time, most potent and effect habit/ritual that never fails to pull me out of a hole is the idea that it’s not all about you. It’s our default mode of thinking. I just get so sucked into this idea of me, me, me, me. Others. Start thinking about others. This Is Water is the most epic declaration of how to live life. Stop thinking about yourself, and start thinking about others. Realize that you control what you think about.