Mental Health

How to find Happiness (/’hapInəs/)

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the buzzword of 2017. Yep, I am placing my bets early. The one thing we don’t seem to be able to stop talking about is Happiness. Or, rather, our pursuit of it.

In fact, screw 2017 – I’m going to go ahead and say that finding happiness is the preoccupation of the decade. It’s not the freedom of the post-war era, or the peace and free love of the 60s, and it certainly isn’t the money and materialism of the 80s/90s. Our generation just want to be happy.

It’s by no means a new thing but, if the media is anything to go by (and wow, isn’t it?), happiness is the new thing currently occupying a big chunk of our collective consciousness. Whether it’s the happiest place to live, the Danes and their soul-comforting hygge, or defining it with an algorithm, happiness is everywhere.

Or it isn’t. And that’s why we can’t stop talking about it.

Depression and anxiety rates are soaring, politics are a total joke, the news is full of terrifying North Korea and GIRLS has ended. It’s no wonder the Western world is a bit down in the dumps.

So thank god that a giant, radiant, smiling apple has just hit our heads and woken us up to the revelation that we should be striving for happiness. Hallelujah! Queue our mad frenzy to find it before we give up the ghost / are enlisted in the army / turn 30*.

*Only teasing, life doesn’t end at 30. It actually ends when you start watching Grey’s Anatomy and realise way too late that there are 12 seasons and counting!

So what is this mysterious state of ‘happiness’ and where do you find it? Well, according to an internet image search, happiness is found at the beach, in sunsets (or rises, it’s hard to tell), with smiling children or by jumping in the air.

Not particularly helpful. But I actually think the way our whole lives are built is really unhelpful. We’re looking for happiness in all the wrong places, namely on Instagram and, yes, on blogs. But I’m not just talking about impossible ideals, of thigh gaps and ‘wanderlust’, when I say we set ourselves up for unfulfilled lives from the start.

Last week, a video about happiness was doing the social media rounds. It was an interview with Mo Gawdat, who was left desperately unhappy when his son suddenly died. Fair enough, that must have absolutely sucked. He coped with his depression by devising an algorithm for happiness (he worked at Google, go figure).

“An algorithm for happiness??!!! Tell me now!” 

What a wonderfully quick and easy fix that would be.

I’ve embedded Mo’s interview at the end of this post so you can watch it for yourself, but his algorithm is this:

“Happiness is equal to, or greater than, the difference between the way you see the events of your life, and the way you think life should be.”

In other words, our happiness is determined by our expectations. Low expectations = greater chance for happiness. That doesn’t sound so amazing, does it? No one wants to lower their expectations. We’ve been taught to demand more – from ourselves, from others, from life. We’ve been taught to constantly strive and struggle and fight, to never give up and keep on pushing ourselves until we achieve …And that doesn’t sound very happy either.

As much as I dislike the idea of having an algorithm for happiness (are we so eager to be robots??) I can agree with Mo’s sentiment. Happiness is about perspective.

“Stop being such a baby, it could be so much worse!”

We have all said or heard this when we’re feeling down. But as we all know, it doesn’t help. Because – newsflash! – emotion isn’t logical. Emotion and logic are opposites.

Pain, grief, depression… they’re relative. They’re incomparable. Imagine the greatest loss of your life so far; that might be for your childhood pet, your mother or, as in Mo’s case, your child. But that’s still the greatest loss you’ve ever felt. It’s still the most painful thing in your life. Does comparing it to someone else’s pain help? No!

So why should happiness be any different? One person’s idea of happy is a Five Guys burger, another’s is a marathon. They both fill that person with joy, so why is one worth more than the other? Who decided what should make us happy?

We live in a world where information is ready, on demand, twenty-four hours a day, and we’re applying that same logic to our emotions. I realize the extreme irony of this statement, as I write an online article, but the internet cannot tell you how to be happy.

What I’m starting to learn, is that happiness isn’t something you can find. It’s not something you can copy from somebody else or imitate based on a blueprint. It’s not an achievement. It’s not a place, a set of rules or an algorithm.

It’s something we already have. It’s something we take for granted because we’ve become blind to it. We think happiness is looking beautiful, having an awesome job, going on amazing holidays… It’s not.

Happiness isn’t something you have to work for. It’s something you have to open your eyes to.

Share your happiness hacks in the comments below x

***

Subscribe for more posts like this one.