I Don't Understand Happiness

I Don't Understand Happiness

Answers about this 'elusive joy' lead to more questions.
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I was listening to a TED Talk a few days ago.

It was about happiness: that elusive concept we all seem to want but very few seem to solidly grip.

I started asking:

"Are you happy?" "How often are you happy?" "What would make you more happy?"

This made me run into a problem, though. The response I would often receive was "well, what do you mean by happy?" Honestly, I've had a hard time succinctly and clearly responding to that.

What actually is "happiness?"

This has been on my mind a lot the last few days. I definitely still don't have all the answers (not even close). I'm still in process.

Here are four questions into the investigation about this concept of happiness:

1. Is happiness always a choice?

I am becoming a firm believer that many, many things in our lives are choices. To many degrees, we "choose" what we do. To some degree, we can even "choose" how we feel.

This concept began when I was thinking about stress and how we handle (or "choose") to deal with it, but I'm not sure how it applies to all emotions, such as anger, depression, love, sadness.

How much do we choose what we feel? Or is it more that we choose how we respond to feelings that are triggered by our experiences and thoughts?

Is happiness a feeling we can choose to instantaneously have, or is it a response that we choose to have?

2. Is happiness different for everyone?

What makes me happy sure isn't what can make some of my friends happy, too. Why is this? Is there a certain "state of happiness" each of us is trying to achieve which looks different for everyone?

I like a certain degree of chaos and room to explore. My friend likes security and boundaries. I'm happier in one type of situation. She's happier in another.

But how can we measure happiness if we don't have one standard for what it looks like?

Maybe the externals that indicate happiness (my friend having her security; me having my freedom) are just reflections of a deeper root of happiness. Maybe we are both looking for places of joy where we find purpose.

Maybe the situations that make us happy are simply expressions, expressions showing that these situations are meeting internal values that we are seeking. Maybe this lets us finally meet happiness itself.

3. Can anyone take away your happiness?

In order to figure out if happiness can be taken away, I think we first need to figure out who or what gives it, how it's given, and how we are able to keep this feeling (or maybe) state of being.

Can any event or any person actually take away your happiness, or is it your choice whether this external stimuli results in you relinquishing the happiness you have?

In order to give something up, though, you have to have it already inside of yourself. If it's inside of you, nobody else can actually reach in and take it.

Maybe you really do have to give it up. Maybe it can't actually be taken without your permission.

4. What would it take to live with more happiness for each person?

If we can figure out why we are happy, then can't we (also) figure out what would make each of us individually more happy?

Alright, so many of us would be perfectly content with more success, money, and fame or simply finally getting that job promotion or getting in with that group of people.

Some elements of our life, we can't exactly completely control, however. (Try as we might, we don't have the total power to coerce our bosses into granting promotions). However, some elements in our life we can control.

If happiness is something that we hold inside ourselves, we can learn to hold it better.

If happiness is something that we hold inside ourselves, we can learn what actions we take that add to this (and which actions take away).

If happiness is something that we hold inside ourselves, shouldn't this be something we spend time learning to safeguard and strengthen?

If we really do have so much more power over our own happiness than we often give ourselves credit for, why wouldn't we take this more seriously? Couldn't we all use a little more happiness? Couldn't this word use a little more spreading of happiness?

Maybe we'll never know. We'll probably never completely understand. Some, we don't know, however. Some, we can figure out.

Once we know, once we are thinking, the responsibility comes from what we are going to do from there.

What do you think about happiness? What does it look like for you? How can you make your life (and the lives of others) a little more full of it?

Cover Image Credit: Deborah Spooner Photography

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10 Deadliest School Shootings in U.S. History

These are ten of the most savage attacks on American innocence.
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School shootings in America trace back as early as the Settlers and Indians .

Over the years, attacks on schools have gotten progressively more brutal, senseless and deadly. Motives behind such occurrences are often blamed on social cliques and bullying or the perpetrators often suffer from mental illnesses or addiction.

Here are the 10 deadliest school shootings in American history:

10. West Nickel Mines Shooting

On October 2, 2006, milk-tank truck driver Charles Carl Roberts opened fire on a small Amish schoolhouse in Bart Township, Pennsylvania. Prior to going to the school, Roberts left a suicide note at home for his wife and children.

Roberts entered the one-room schoolhouse and ordered all the boys to leave, as well as one pregnant woman and three parents with infants. He ordered the remaining ten girls against the wall and held them hostage.

Sisters Mariah and Barbara Fisher, ages 13 and 11, courageously asked to be shot first in exchange for the lives of the other young girls; some were as young as six years old. Roberts killed Mariah and wounded Barbara. In addition, he shot eight out of the 10 girls, killing five of them.

9. Oikos University Shooting

43-year-old One L. Goh committed Oakland, California's deadliest mass killing on April 2, 2012, at the Korean Christian college Oikos University. Witnesses testify Goh stood up in his nursing class and ordered everyone against the wall at gun point.

