The Pursuit of Happiness


In these modern times we live in, disorientation and confusion, especially among young people, are rampant.

It seems that the inability to tell apart illusion and reality is one of the most widespread conditions nowadays. The emergence of social media in particular makes it easier than ever for us to lie to ourselves and others about what (our) life really is like. We have become addicted to this pseudo-reality with all its temptations.

I will go out on a limb here and state that we all share at the very least one common objective: We want to be happy.

But are we?

If anything, it seems more like the overall happiness of young people is at a low right now (there are numerous studies that point this way as well).

So what is going on?

No, this is not a rant about social media or the shortcomings of “Generation Y” (which I myself happen to be part of).

I would rather see it as a short analysis of the differences between short-lived pleasure (or “fun”) and what one could call “happiness” and the pitfalls that come with them.

Pursuing happiness in a world that offers seemingly endless possibilities to acquire said state of “happiness” ( most often just used synonymously for the state one enters when chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin flood our brains) has become exceedingly difficult.

All too often, we fall for the “Me + X = happy”-error, believing that something or someone is all we need. Once “X” happens, we will finally able to live the life we always dreamed of, right?

There is a fundamental difference between the aforementioned short-lived states of bliss and that of “true happiness”, which we often end up confusing with one another. The former being readily induced by means such as having sex, ingestion of psychoactive compounds, falling in love or more trivial things such as seeing a friend, having a meaningful conversation and feeling understood etc.. It is most often a very short-lived state of mind, that might eventually fade into a feeling of negativity, of “feeling worse than before”, for some time, as the “high” passes.

It is not my goal here to imply that there is anything bad about doing so. There is nothing wrong with having simple fun, as the impulse to seek out sensory satisfaction is part of human nature.

However, under the circumstances we live in today it is required to act in a more reflected and conscious way to prevent your pleasure-seeking from interfering with the rest of your life.

Regarding the latter it is important to acknowledge the reality that “true and everlasting happiness” in the sense of never feeling sad again does not exist. It is an ideal state, never to be reached by anything alive. This realisation, however, does not necessarily have to lead to the conclusion that living a life of hedonistic nihilism and/or eventually killing ourselves is the only thing that is left for us to do. All-encompassing “happiness” still remains very useful as an ideal one can aspire to achieve.

So what should one do in the face of these realisations?

One cannot simply “learn to be happy”. However, the ability to “be content” can be cultivated by conscious exploration of ones psyche and training oneself to look at things from multiple angles. Ask youself questions.

Do I really need X in order to be happy or do I just want it?”

Why do I want X?”

“Why can I not be content just the way things are right now?”

This way, the effects of negative situations as well as the endless desire to “want more”, respectively, the thought that you need anything at all in order to feel fine, can be reduced.

If you were to just give in to every impulse you feel each and every day, be it an impulse to eat drink, fuck, snort, smoke, buy, hit someone or whatever, you would become nothing more than a dysfunctional, fat and instant-gratification-addicted monkey by the end of the year, unable to resist any temptation at all.

However, just being content with everything is not a solution to the human condition either, as being to radical about this will bring the wheels of progress to a standstill. The human desire to aggress, to move forward, to create and learn is, after all, a great source of positive feelings and rooted in the exact opposite of being content with whatever situation we find ourselves in.

Therefore, succumbing to your primitive urges every now and then is almost a necessity and will greatly enhance your overall quality of life as long as you do it consciously and know when to stop.

Ultimately, the pursuit of happiness (if you want to call it that) remains a balancing act. To achieve a state that at least somewhat resembles that of continous happiness, it is necessary to accept the ups and downs of life, yet aspiring to live your potential, without succumbing to the vicious cycle of instant gratification followed by episodes of depression.

By balancing these two polar opposites, a state of semi-Equilibirum can be achieved with some conscious practice.

If you achieve it, you will find that you are already living the life you want and enjoy yourself without going overboard.

Life is a game after all and if you view its challenges and difficulties as being part of it, the bad times you will inevitably go through will stand a much lower chance of wearing you down.

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