Why does happiness seem lighter than unhappiness?
What is happiness and why is it more difficult to attain and maintain than unhappiness?
The sun is shining, the windows are open, the birds are singing and the air is full of warm summer aromas. The kids are playing outside in the garden while you busy yourself preparing drinks and snacks for your trip to the seaside. You feel a sense of inner peace, at one with the beautiful world and all its joys. You speak in high confident tones of happiness, laughing with gusto as your son runs dripping wet through the kitchen and up the stairs after being sprayed with the garden hose. You rub and blow the graze on of your daughter’s knee after she tripped and fell on the garden path with a “never mind didums, you’ll be just fine. Here’s an ice-lolly, do you think that might make you better?” You pinch your partner’s bottom flirtatiously as they walk past and share a naughty joke. Life could not be better.
You gather all the necessities for your trip and are ready to load them into the car as a large distant cloud beckons. Your daughter cannot find the sandals you asked her to look for an hour ago and your son is annoyed that he cannot stay at home to play his games console with his friend. Your partner forgot to charge the camcorder in their state of carefree bliss and is negotiating another half-hour to do so. You eventually trudge to the car with a world of rations and supplies as the temperature drops considerably due to the large cloud now covering the sun. You become chilled further by the small drops of rain splattering your dressed-for-the-beach body. An air of tension weighs on your senses in the tight confines of the car as your daughter sits miserably in the back seat, arms folded and stubbornly resisting your son’s grumpy attempts to push her away to gain more space. Your tension turns to annoyance at your partner’s seemingly hapless, futile mumblings in trying to bring a sense of calm to the situation. You finally snap, “Shut up the lot of you. We’re going to the seaside to have some fun and that’s the end of it”. A reluctant silence ensues as everyone looks aimlessly out of their respective window and the wipers screech feverishly back and forth across the windscreen. A now torrential downpour drums heavily on the body of the car, as it crawls painfully through the heavy traffic. What a nightmare.
As your shoulders slump and your brow creases, everything from the air around you down to the bottom of your feet seems decidedly heavier. To make matters worse, you already know that a big effort will be required to regain the blissful light-headed gayety you experienced for a fleeting moment earlier that day. Why is happiness such a delicate condition? Why does it take such an effort to attain yet it evaporates so quickly?
While unhappiness appears to simply be a default status, requiring no particular effort to fall into or retain it, there are many theories around the reasons for, the meaning of, the way to and the maintenance of happiness. Without doubt, good health and personal wellbeing is the foremost reason to feel happier and the best way to maintain it. Some suggest that true happiness comes from within and can only be realised through faith and fulfilment which may be religious, spiritual or even practical e.g. job satisfaction. There are those who see ridding themselves of their perceived burdens such as a high-flying executive packing away their rat-race lifestyle, seeking a basic existence and humble solitude in some remote part of the planet. Commonly there is the chemically induced, quick-fix of drink and drugs. These are all triggers but not the direct sensation of happiness. Money certainly has no true bearing on being happy. Having a lot of it may provide financial security, the ability to live well and consequently provide a sense of wellbeing. However, very often, to achieve and maintain material wealth requires physical and mental sacrifices that can make one more prone to unhappiness.
The above triggers are key stimulants but not happiness itself. Scientifically, it is deemed that it is the result of certain chemical reactions or may even be genetic. However, I see these explanations as related to the physical action or appearance that accompanies happiness such as laughing and smiling. All the aforementioned I see as penultimate in a chain of events i.e. stimulant, chemical and physical reactions of happiness. But the actual sensation of happiness I perceive to be a further more primeval experience - Gravity. To be more precise, the degrees of relief from its forces are the sensation of happiness, unhappiness and anything between these poles. Relief from its overbearing weight is for me the actual feeling of happiness.
We are born without consciousness of it and are at harmony with it. As we grow and become bigger, heavier and less active, its presence becomes increasingly noticeable. Once we are old we become completely at its mercy. We are encapsulated by its forces throughout our lives and where we sense its full load, we feel less happy while greater relief from it provides a happier sensation. It is the reason why I see happiness associated to the feeling of being less heavy hence the sayings “weight off the shoulders”, “lightening the load” “lessening the burden” and “lifting the spirits”. Contentedness is the ideal existence, the balance and the harmony with gravity like relaxation, floating on water, being organised or physical and mental wellbeing. Soaring like a bird, swinging through the air, shooting down a slide or total weightlessness is the ultimate sense of freedom from gravity. Happiness is our release from the gravitational forces we experience fleetingly throughout our lives. Its frequency and longevity is something we strive for continually. Physical and mental health results in good posture and clarity of mind that provide resistance to the downward forces around us. Religious faith and fulfilment create a heightened sense of wellbeing, a positive aspect on life and inner strength that numb our senses to gravity. The heightened effects of alcohol or drugs may provide a similar although false sensation. Socialising, music, good relationships, achieving goals etc… all have a positive effect on our sense of wellbeing and thus makes us more harmonious with or more resistant to gravity.
Happiness is a fragile and temporary condition which can be incredibly difficult to maintain for an extended period of time. Under gravity's perpetual forces, the moment we rest on our laurels, the inevitable weightiness returns and the longer we do nothing about it, the harder it becomes to find relief. Wearing a frown, being seated and a sagging physique are much easier conditions for us to assume. There is no effort required to slump into a state of unhappiness. The conveniences of TVs, computers, cars, fast foods and the tiresome pace of our modern working lives are further obstacles. Alcohol and increasingly drugs provide us an immediate sense of artificial happiness that we can fit into our busy schedules. The downside obviously is that we experience an even heavier burden of unhappiness once the effects have worn off, due to their negative physical and mental impacts.
Our need to eat, drink, wear clothes and find shelter is simply our means to survival. The pursuit of material wealth is a false impression of what will bring us happiness and achieves nothing other than imbalance and inequality. Our gravitational imprisonment and its downward forces provide the motivation for us to live as it drives us to continuously seek relief from it – our spiritual quest in the pursuit of happiness. It is also relative to our circumstances so even those in particularly poor heath or mental state can experience degrees of change to it. It is our eternal battle and one that we have no choice other than to fight because we understand integrally that “what goes up must come down”. Happiness is precious, the ultimate, lighter state of consciousness we all strive and we should realise the simple laws that govern it. Healthy Mind + Healthy Body + Healthy Lifestyle = Happiness.
Live well, be happy.
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