One student recalls him yelling, "Get in line..I'm going to kill you all!" before firing. He killed seven people and wounded three others.

8. California State Fullerton Massacre

Custodian Edward Charles Allaway was reported as going "postal" on July 12, 1976 at California State University in Fullerton, California. The 37-year-old employee of the institute had a history of violence and mental illness, and was later diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic.

He was found insane by the judge of his trial for the murders. He called the police after killing seven people and wounding two others, and turned himself in. His motives behind the mass murder included him believing the university library was screening pornographic movies his wife was forced to appear in.

He is currently receiving medical treatment for his condition at the Patton State Hospital.

7. Red Lake Shootings

The Red Lake Indian Reservation in Red Lake, Minnesota will never quite be the same after events which occurred at the senior high school on March 21, 2005.

16-year-old Jeffrey Weise killed his grandfather (a tribal police officer) and his girlfriend. He then robbed his grandfather of police weapons and bullet proof vest, before ultimately driving to Red Lake Senior High School where he killed seven people and wounded five others.

Weise took a total of 10 lives that day, including himself. He committed suicide in a classroom after exchanging fire with police.

Witnesses reported Weise smiled while shooting his victims and questioned multiple students about their faith before firing.

6. Umpqua Community College Shooting

On October 1, 2015, 26-year-old Christopher Harper-Mercer committed the deadliest mass shooting in Oregon history. He killed nine people and injured seven others at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon.

He spared one person in the classroom he opened fire in, only to deliver a message to the police for him. Mercer was described as "hate filled" by those who knew him. In addition, he identified himself as a White Supremacist, anti religious and suffered from long term mental health issues.

Some theories behind the mass shooting were Mercer falling below a C average, putting him at risk for suspension, as well as him not being able to pay the tuition bill due.

He ultimately committed suicide after the attack.

5. Enoch Brown School Massacre

The Enoch Brown School Massacre is one of the first documented school shootings in U.S. history. On July 26, 1794, four Lenape Indians entered a Settler's schoolhouse in Delaware where they massacred school master Enoch Brown and nine children; they were shot and scalped.

Two children survived the attack and four others were kidnapped and taken as prisoners. This event is considered one of the most notorious incidents of the Pontiac War.

4. Columbine High School Massacre

High school seniors Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, may have not committed the deadliest school shooting in the U.S., but their killing spree at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado is considered one of the most infamous attacks in history.

It sparked numerous debates, including gun control, anti-depressant drugs and the influence social cliques, violent video games and bullying have on the mental health of high school students.

Harris and Klebold spent countless hours preparing for the events on April 20, 1999, which were documented in their "Basement Tapes." The tapes contained footage of the two boys having target practice with illegally obtained firearms, as well as a suicide message and apology to their parents.

Their ultimate goal was to be responsible for more victims than the Oklahoma City bombing, an event the boys idolized. The morning of the shootings, Harris and Klebold encountered one of their few friends Brooks Brown in the school parking lot.

Brown was one of the few students the shooters considered a friend; they told him to leave campus immediately because "something bad was about to happen."

Reports claim the boys targeted jocks, taunted people for their belief in Christianity and made jokes with each other while they killed their peers. Harris and Klebold took the lives of 13 people and injured 24.

They committed suicide in the library together.

3. UT Tower Shooting

On August 1, 1966, former Marine sharp-shooter Charles Whitman unleashed havoc on the campus of University of Texas in Austin, Texas.

Whitman positioned himself on the observation deck at the very top of the U.T. Tower; it was the perfect place for a sniper to have his pick of targets, considering you could see the entire campus from his vantage point.

He killed 14 people and wounded 31 others. Prior to his attack on campus, Whitman killed his wife and mother.

Post autopsy, it was theorized that Whitman's behavior might have been caused by a tumor found in his brain. Doctors and psychologists attribute the tumor to his impulsive, irrational behavior and his lack of a conscience.

This theory was supported by records of Whitman seeking professional help prior to the shooting for "overwhelming, violent impulses" he felt he couldn't control.

2. Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting

20-year-old Adam Peter Lanza is responsible for arguably the most senseless and brutal attack on a school in U.S. history.

On December 14, 2012 Lanza shook the town of Newtown, Connecticut when he attacked Sandy Hook Elementary School. Lanza killed his mother, before entering the school where he killed 26 people and inured two others; the majority of his victims were children aging from five to 10 years old.

He committed suicide upon completion of the attack. This shooting in particular confused both the media and authorities, because Lanza never offered a motive or reasoning behind the murder of his mother nor the horrendous mass slaying of innocent children.

1. Virginia Tech Massacre


Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia came under attack on April 16, 2007. Senior student Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and injured 17 more in two attacks – one in a co-ed dormitory, the other in the Engineering, Science and Mechanics building.

He is noted as committing the deadliest attack on a school in U.S. history.

Cho was previously diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder; among the tapes he personally mailed to NBC news, Cho expressed his hatred for the wealthy, compared himself to Jesus Christ and explained that he was forced to commit the mass shooting due to voices in his head.

