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Sunday, 7 August 2016

We Cannot Be Happy 24/7

Some people want to be happy all the time.

And that's impossible. It's like trying to be excited all the time: You just can't sustain it. And try to be scared all the time: You'll find that you get less scared after some time. If you've never heard of the word "homeostasis", you need to learn it today.

Learn to be happy with the simple things in life. You'll be happier when you have reasonable expectations of what being happy means. If you think being happy means having a beatific smile on your face at all hours of the day, you must come from some strange deluded planet. Of course you will smile, but just not like the Cheshire Cat.

What homeostasis means

Google, the friendly search engine worth $515 billion dollars, tells me that "homeostasis" means "the tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological processes."

If you're feeling cold, you're going to move towards room temperature. 

If you're feeling happy, you're going to move towards contentment.

If you're feeling sad, you're going to move towards acceptance.

And that's because you are a regulated environment. Who, or what regulates you? Your mind, and your body, that's who. Your whole being is built in such a way that you're geared for stability. 

Evolution made us this way

A few million years ago, our ancestors had to sneak around dinosaurs and fanged predators. A few thousand years ago, our ancestors had to live in lands with no law, and sneak around bandits and robbers. A few hundred years ago, our ancestors lived under the yoke of feudal lords, and had to sneak around town trying to avoid getting flogged at the fancy of some ignoble noble. 

And so our ancestors evolved. Those who managed to control themselves, could control the situation. They survived. Those who panicked easily were easily found out by the dinosaurs, the predators, the robbers, the bandits, and the feudal lords. They were easily picked upon, and in some cases, that meant mortal death. It was probably gory, but think of it this way: Their demise was in the interest of ensuring that those who did have stability could propagate that quality. It was survival of the fittest. It was evolution of the survivors. And that explains why we are built for homeostasis.

Even in the face of something depressing, you must soldier on. You may be on the way to brighter days. Just hang on and you'll see.

A quote from Erich Maria Remarque

I came across the following quote:

"Only the unhappy man appreciates happiness. A happy man doesn’t truly feel joy any more than a mannequin does. He merely displays it; he doesn’t possess it. Light doesn’t shine in the light; it shines in the dark."

It's brilliant and I like it. It describes what happiness is, in terms of he who does not have it. He who has happiness merely is happy. He is not suffering. But he may not appreciate happiness until he loses it.

You might experience extreme happiness...

And it's a perfectly normal response to a very special event in your life. Let's say you scored all A's in your last exam. You feel extremely happy -- that's normal. Or maybe, you won the lottery and you're now in the top 50 richest people in your country. You feel extremely happy -- that's normal. 

But your extreme happiness is in response to that one event. And after that event, you'll come back down to earth. You should expect to. Even if you won the biggest lottery of the decade, you'll come back down to earth. 

And so you have to learn to live with coming down to planet Earth. If you want to feel extreme happiness again, you'll have to experience another event. 

And if you're a "happiness hunter", there's a good chance that you'll go out there and hunt for events and experiences that give you that elated feeling. You get that high. You feel good. Extremely good, in fact. And after a while, you feel like "meh". 

Danger Alert!

You must learn to deal with it, before your hunt for the high gets too much. If you feel happy when you buy new things, you'll eventually equate buying new things with feeling happy. And so you'll buy one thing after another. Of course you feel happy -- for a while. And then you start feeling rather ordinary, and you go out and buy something again.

Do you realize how bad the impact will be on your wallet? (If the impact is on the wallet of your very rich millionaire husband, you may choose to ignore this article. But I have heard that millionaires are rather particular about careless spending. Your millionaire husband may mind.)

So learn to be content with what you have, and what you've experienced.

Michael Jackson was right to look for the man in the mirror. Make that change. You're gonna feel real good. C'mon!

How to be content

If you've purchased something that makes you happy, think of how continuing to use that thing can continue to make you happy. 

If you've experienced something that makes you happy, revisit the memory of that experience from time to time, and be happy with it.

If you can do something simple that makes others happy, you may find meaning in serving others. And that might make you happy.

If you've had enough of the good life and you just want to find happiness, you may find it by sacrificing what you have for the good of others. (By the way, I'm seeking a sponsor for my doctoral studies. Thanks in advance)

Being content means accepting your circumstances. As an avowed skinflint of the finest degree, that means that you've committed yourself to living below your means. It means heaping up your retirement savings through simple, frugalistic living. But you can't do that if you need to be flashy and buy things all the time, simply to chase the high of extreme happiness.

If you chase happiness extremely, without care for your finances, a day will come when you'll definitely be unhappy. Because all expenses must be accounted for. 

Be reasonable. That's the first step to being content. Lower your expectations and live simply. 

Imagine that you are a yogi living in the streets of India. Imagine that you're a Benedictine monk, living in the monastry. Or a whirling dervish meditating upon the words of God. Would you very kindly renounce your attachment to worldly things while you are at it?

A Mental Exercise

Imagine waking up one day without having a single cent to your name. And imagine that you do not have anything except the clothes that you are wearing (try not to imagine walking around naked). Imagine if you had only a few dollars in your pocket, and nothing else. Imagine that no matter what you did, or spent it on, you would have the same amount in your pocket at the start of the next day. And whatever you have not spent the day before, would disappear.

Now close your eyes and imagine: What is the first thing that you would do to be happy? And what next?

Keep your imaginary actions within the scope of the few imaginary dollars at your disposal. Imagine that you couldn't do all the lavish, expensive things that you used to do, simply because you do not have the cash to splash. Even if you did have the urge to splurge.

Now you should know what you would do if you had only a little cash, and wanted to be happy. 

Remember that, and the next time you feel like spending money needlessly, do this mental exercise again. (And if you have any spare cash left over, consider sponsoring my doctoral studies.)

Thanks for reading.


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