Achieving happiness can seem as impossible as catching a fish with your bare hands. You’re hungry, desperate and unsuccessful. If you finally manage to touch…
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Achieving happiness can seem as impossible as catching a fish with your bare hands. You're hungry, desperate and unsuccessful. If you finally manage to touch the fish by performing an impressive Jackie Chan move, it swims away leaving you with nothing but a hand full of frustration.
I've been urging my hand into the water for many years. Swinging back and forth from feeling discontent to sensing satisfaction was normal. I couldn't explain why one month seemed joyful like biking downhill but another unbearable like cycling in the sand dunes.
It lasted until I had the eureka moment. As I sat down to write this story, I discovered that recent psychology studies encountered the same principle: true and lasting happiness comes not by chasing but by sharing it.
Most people don't realize but there are two types of happiness, not one: fluctuating and authentic-durable happiness. Although one of them is a shameless scammer ripping people off and coming back for more.
In my few years as a student, I remember one week with bitterness. It was a week that I didn't have any assignments, lectures or other student-like responsibilities. I had no care in the world so I decided to use this opportunity.
I bought a bunch of snacks, made myself comfortable at home and spent days playing video games and watching movies. Doesn't that sound like the most pleasing time?
To say that I had the best week of my life would be a blatant lie. Actually, I felt exhausted and empty inside. Believing I ran into the arms of pure satisfaction I collided with a stinking old plastic mannequin that had no life within.
The thought of pleasure most of the time is more satisfying than the action.
Fast forward a few years and I found myself looking for happiness again. This time I thought I knew what I was doing. I focused on myself and actively made daily steps in creating the life I wanted to have and the person I wanted to become. Unfortunately, I started to experience increasing frustration and dissatisfaction.
The more I focused on myself, the more problems I saw. This self-care made me less happy and more aware of my imperfections and failures. My "self-care" turned into something that I should rather call "a snare".
Recent psychology studies named this type of satisfaction fluctuating happiness. Fluctuating means that it rises and falls without stability just like the price of the crypto you invested in.
Fluctuating happiness is a conditional pleasure. A person needs certain desired conditions to be in place to achieve happiness. Pleasure is to be embraced and discomfort avoided. If conditions are not met (which happens most of the time) the person experiences unhappiness.
"When behaving in a self-centered manner, one intuitively seeks to attain pleasure and reduce displeasure for the sake of this entity reified as truly distinct and relatively autonomous (i.e., hedonic principle)."
For this type of happiness to work flawlessly, you have to be in total control of life and the circumstances around you. That's where the problem hides. It's a nearly impossible task because we can't control our environment all the time.
Besides, the pleasure has to increase in order to produce satisfaction. If the dose amount remains at the same it becomes the norm and doesn't give the boost of pleasure as previously. If the dose is not increased, it leads to a feeling of discomfort. The discomfort then fuels the need to be satisfied by arising an impressive array of negative emotions: anger, frustration, fear, jealousy and more.
Created by the authorFluctuating happiness markets itself well by preying on our emotions and desires to experience comfort but then leaves us from being truly satisfied. Then we have to come back for more because last time didn't fulfill our needs. It's a trap because of this cycle. On top of that, it gets increasingly harder to create desired conditions until it's almost impossible to find enough pleasure to simply have a good day.
Now about the type of happiness that is not an impostor!
During that miserable week of embracing pleasures, a friend of mine asked me to help her carry heavy grocery bags. After performing the good deed, I felt different. I sensed deep and genuine happiness that multiple days of movies and video games couldn't give.
In psychology studies, the second type of satisfaction is called authentic-durable happiness.
"When people recognize their own interdependence, they seek to harmoniously adjust all parts (including themselves) of the "whole" (`harmony principle'). By virtue of this, one experiences emotional stability and the feeling of being in harmony, both leading to authentic-durable happiness, that is, a state of deep peace and contentment."
Contrary to the fluctuating happiness type that focuses solely on controlling the environment, durable happiness comes from the realization of one's connection to other people. Seeing yourself connected and as a part of people calls for a change in the way you are. This change of shape to fit in the community is like finally finding the right jigsaw puzzle piece. Clicking it into the proper place brings forth a sense of harmony.
Only those who have learned the power of sincere and selfless contribution experience life's deepest joy: true fulfilment. - Tony Robbins
I felt miserable by seeking pleasure for myself because I isolated myself from everyone else. True and lasting happiness is not individualistic. Just like a team sport, you can't be a good player without thinking about your teammates and working together with them. Is everything you have to do as a member of a team enjoyable? No, but pleasure and deep satisfaction come in the end as you achieve victory.
In authentic-durable happiness, you don't require your circumstances to be a certain way but the conditions of another. You don't change the environment but yourself. It has no conditions and it cannot be influenced by external events or cause the rise of negative emotions.
Created by the authorLasting happiness is not a trap but a directed attitude of selflessness. It creates a sense of peace in our hearts. This peace and outward attitude lead to outward actions that truly and deeply satisfy not only us but the person we encounter.
If you want to catch a fish with your bare hands you have to adapt to the environment. The fish is not that stupid to approach an abnormally warm object (which is your hand). You have to dip your arm up to the bicep and let it cool down to the temperature of the water for at least 10 minutes. Then you can move your finger to act like a worm and when the fish comes close enough lift it out of the water by the gills.
However, adapting to the environment is not comfortable. The arm might be freezing because you can't heat up the pond up to a nice body temperature. But that's what it takes to catch that slippery fish!
I wanted to find happiness so that I could focus on helping others. After chasing happiness and finding more misery than before, I felt hopeless and decided to stop chasing it for myself. "Probably I can never make myself happy," I thought, "but at least I can make someone else's day a bit better." By doing so, I found true and lasting satisfaction.
It's sad that the world as a whole slowly falls into fluctuating happiness. "This is what will make you truly happy" is the chant of marketing promising that their product is the answer to all of the customers' dissatisfaction.
Most of us seek comfort for ourselves. Unfortunately, no amount of comfort will ever be enough. No one is capable of controlling every circumstance therefore sensing a lack of control is inevitable. All this time, a simple mindset switch to selflessness remains the answer.
You will not catch true happiness if you're chasing it. We are wired in such a way that we become happy when we make someone else happy.
It's no wonder why one of the most effective ways to treat depression is to volunteer in helping people who have needs. The focus on your issues and the lack of desired qualities that you see in yourself change into emotional stability when you selflessly help someone else.
And if you don't believe me, give it a try!
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