The only reason you’re unhappy and how to overcome it
What is happiness?
Our main purpose in life is to be happy and spread happiness around us; but what is happiness anyway? How can we be something we don’t know what it is?
Happiness is the state of enjoying life by constantly having positive reactions to events.
We — humans — act like automatic state machines: we change our state by reacting to specific inputs and sending outputs from our reactions.
Let’s analyze it for a minute…
In the left, we have an “AND” gate with two operands: the previous reaction of the state machine, b = d, and an external input, a. The gate’s main function is to perform a logical AND operation between these two operands — a and b.
The result of a logical AND operation is always 0— negative— if one of the operands is negative. Thus, if the reaction d is negative, the result c will be the same — negative — but if the reaction d is positive, then the external input a becomes positive as well — c is positive. A positive input c will trigger a positive output and future reaction — d.
Now, you may be asking:
Why is the input — external event — neutral, when it should be positive or negative?
Au contraire! And this is the point:
An external event is negative only after we perceive it to be negative.
An event is being shaped — positive or negative — only after it is perceived by an observer. Until then, the event could be both positive and negative at the same time — superposition.
(Because the law of superposition is beyond the scope of our discussion, I invite you to read this article about the Schrödinger’s Cat Paradox, which explains the law very nice.)
In order to understand how events are shaped by our reactions, let’s imagine a virus.
A virus affects the normal functions of an organism by infecting it; this may lead to a condition — disease. A condition is set of signs and symptoms, which, actually, are the organism’s reaction to the virus’ infection. The signs and symptoms vary from an organism to another, depending on how strong the immune system is. Thus, the impact of the virus depends on how the organism reacts to the infection.
If a person, due to an unhealthy lifestyle, has a weak immune system, his body will trigger negative reactions even to the “smallest” virus — negative impact; whereas, if a person has a strong immune system, the virus is offenceless and has no impact. I may say the person is unaware of the virus’ existence.
Let’s take another example. Let’s imagine two students receive an unexpected test: one student has been studying constantly the entire year, whereas the other one has been procrastinating.
The unexpected test would have a negative impact only for the procrastinating student — bad grade and low self-esteem — because he is the only one with a negative reaction. The studying student will have either a neutral reaction — the test doesn’t affect him — either a positive reaction — a new opportunity to prove himself and get a big grade.
“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” — Charles R. Swindoll
The diagram above was meant to make you understand the basics of how happiness is only a matter of our reactions to events and not the events on their own; what happens inside “the state box” — our head — is much more complex.
One question still remains:
What triggers a negative reaction and, thus, unhappiness?
If we look in the Bible — The Fall of Man, Genesis: 3 — , it’s written that Adam and Eve were sent out of the Garden of Eden, because they had eaten a fruit from the forbidden tree.
“God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’ The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.” — Bible, Genesis: 3
We may conclude that desire is mankind’s biggest sin. By desire, we destroy the main purpose of life — happiness.
When we desire, we compare our current life with a better one, offered by achieving that specific desire — high expectations. Thus, desire, high expectations, and negative comparisons are the main factors that lead to unhappiness.
You are sick; immediately, you compare yourself with the moments you were better.
You see commercials, where actors are always smiling and appear to be happy when they’re around the main commercialized product. Your brain immediately associates happiness with the product and tag it as an absolute condition for happiness.
By constantly focusing on what you don’t have, by constantly desiring, and by constantly increasing your expectations, you will always be unfulfilled, unhappy, and disappointed. There will always be something missing; it’s inevitable.
You can’t have it all.
What can I do to be happy?
By appreciating everything you have, you will never desire what you don’t have. Better yet, you will always desire what you already have.
Every morning I wake up, the first thing I do is thank God for everything He has offered me; I am asking Him to offer me this perfect life every day. And He does!
I have been using this technique for an year and has never failed. Compare what you have with what others don’t.
When you’re sick, imagine that other people struggle with cancer.
When you’re feeling lazy to do a workout, remember that there are people in this world competing in the paralympic games.
When you can’t buy a something — e.g. a smartphone — remember that there are people who don’t have what to eat or where to live.
From the anatomical point of view, happiness occurs during dopamine and serotonin secretion. Smiling stimulates the secretion of these two neurotransmitters.
Smile no matter what!
At the beginning, it would seem strange and uncomfortable, but it will become a habit after constantly practicing.
Since I started smiling, even when I felt not to, I’ve felt much better and even people around me have started to smile more. A smile brings another smile.
And for the record, dopamine and serotonin are the main causes for addictions. Thus, this is the reason why smoking, drugs, caffeine, sugar, and alcohol create addictions and make you feel happy: they all stimulate serotonin and dopamine secretion.
In a previous article of mine, I mentioned that we are defined by the decisions we make— choices.
In the end, happiness is a matter of choice. When an event occurs you decide how you react to it, by the the power of your self-control.
Self-control is a skill that is developed by exercise. I admit, it is a skill I am constantly struggling to develop and constantly failing. But I keep trying; I know I will succeed and I know you could too if you really want it and try.
“He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.” — Lao Tzu
Happiness is the result of positive reactions to events; until they are perceived — positive or negative — events are neutral.
The way we perceive events is a matter of choice. Choose to stay positive and be happy. As you have seen, positive brings positive, whereas negative brings negative.
If you want to be happy, then be happy!
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