No time? Listen to it instead
On Nudge › How’s Instagram, I asked what people needed me to write about a couple of weeks ago. The last post came out of this exercise as well. The question was about happiness or more accurately, what comes next?
The best way to go about writing on this, I realised, was not to cite research or anything along those lines. I did not want this piece to be a long read with headings and explaining what happiness is based on some paper, and so on.
So, I decided, I’ll just share how I experience and deal with happiness, and maybe, you can take a page out of my book, or you can choose to call me whatever and find your explanation.
Happiness, to me, is a feeling. It’s nothing more, nothing less. It has also been difficult for me to accept and get into this mindset because that’s not how we’re conditioned. Everybody wants to talk about being happier. Then, when we’re sold on the vision, they sell us a product or a service.
In any case, to me, happiness is fleeting and having that built in the way I process it is how I have managed to be more content overall. It has helped me have a life afloat despite having monthlong bouts of sadness.
The widely accepted number of human emotions ranges from six to eight. Happiness is just one of them. Happiness, then, is only about 12-16% of our possible existence.
So, instead, I try to find long-term happiness or more appropriately put, contentment. It’s the lack of wanting to feel happy or searching for that excited high that happiness brings you. It’s being content with the way your days are and the way you’re doing things.
When I do find happiness because 12-16% of our feelings are still bound to show up, and it does, and it feels great, I decide not to let it get to my head, and I like to repeat to myself,
“This may pass sooner than I realise. So, let’s make the most of this, and no expectations.”
No expectations. That’s the rule. I think that’s how I’d like to answer the question.
Now that you’re happy, what do you do? You make sure you understand it is fleeting. You make sure you do not expect it to last. If it does, that’s awesome. You try to make sure you are content with it not lasting.
That’s what I do. I try to make sure I’m content with happiness passing.
That perspective is what I have in mind when I build my systems. That’s what I have in mind when I start a new project, and it does well. It’s what I have in mind when I am sitting at a bar with my friends, laughing or when I’m sitting by myself, having coffee in my apartment.
The truth about happiness (or any other emotion) is that they are so temporary that it is not worth it to dwell on any of those. It’s recognising that they are nothing but neurons firing in our brains to make us feel things and not goals in themselves.
Happiness is a bad goal to strive for because you will not be able to sustain that high of happiness. You can sustain contentment, on the other hand, by not striving for anything at all.
The idea of contentment is an age-old one as well – where happiness is passionate and exciting, contentment is calm and easy-going and just letting it be.
Contentment, in my opinion, comes from accepting that happiness will pass, no matter how nice it feels right now. Once you internalise that, you don’t care for what happens next. You just focus on what you’re doing in the now.
Happiness is but a temporary high, a tiny fraction of everything we’ll ever feel. It’s hard-wired for our survival, but now it’s sold in advertisements and plans. It’s a scam humanity played on itself. Even if we get it, it is fleeting, and that’s a good thing. That means we don’t need it. It comes and it goes, serving its purpose. It’s important to realise it may pass. All feelings do.
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