Virginia Tech has held the number one spot as deadliest school shooting for five years.

Holocaust survivor Liviu Librescu was a professor in the Engineering, Science and Mechanics department at the school, who was famously remembered for using his body as a barricade against the door during the attack; Librescu was killed during the attack but managed to hold the door closed long enough for all of his students to escape out the window.

Cho ultimately committed suicide following the shooting.

Cover Image Credit: Pinterest

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12 Plastics To Ditch To Live A More Sustainable Life

Did you forget to reduce, reuse, and recycle?
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Society is constantly changing an improving, but we still tend to hang around plastic. So many eco-friendly options are becoming available, but people are still using items that we should've said no to from the start. Below, you will find plastic items that you can cut out of your life and what you can replace them with.

1. Straws.

I have preached this so hard to everyone around me. Cut straws out of your life. As a college student that eats on campus, we get drinks that come in paper cups, with a plastic lid and a straw. Why not use that paper cup like you use just about all of your cups? Drink right from the edge. Easy solution there. Are you picky though? "You don't know who has touched the rim of that cup." Well, think again, because I've heard all of the excuses.

You can use straws without using plastic. Surprise! Stainless steel straws exist, and they're here to change your life. They are reusable, and they come with a cleaner. Easy dishwashing on the go.

2. Plastic silverware.

Everyone needs to eat and unless you're at home, or at a restaurant, you're most likely using plastic utensils. Well not anymore, because I have two options for you. Silverware can be reusable and come in a case for storing, it all depends on whether you would rather use stainless steel, or bamboo.

3. Toothbrushes.

Your toothbrush needs to be replaced every 3 to 4 months. That is 3 or 4 times in a year. If you replace your toothbrush as often as you're supposed to, after 20 years that can add up to 60 toothbrushes. And that will go on for the rest of your life, and not just for you. But for everyone around you. Bamboo toothbrushes are completely sustainable, for you and the environment. If you want to go the extra step, you can even get a bamboo toothbrush infused with charcoal to get those pearly whites. Traveling? You can even get a bamboo case for your toothbrush

4. Grocery bags.

Do I really need to include a link? Your local grocery store is most likely selling reusable grocery bags. Invest in some, please.

5. Plastic bags in general.

Like I just said. Grocery bags can be used just about anywhere. If you bring a reusable bag into a store and kindly ask the cashier to put it in your bags, they won't turn you down.

6. Cling wrap.

Cling wrap can get pricey, and you might not even want to buy it. So here's a tutorial on how to make your own reusable cling wrap out of cloth.

If you're not as talented, or just lazy, click on this link and order it straight from the internet. The good news is, it's washable, reusable, and compostable.

7. Cotton pads.

No more taking off your makeup with a cotton pad and throwing it away. Use these makeup remover pads that you can put right in the wash with your other towels, and use the next day. If you're feeling extra fancy, they come in multiple colors.

Another alternative is to use coconut oil to take your makeup off. I just dip my finger in the container, and smooth it around my face and then use a normal washcloth to wipe the extra off. Coconut oil acts as a great moisturizer, so it won't hurt if you leave any on your face.

8. Dryer sheets.

Ditch those dryer sheets. Dryer balls are in. They don't just get the job done, but they reduce drying time and are reusable!

Not a fan of how large they are and still want to use dryer sheets. That's fine... as long as you use these compostable dryer sheets.

9. Water bottles.

This is another one I don't need to include a link for. If you're still going about your day without a reusable water bottle, you're wrong. You can go in just about any store and buy one, whether it's a reusable plastic, glass, or stainless steel water bottle. Even a reusable plastic water bottle is better than a single-use plastic water bottle.

10. Garbage bags.

Garbage bags are a thing you can't reuse. Instead, composting options are available. Hefty makes a compostable garbage bag. Hefty. You read that right. Not everything has to be a small name company where you're not really sure if you can trust it or not. And, they just so happen to be one of the cheapest options on Amazon.

11. Tupperware.

You get your bang for your buck with this glass Tupperware set. Plastic Tupperware isn't the worst thing you could do. It's still reusable. You might as well go big or go home. With glass Tupperware, you can put it in the oven to cook delicious dishes.

12. Packaged produce.

Please, start bringing your own containers to put food in. First off, it is so much healthier for you to buy fresh produce. Secondly, when you buy packaged produce, you're wasting so much plastic. Those bags that you would normally toss your apples and bananas in? They can be replaced. Bonus: they're machine washable. Buy reusable produce bags.


Some items really aren't reusable. I get that. When you're shopping for daily needs, look at what can be reused multiple times. Read the labels to see if it is machine safe to wash, or even if it's compostable. Composting can be a chore, but it will pay off in the long run.

The list could really go on and on and on and on and on. You may only be on this Earth for a few decades, but you might as well do what you can to save it for the future.

Cover Image Credit: Mali Maeder

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