I Don't Understand Happiness

I Don't Understand Happiness

Answers about this 'elusive joy' lead to more questions.

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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Will Enough Ever Be Enough?

Yet another school shooting in America, still nothing done. We are dying.

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018: We are all heartbroken to hear about another school shooting.

At Great Mills High School in Maryland, a 17-year-old male is pronounced dead at the scene after shooting two other students and a school resource officer. Just before their first period started, at 7:55 am, Austin Rollins shot one male and one female student with a handgun before being shot by the school's resource officer. While the 16-year-old female is in critical condition, the 14-year-old male is currently stable. This is the 17th school shooting in 2018. That's 17 days out of the past 80 that parents have gone to bed with their children in body bags as a result of gun violence.

I don't care what political party you associate with, gun violence is completely out of control. I am a registered Republican and completely agree with stricter gun laws. Learn the difference between a gun ban and sales control. Concerned citizens are not trying to take away your guns, but are trying to take away the rights from those that are risks.

Could you imagine legally having to send your child to school but never coming back? You've packed their lunch, maybe with a special note, and gave them a kiss before they left for school, not knowing that it was their last. No matter where we go, we are not safe. We can't go to malls, movie theaters, schools, or even churches without having to worry if it will be our last trip. Our homes, our places of worship, and our schools are supposed to be the places where we feel safest and, instead, our children are filled with fear. Instead of focusing on the political views that divide these groups, why don't we focus on what unites us? Why don't we focus on protecting our kin?

Everyone has had an opinion on the walkouts that have been happening around the country. Everyone has had an opinion on the 17 minutes of silence for the 17 children lost in the Florida shooting. I've seen people disgusted that Nickelodeon had 17 minutes of broadcast cut because it "interrupted the only program [I] let [my] children watch".

If your child was shot at school, you wouldn't have to worry about what programs they watch, but rather where to bury them and how to afford their memorial.

I've seen people saying that it's no wonder that Millenials are dumb. They "find any excuse to cut class". Have you thought about the fact that they are genuinely worried about going to school?

Personally, I've experienced both a shooting scare at my high school and a bomb threat at my college. I shouldn't have to worry about my life ending. I'm legally forced to go to high school and get an education or I'm putting myself into a lifetime of debt to get a degree.

We are all too young to stress about gun violence. Our school years are supposed to be the times our of lives, but they're being wasted on worrying about dying every day.

Rest in peace to all of those who have lost their lives in shootings, not only this year, but always. Hopes, thoughts, and prayers go out to their loved ones. One day, we will unite and find a solution.

We need to work together and forget the labels of parties and cliques in school and look out for one another instead. There is no kind but mankind.

Cover Image Credit: Boston Herald

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The Republican Versus Democrat Stigma Needs To Slow Down

We Need To Be Individual Again

We as a society have developed an unnecessary need to place people in a specific party based on what could be a single value out of many. This is a letter for those who do not define themselves as one or the other; for those whose values range between conservative and liberal, for those who feel the unfortunate pressure of society to choose one even though your values do not fit just one.

The political parties at one point generally just meant “these are my basic beliefs, so this is the candidate I will vote for because they most closely represent them.” Party affiliation was harmless. Republicans and Democrats could get along fine, differing opinions not getting in the way of relationships and alignment. More importantly, you did not have to be part of a specific political party to be an active member of society. Your opinions and principles were yours.

Over the years following the last two election races, political parties gained a much more significant and defining meaning in our lives as individuals and as members of society. There is a newly developed stigma behind political opinions. You are almost pressured to feel one way or another about every single topic. If a majority of your values are of the conservative agenda, you must be a heart-and-all Republican. In contrast, if you are more liberal-leaning you are docked as a set Democrat. We as citizens are being labeled according to what may be a few hard-values. And dishearteningly enough, can be ridiculed for what we value. Even if you might not value everything the same as your determined party.

There exists those of us that hold values from both parties. It is possible to value women’s rights and also value a traditional marriage. It is possible to be a gun owner and also active in keeping children safe in school. You do not have to just submit to every belief of one party. You can value aspects of different parties and still be a functioning member of the American society. Do not let the looming obligation to declare yourself as strictly one or the other. You do not have to pretend you agree with everything Democratic or everything Republican; you can have your own values. And you should. Our society is messed up in the way that values are pushed on citizens. We are meant to be free individuals with our private values.

It is not fair to those of us who value different things. Not every American is a to-the-bone Democrat or Republican. It is possible to hold liberal beliefs as a conservative person. And Vice-Versa. We need to stop labeling one another as one or the other, conservative or liberal. We need to stop silencing each other because we have differing views. We need to accept not everyone is perfectly one party, and diversity exists. Open mindedness exists in Americans, despite the seemingly growing generalizations. We need to be able to agree to disagree on certain topics.
Cover Image Credit: LexiHanna

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