We all desire this slippery, impossible-to-grasp, scarce and unrecognizable thing that we call happiness. Here’s something that will relieve you of this burden of constantly needing to achieve this concept. Happiness doesn’t exist. It’s an elusive idea that we humans have recently invented. Furthermore, this idea that it is our right to be happy and we all need and deserve and should be happy is an extremely recent idea that has been ingrained so solidly in our minds.
The feeling of being “unhappy” is derived from FOMO, also a recently coined word that abbreviates “Fear Of Missing Out”. You feel unhappy because you fear that you are missing out on this “happiness” that everyone but yourself has apparently acquired.
Happiness doesn’t exist. It’s an elusive idea that we humans have recently invented.
Historian, Darrin McMahon has studied the metamorphoses of the idea of happiness over the last few thousand years. In ancient times, happiness was deemed to be a transcendent state that was only attained by a few. Aristotle was a prominent objectivist who argued that happiness was “activity of the soul expressing virtue.” Achieving perfect happiness involved the divine “intellectual” virtues rather than the “practical” ones. Basically, happiness was synonymous with virtue. Then came along Christianity and flipped this virtue with a sensual element. Medieval Christians believed that happiness was an after-life reward of eternal heavenly bliss. It couldn’t be achieved in the mortal world while we lived. Fast forward to the Enlightenment, and the “pursuit of happiness” that was a right for all of us to have. The correlation between virtue and morals to achieving happiness was argued. By the 18th century, happiness was no longer a right of the individual, but an aim of the state.
Fast forward to today, happiness is synonymous with the feeling that is in the reach of everyone. There’s no relation to virtue or morals or plain and simple, being good. Also, scientists have discovered that we have “hedonic set points” that we bounce back to even if we have a surge of happiness. We receive instant happiness from gratification when we’ve achieved something that we’ve desired. However, you’ll return to your moody self again.
Also, there’s the main thing we all yearn for that we think will bring happiness. Money – and preferably a tonne of it. It doesn’t take a scientist to tell you that materialism has a devastating toll on your wallet. The endless pursuit of stuff decreases life satisfaction and accumulates paranoia, narcissism, depression and unhappiness. It’s better to spend your money on an experience, like a vacation or a concert. However, it’s said to be the anticipation that makes us happy than the actual vacation itself. It’s better to take more frequent and shorter vacations so you can be happier anticipating them. Isn’t that strange and pointless?
It’s better to take more frequent and shorter vacations so you can be happier anticipating them.
A study published by Perspectives on Psychological Science found that participants felt cheated after watching an upbeat film due to the disappointment from not achieving their expected cheerfulness. The study’s co-author, June Gruber said, “When you’re doing it with the motivation or expectation that these things ought to make you happy, that can lead to disappointment and decreased happiness… the best way to increase your happiness is to stop worrying about being happy and instead divert your energy to nurturing the social bonds you have with other people … If there’s one thing you’re going to focus on, focus on that. Let all the rest come as it will.”
The act of trying to achieve happiness will eventually turn on you and make you unhappy as the disappointment from failure. Also, children who are rated highly cheerful by teachers at school died at a younger age than their grumpy peers. Something to think about.