Happiness and Life

         No matter how far down we are in the doldrums, we inevitably find ourselves back on the path to the pursuit of happiness. Most of what we experience includes all sorts of emotions that evoke either bliss or misery. One doesn’t have to be the richest person in the world to garner all the positive feelings possible because money, for the most part, can’t buy happiness; but where one has been and where one envisions going can play a major part in salvaging any type of happiness. That is, happiness is relative; there’s no absolute equation for creating feelings of jubilation. We all seek happiness in every endeavor. Whether consciously or unconsciously, rapture leads to a better society. Utilitarianism, presented by John Stuart Mill, argues that happiness is the backbone of a morally righteous civilization insofar that it motivates us to seek pleasure over pain. But in my estimation, adversity has a profound effect on how we recover and put a perspective on happiness. Biologically, happiness is certain chemicals released in your brain and those feelings may be expedited by sufficient rest and exercise. As 50 Cent puts it, “Joy wouldn’t feel so good if it wasn’t for pain,” and I think a little grief can make us stronger to face upheavals, but ultimately, leads us to a greater understanding about what we have and to be grateful for the things others may not ever possess.

          We are invariably unfocused on the actual present moment, fretting about what’s to come. Being mindful of what’s happening brings a sense of ease that begets an appreciation of what you have. Worrying about things too much only creates a life that will never be fulfilled, and unfortunately, a life that speeds by without ever noticing what happened; incessantly asking yourself, “Where’d time go?” That being said, experiences are crucial; we learn about ourselves and develop memories that guide us to better feelings. For example, a person in a barbaric tribe with no access to electronics or electricity may be more satisfied than, say, a person who has technology at his behest 24/7. All this connectivity we’re thrown into the fray with now only gives rise to more problems and discontent. Less is more and those primitive people are fully conscious of what they possess, thus they don’t seem to ruminate as frequently as we do in the First World. Happiness is the result of the realization of where one’s been and where one is now; you create your own happiness. Perspectives vary. Imagine a zombie apocalypse has transpired. Being a survivor, you’d suddenly find happiness in ways you’d never thought were possible; perhaps finding other humans who also survived and were thinking of innovative ways to cook foods that you wouldn’t normally eat. Then your happiness simply shifts from what it once was, pre-apocalypse.

          In general, money doesn’t buy happiness. Actually, it plateaus after a certain amount (an income of $75k/year). Of course it’s better to be wealthy than to be impoverished, and money may indeed amplify happiness for a materialistic person, but that sort of contentment is superficial. That’s not to say we should not strive for affluence and success. But, happiness is the secret to success, not vice versa. Implementing meaning & purpose in your life gives you something to wake up for every single day. In Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, he eloquently states, “the satiation level beyond which experienced well-being no longer increases was a household income of about $75,000 in high-cost areas. The average increase of experienced well-being associated with incomes beyond that level was precisely zero . . . A plausible interpretation is that higher income is associated with a reduced ability to enjoy the small pleasures in life.“ Many Lotto winners aren’t happier than people who lose on every ticket because of the hedonic treadmill, where as a person makes more money, expectations and desires rise in unison, which results in no permanent gain in happiness; you adapt to what you have then you’ll want more. I believe happiness is transient and can come and go so expeditiously it’s hard to put a yardstick on it. Anybody who’s read or seen The Great Gatsby knows there’s a multitude of themes about how money doesn’t influence things such as love and loneliness, at least overtly.

        Renown theoretical physicist & cosmologist, Stephen Hawking, who was left paralyzed by a motor neuron disease at the age of 21, claims to be happier now (while debilitated) than when he was perfectly healthy. He declares, “it taught me not to pity myself because others were worse off, and to get on with what I could still do.” which gives credence to the fact that people acclimate and turn their dials toward happiness no matter how unfortunate the situation may be, naturally; and plenty of handicap people are just as, or even more happy than a normal salubrious person. Everyone has an equal chance to make the best of the position they’re in.

          To overcome the obstacle of unhappiness, we must flood our minds with what’s going on and how it could be much worse. Doing what you love and sharing experiences with people who have the same even temperament as yourself will only lead to euphoric feelings. Overusing hyperbole to describe unfortunate events doesn’t bring solace to one’s well-being. Brushing yourself off and trying again is a proper axiom to live by, and noticing your shortcomings and consolidating your emotions for the betterment as a person will only show you the way to a more respectable lifestyle. Through mindful meditation, you grant yourself serenity by inspecting the present-moment at its roots. This practice has been linked to increasing happiness and decreasing stress; it’s the brain’s way of unwinding. It’s also been proven that giving is better than receiving; i.e., more dopamine is released when bestowing something on someone rather than receiving something. In conclusion, we don’t live long enough to constantly be envious and unsure about what’s to come. However you devise your happiness, just remember: it creates a better planet. Stop worrying,  go out there, and do what makes you happy, because it’s within our control.

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