Your Happiness is Like a Machine
Here’s how to keep it running smoothly
As a self-help writer and editor of a personal development publication, happiness is something I talk about a lot. I talk about it with friends, family and just about anybody who’s intrigued enough to talk about it when they discover what I do for a living.
Why do I find myself talking about this all of the time? Because we all want to be happier. It’s a quest that unites us all. You know that, and I do, too. And yet, at the same time, actually finding happiness always seems like such a difficult endeavor.
Sure, we might feel totally happy and content during some moments in our lives, but before long something arises that only brings us down again.
Improving our day-to-day levels of contentment is something we can all achieve. To do so, however, we have to rethink our approach. We have to learn to start seeing happiness not as some impossible goal, but as a machine that needs fuel.
The Happy Machine
Last week, I was sitting at my friend’s dinner table discussing plans for our upcoming event when his father came and joined us. He had an idea to share that he thought could become a part of our presentation.
Laying down a piece of paper in front of us, he drew several blocks and placed on top of each other in a pyramid shape. Each block represented a particular factor, all of which comprised what he called ‘The Happy Machine’.
In the blocks were things like sleep and exercise, each placed in the categories of either mind, body or spirituality.
Once Derek had finished drawing up his machine, he looked up at me with a smile on his face. ‘That’s all happiness is. A machine. And for it to run effectively, all of its parts need to be in working order.’
These parts were:
Whenever we’re feeling happy or unhappy, it can help to view our emotions in terms of a machine. That way, we can look at what’s going in or out and clearly see which changes we need to make.
It might be that our sleeping schedule is all out of whack, we’re not eating right or that we’ve lost our sense of purpose. When we’re feeling good, it’s usually because most of the above factors are in balance.
Whenever things aren’t going well and our mood begins to falter, we must ask ourselves why. What’s missing? What am I lacking? What changes can I make?
Rather than accepting our bad mood in defeat, the happiness machine gives us a clearer idea of how why we feel the way we do and offers us simple methods with which to make changes.
Our Mood is Within Our Control
Although looking at our mental state through the lenses of the happiness machine can help us, sometimes, we just have bad days. A good night’s sleep or rainbow salad might not be within our grasp, leaving us feeling as though we have no choice but to continue being miserable.
As well as the chat I had with my friend’s father, I had another insightful happiness-based discussion just this week which provided me with a simple way out of those unexpected bad days.
A few days ago, I went to visit a friend in Wales to support him during a breakup. After finishing breakfast one day, we stumbled over the road and popped inside a local health food shop to take a look around.
As we entered, a kind lady with round glasses and curled hair approached us, asking where we were from and offering us each a mug of herbal tea.
Within moments, we were swept into an hour-long conversation with her about all kinds of things including health, mindfulness and of course, happiness.
Of all of the topics we discussed, one stuck in my mind more clearly than the others. She explained how our mood is within our control, at all times. There’s no such thing as a bad day, only misguided decisions.
Whenever something goes wrong, she said, like another driver cutting us up or an argument with a loved one, one thing cascades into another and before we know it one tiny incident has led to us having a terrible day.
She explained that at any moment we can interrupt this cycle. If a driver cuts us up, we don’t have to get angry and beep our horn, but instead, we can accept that they made a mistake and go about our business.
Or even if we do find ourselves angered by another person’s actions, we can interrupt the cycle simply by doing something good — like smiling at a person or going for a walk.
At any moment, we have the power to change. By executing an equal and opposite action, like smiling at an angry person or performing a random act of kindness, we send ourselves spiraling upwards rather than downward.
Before we know it, we’re back out of that negative loop and feeling even better than we did in the first place.
Putting it All Together
In many ways, happiness is just like a machine. It isn’t something that we can just find by traveling or quitting our job, but something that we must build up — like blocks in a pyramid.
Whenever something feels a little off, we must reassess our situation by taking a look at our happiness machine to see what needs adjusting. It simply might be that we’re not sleeping right or we’re dehydrated, or it could be that we’re lonely or lack a sense of purpose.
And, on those days when it seems that nothing will cheer us up, we can remind ourselves that our happiness is entirely within our control. We know what’s good for us, and we know how to lift our mood — we just have to go ahead and do it.
A smile at a stranger, a call with an old friend or donating to charity, all of these are incredibly simple actions that serve to make us feel a little better.
Instead of spiraling downwards by eating junk food, binge-watching Netflix and lashing out at people we care about, do the right things. Interrupt the cycle by being kind and making the decisions you know are good for you and those around you.
Happiness isn’t an impossible goal to reach. It’s just a combination of small, deliberate actions that combine to make us feel good more often. It’s a machine that needs to be fueled.