Happiness does not exist, nor does depression. At least, neither exists in a constant state. There is no point at which one can reach happiness and remain there for the rest of their life. Happiness and depression are both just moods. Moods that can change on virtually a moment’s notice. Happy one day, depressed the next. That doesn’t make you bipolar. That’s just the way it works for everyone, everywhere.
Depression, I think, is entirely circumstantial. Not being satisfied with your life because of this, or because of that, it not a mental condition, but is more a symptom of something that happened, or from something that currently is. Depression only comes from being disappointed that what you thought would make you happy did not happen, or that you thought once did make you happy is no longer there.
What’s most flawed about the idea of achieving happiness is the idea that happiness is a goal that one can reach. In reality, that’s impossible, and why that is impossible is what I want to elaborate upon. Nothing you do can make you happy for the rest of your life, or even for a long time.
Society (particularly modern) teaches that happiness is achievable. It teaches that you can reach a state of utter contentment for the rest of your life, but that just isn’t true. The reason many people profess to being miserable is because they have regrets; they have feelings of failure, feelings of ‘if only I did this’ or ‘if only I had not done that’ then you would be happy.
There is no ‘happily ever after.’
Those self-help motivational books about how to achieve happiness are complete crap.
There are simply good days, and there are bad days.
Achieving those goals you thought would make you happy probably do make you happy, but only for a short time. We’ve all been there, where we buy that one thing we’ve been saving up our money, but after having it for a few months, it gets rather old, and then you want the newest ‘edition,’ or you start wanting something else you don’t have. Or, that one girl/boy you wanted to be with so bad. Or, when you win a ton of money, perhaps the lottery, or a promotion at work. Or, you get that care you’ve always wanted. How long is it before you’re not so happy with what you’ve achieved? Not very long. With relationships, like when you finally get the girl of your dreams, after some time you forget what it’s like to not be in a relationship with them, and the thrill is gone (not saying people stop loving their mates after a certain amount of time, I’m saying that the thrill from finally winning that person will inevitably wear off).
Part of the problem is that there is always something else we want. There is always something else we think we need to be happy. We grow envious of something else. We cannot be entirely satisfied, ever.
Also part of the problem is the fact that things lose quality over time. Let’s say, you get the girl of your dreams. When you first laid eyes on her, you were stunned by her beauty and her sex appeal. Now, what’s going to happen thirty years down the road? Her skin becomes wrinkly, her vigor diminishes, she mellows out, etc. How about that car you wanted so bad? Within just a year, the new model comes out, improving on the model you got. Within twenty years, the car gains so many miles, it needs constant repair, and virtually every car on the road looks and operates much better than yours. Suddenly, you realize that car you wanted so much becomes the car you want to get rid of just as much.
There is also the problem of anxiety. As a species, but especially in more developed countries like my own, we have too many options. Too many options for a career, for a partner, for material things like a house or a car, etc. Because we have so many options to choose from about everything, we become anxious and even depressed when we don’t know which option is the best. We become stressed thinking about which is the best option, but even after we choose the option we think was the best, years later we get left with the thought of “what if?” We wonder if things could have been so much better if we had just taken a different path. We think that maybe the career we chose was not the career we would have enjoyed the most. We think that maybe if we chose a different woman to marry, you would be happier with your marriage. Maybe you would have been happier if you had not gotten married at all?
It’s the fact that society teaches us happiness is achievable is the reason most of us become disappointed with what we have. It’s the poisonous idea that we didn’t do everything right and that is the reason we are not happy.
Think about this: what if you achieved everything you wanted to achieve, and what if you had an abundance of every single thing that brings you pleasure in life?
The unfortunate reality is, once you’re at the top, there is only going down from there. What is there left to do? Those things lose their ability to make you happy simply because after a while they become routine, and you forget what life was like when you didn’t have them. Things only last so long before they get old.
But trying to always coming up with a new goal doesn’t make you happy either. If you, say, set goals for yourself you know you won’t achieve, then there’s the fact that you didn’t achieve them that disappoints you. If you knew you could not accomplish the goal, how could it have interested you so much in the first place?
There is also the problem human beings have of not truly knowing what they want.
The ugly girl wishes she was beautiful. But again, how does she know what that’s like? Statistics show that beautiful people have just as much self-esteem issues as ugly people. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if I found out that beautiful people have more problems with self-esteem. Beautiful people are almost never aware that they are beautiful, because like I said before, we are never satisfied with what we have. We have this idea that ‘this and that’ can be improved. Even when beautiful people know they are, their beauty becomes their curse because now their lives revolved around maintaining that beauty at nearly every cost. One day they will grow old and not be so beautiful and they aren’t able to cope with that. Suddenly, people don’t show them so much attention, like they are used to.
Many people want fame, but the problem with fame is exactly what people want from it: attention. Again, it’s easy to want fame if you’ve never had it, but the truth is, how can you know it will make you happy when you’ve never experienced it? Millions of people love you and you don’t even know the names of 99% of them. But once you’re famous, how can you distinguish, with certainty, who your real friends are versus the people who just want some, or all, of the attention you have? Chances are, most of the people close to you will do anything it takes to get fame as well, but they will try to do it through you. They’ll sell photos of you doing embarrassing things, they’ll spill your dirty secrets, etc. What are the chances most of the people in your life are there because they love who you are as a person, and don’t want to be in your life because you’re famous at all? Yeah, slim to nothing.
Same goes with wealth, as I briefly mentioned before. Those who aren’t wealthy wish that they were, but if you have never been rich, how can you know what it’s like? How does the poor man know money will make him happy? Like with fame, when you’re rich, it’s virtually impossible to know if people are in your life because they truly love you, or if they just love your money. As story after story has shown, when someone becomes rich, they suddenly get contacted by old friends they haven’t heard from in many years, they get contacted by distant relatives they’ve never met before, and eventually they all bring up their financial problems with you and hope you will help them out. That’s inevitable.
When rich or famous, or both, you lose the most important aspect of your life: genuine, loving relationships. Even if people aren’t consciously aware they only love you for your wealth/fame, there’s still a 99.99% they do.
Statistics show anyway that if you are beautiful or rich or famous, you have a much higher chance of committing suicide.
There is a reason third-world countries have the highest rate of contentment. First, in those countries their society does not teach them that they can achieve happiness somehow, nor does their society tell them how to do it. And second, they’re not in competition with each other over things that can’t achieve happiness anyway. As a whole, these countries don’t care about who’s the most beautiful, the most wealthy, the most famous, or even the most politically powerful. They also can’t get stressed or anxious from having too many options for things and not knowing which options to choose from. There is a beauty to simplicity. And above all, in third-world countries, where most people don’t have a whole lot, they are a lot more focused on the things that do matter: their friends and families.
If happiness is achievable, I would say the only avenue to achieve it is by not trying to achieve it.
Living your life day by day, not being disappointed that things didn’t go as amazing as you wanted them. Let go of the idea of “if only I do this, I’ll be happy” because no matter what the goal is, it won’t bring you happiness if you achieve it, and it will only make you more miserable if you don’t achieve it.
Happiness can be achieved, but it doesn’t last forever just because of ‘that one thing’ you did/got.
If you’re poor, cancer-ridden, only have one or two friends, and are homeless, and you’ve accepted that and don’t wish things were different, I can promise you that you are happier than most of the people in your society.
There’s a lot of truth in the cliche: Be thankful for what you have.
You don’t know how good you already have it.
Originally published verbatim August 21, 2012