On the Nature of Happiness

In the pursuit of happiness we find ourselves chasing after many things: the right relationship partner, the dream job, the perfect home, the best vehicle, the latest tech gadget, but upon receipt of any of these things we merely find a short-lived excitement, a rush of enjoyment up until the sensation begins to fade in time.

In this falling-out of happiness we sometimes ask ourselves why that thing doesn’t make us happy anymore, and when that “thing” is a person we find ourselves wondering if we ever actually loved them at all or if it was just the excitement of something new and different. When the luster of “newness” has given way to everyday boringness, what are we supposed to think or feel? What does it all mean? When someone says, “I’m not happy,” or “I just want to find happiness,” what do they really mean?

People can make us happy, that part is actually quite true. Other human beings can bring happiness into our lives just as the taste of ice cream, or a birthday gift, a beautiful sunset, or anything else we’ve learned to find joy in. What we often don’t consider is the cost of that happiness. After all, it cannot be free, nothing in life comes without a degree of debt. The cost of happiness is impermanence.

We must come to accept the reality that happiness is an emotion like anger, sadness, fear, guilt, disgust, love, and all the rest. Emotions were never meant to be anything more than temporary. We’re not always happy for the same reason we’re not always angry, sad, afraid, ashamed, or any other emotion. We’re not meant to be happy all the time, it’s unnatural, it goes against our nature as living beings experiencing life. To always be happy would not be a gift, but a delusion, an illness, a curse, just as it is to be angry or sad all the time. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing.

Impermanence is the only absolute, and breaking the delusion that permanence of any kind is possible, is the only cure to our dissatisfaction with our lives, regardless of what or who no longer brings us happiness. Even contentment, our default emotional state, does not last forever – it too must give way to the emotional spectrum from time to time. I think perhaps it would do us a great service to live an examined life and to stop pondering whether or not we are happy or if someone or something makes us happy, and begin to ask ourselves if we are content.

If this topic interests you, consider reading The Power of Purpose, Meaning, and Fulfillment.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis, please access my immediate assistance resource page.  A comprehensive listing of online and phone resources and services is also available.

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