Ah ‘spose this could have been an OWLS post. It ain’t.
Different things to different people?
Well yeah, that’s quite true. Activities that leave one in a happy state will be as varied as the people who engage in them.
There are many people who are not happy. And there are many ways to be unhappy, some worse than others. You might be sad over a personal tragedy. You might be clinically depressed, a medical state that can persist for a year or for a lifetime and could require therapy or antidepressants to overcome. Many people are unhappy but don’t have a clue about why. There is a lot of that going around. Materialism, the new god that replaced all the old gods, encourages that sort of thing.
Perhaps you think you need to climb the corporate ladder. You are just another rat in the race. Perhaps handing off your unhappiness to make your subordinates miserable will make you happy. That’s the song sung by every bully. Bullies are never happy.
The rat race is rigged.
Maybe booze will cheer you – or the right drug. For most of us, those drugs will simulate happiness for a bit. They wear off even quicker than the endorphins did after your last shopping spree. You spent the money, got the hangover, maybe killed off a bunch of brain cells, maybe made an ass out of yourself or even harmed someone, and you don’t even have a dress or gadget to show for it. No receipt to return the item. With the drug gone, you’re back in an even more miserable state than you were before.
Happiness isn’t something you can buy. Material goods can make life easier but if the underlying happiness isn’t there already they won’t solve your problem. Maybe, just maybe, the answer is to find whatever inside of you makes you happy and to follow it instead of searching for something outside of yourself.
The future is yet to achieve form. Anxiety preps you for a physical fight that never comes and steals your happy. It comes straight out of the reptilian corner of your brain. You’ve just wasted your time, energy and peace of mind on something you know have no control over and cannot fight. If you could do something about it, you would and you’d be done with it.
It is said that some students found Voltaire working in his garden one day and posed to him the question of what he would want to do if the world was going to end tomorrow. His response was that he would want to work in his garden. Do you see the brilliance of that? Not to allow the future to pollute one’s enjoyment of today. Voltaire was but a very sophisticated version of a barefoot child in the rain.
They’d be swingin’ on a ball and chain…
The other trick is to surround yourself with happy associations. A truly happy person is one who sees beauty all around them. Every time you see something beautiful, you get a little burst of happy juice. The more beautiful things you see, the happier you’ll be. (Looking in the mirror is nice but not a good single solution.)
Happiness is anything you love.
If you would be happy, there should be something you do that you love to do, preferably several things. It is easy to lose the ability to do one activity or simply get temporarily bored with something. One or more activities that when you engage in it, the endorphins start to flow.
I hike and camp and drive off-road and play with the dogs. I roam around naked. I take photographs. I write. I sing. I watch anime. I snuggle with my wife. I do not compare with others. I do not define myself by what others think I ought to be. Not even that snugly wife.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. – Desiderata
I also have a well-developed sense of gallows humor.
You are a fluke of the Universe…
Perhaps there is a cause you believe in. Embrace your activity and love it, be it religion or philately or your own private version of patriotism. If by some miracle you are able to make a living doing something you love and not have the commercial aspect ruin it, by all means, do so. Otherwise, keep it as a hobby and be a true amateur – one who does something simply for the love of doing it.
Cats and dogs seem custom designed for lonely people. They offer something to interact with. You give them love and they give the love back in a very safe manner. There’s no judgment of you for your social skills, economic success or personal appearance. There’s just enough intelligence there to keep them interesting. OTOH you don’t have to keep apologizing for not meeting expectations or wondering if they will take something the wrong way.
Dogs and cats are different in how they express their affection. It stems from dogs being a pack animal and cats being lone hunters. Personality also varies between members of the same species. You pick the one that suits you best.
The happiest life is one in which you love the world just for being there.
The ants steadily dismantling a vole corpse are beautiful. To an ant, that rotting rodent would be beautiful for it offers the promise of life to the ant colony. It may not hit my top ten list of things I admire – but who am I to argue with an ant? The wolf is beautiful and so is the moose it kills. Death is beautiful for without it there can be no life and life itself is beautiful.
Lots of ugliness out there, I won’t deny it. You have to accept that the world has much hate and cruelty in it especially when you are forced to experience some of it. But the good stuff outweighs the bad or the species would have self-destructed long ago. If there were nothing but good we would not appreciate it and very many things are good that run beneath most people’s notice.
Once you love the world, you will start to see incredible beauty all around. Hard work and elegance are beautiful. Flowers and sunsets are beautiful but then so are earthworms and rainy days and the very soil that the worms churn. Precision machinery is beautiful. A spiral galaxy is beautiful and so is the telescope which allows us to see it in detail. To a physicist, the Dirac equation is beautiful:
Music has a powerful ability to evoke happiness. It is a constant source of beauty. It can make the good times better and it can carry you thru the bad times. Don’t just listen to the words. Feel them. Let the melody and the harmony sweep over you. Experience the emotion of the song as well as understanding the lyrics. Something is being communicated that is more important than the verbal content.
Be a wild child…
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou sayst,
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. – John Keats, Ode to a Grecian Urn
Understand this and you will always have beauty to look at and enjoy. You will be happy despite the worst the world can throw at you. I find beauty in the weeds in the cracks of the sidewalk and in the sweat of the men who poured that sidewalk. There is beauty in a picnic but there is also beauty in the ants who come to share it. I find it in the elderly and ill who stubbornly cling to life against all odds, in the portly middle-aged who refuse to let their hearts age, as well as the heartbreakingly lovely youth or maiden. In a woman’s breast as well as the baby she may suckle and in the process that produces that baby
That is all I have to say for now. Hope I have said enough. And listen to Louie. He knows.