Happiness… a state of mind?
Today I’d like to consider to what extent we can control how happy we are. What makes you happy? My observations of the world make me think that, in general, there are two sorts of things that make people happy:
1 – the “big” things in life (I’m thinking along the lines of success, graduating, marriage…)
2 – the smallest things in life, marvelling at hidden patterns, simply being thankful for being alive, seeing someone, smiling, having a cup of tea (though I hate tea) or whatever your “smallest” reasons for being happy would be
Try to imagine this: a sphere, maybe 1m in diameter, suspended in the air in front of you.
1. Let the few big reasons to be happy be represented by a smaller sphere in the centre of the big sphere, of whatever size you think is proportionate to how often they occur.
2. Pick a colour to colour in this smaller sphere (a “happiness” colour*), and make this shade ripen to the amount of happiness these few big reasons to be happy give you.
3. Now let the smallest reasons to be happy be represented by colouring the surface of the big sphere in your happiness colour, and let this colour fill inwards until the area this block of colour fills is proportionate to how often these occur in life.
4. Let your happiness colour change shade for the smallest reasons to happy until the shade represents the amount of happiness these give you.
5. Colour in all the remaining area of the sphere in whatever colour you like (call this your “life” colour), and distance yourself from the sphere so that you are watching the sphere, entirely detached from it. Let all the colour in your sphere go translucent.
To me it seems that all the rest of life, the “middle” things, in your “life” colour, work, education, exams, driving/travelling, eating/preparing food, sleeping… tend to take up the majority of the space in the sphere, whilst the “big” reasons to be happy are pretty much invisible from where you stand on the outside of the sphere, past this massive block of life colour. All that is accessible/truly visible is the happiness colour from the “smallest” reasons to be happy, that are on the very edge of the sphere.
From this model of happiness, I can see two possible ways of becoming happier:
1. Find your small reasons to be happy in the “middle” of life, what you spend most of your time doing (letting the outer shell of happiness colour grow inwards)
2. Find all the things in the “middle” of your life so important that they become big reasons to be happy (letting the inner sphere of happiness colour grow outwards)
(My favourite thing to then do with this model is simultaneously let the inner sphere of happiness colour grow outwards and the outer shell of happiness colour grow inwards until they both end up expanding and taking over the entirety of your field of vision with happiness colour.)
What do I mean in real world terms? I mean that you should make yourself see everything as a reason to be happy.
How do I propose to go about doing this? I’d like to address the second part of this entry’s title: “a state of mind” in order to explain.
“Happiness is an attitude. We either make ourselves miserable, or happy and strong. The amount of work is the same. ”
Earlier this week I was talking to friends about how they would end the sentence “Life is…” (I don’t think I got a single positive word in response.) My response in return was along the lines of “awesomely exciting and amazing and whatever you want it to be”. And what was the response to this? “Are you like 12??” It didn’t half make me laugh! Why is it that being happy or merely positive is automatically linked with being childish, and not understanding the “real” world? If we’re not taught how to have a positive outlook when part of the “real” world as a child, what use is much of what we are taught? Surely if we spend much more of our lives being not-children than being children, it would make much more sense to be depressed throughout childhood and have learnt to be happy by the time we reach adulthood, than the other way round.
I’m not saying that I couldn’t go on forever ending “Life is…” with everything that was wrong in the world, but I can’t see why I would want to, when I could instead consider what I could make good in the world as more significant. I don’t even think it’s a case of “is the glass half empty or half full?”, but a case of “the glass is completely empty but all I have to do to have a full glass is go and fill it up, and though I can’t quite fill it to the top as it would probably spill, the small effort of going to almost fill up the glass would be much more worthwhile than staring at the empty glass.” You could stare at the empty glass and moan about how awful the world can be, or go and fill it up and think how at the very least you could make your life seem happier.
Maybe I’m being too naive and optimistic, yet I’d rather that to being convinced that every corner of the world is out to get me and depressed. And if the whole world is out to get me, all the better because I’m out to get the whole world (not really, but that sounds cool).
In conclusion, my point is that, as I see it, there’s no need to spend life searching for happiness, because all it takes it to look at the world a bit differently (I’m now picturing myself turning the sphere into earth and scribbling over the life colour with happiness colour, not particularly caring that the life colour’s still there, because I can find value in life anyway).
(*In case you’re wondering, my happiness colour is whitey-cream, and my life colour is greeny-blue. What were yours?)