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Perception of happiness

Updated on September 1, 2012

Can We Truly Be Happy?

In the video below, Dan Gilbert explains what happens when our choice to be happy with what we have is taken away.

A few days ago, a new question came to my mind, and I've been looking for the answer ever since.

This question was:

Why do I feel so unhappy?

I decided that the answer to this question was somewhere within myself. It took a lot of soul searching and probing my own mind to come up with an answer. As always, I also searched for an answer on the web. It is amazing what we can learn here.

I had to ask myself what the source of my unhappiness is. Several things came to mind.

Is it my environment? No, My environment is where I choose to be. Whether or not I like my home life, there is nothing in my environment that is an immediate threat to me, and it is within my power to not be at home, and to surround myself with wildlife for the majority of the day, so that can't be the issue.

Is it my Social or economic status? No, I'm unemployed right now beyond my hubs, and my articles, but I still somehow have my needs met, and I have the freedom to really explore my options.

Is it my love life? My friends? No, I do find loneliness to be at the core of my mood a lot of the time. But again, I have the choice to reach out to others. Sometimes other people are busy, and can't spend time with me...but why would I be unhappy with myself? Do I really need a man or other people caring about me to be content? This question took a little more thought than the rest of them, because we all need, and deserve to be loved, and without love, happiness seems unattainable. However, being happy with yourself is the key to letting others be happy with you, so it seems that the answer still lies within Me. Or does it?

I started reading articles, watching videos, and studying Christianity, Kabbalah and Buddhism, behavioral science, and found that what happiness is, is really a matter of our perception.

For example, Scientist Dan Gilbert conducted several studies on our perception of happiness. One of them was a study involving lottery winners and accident victims that had become paraplegic. When asked how happy both sets of people were a year after their winnings or their accident, it was found that both groups were equally as happy as the other.

How could that possibly be? A paraplegic just as happy as a lottery winner? However, the more I searched for the answer to happiness it made perfect sense. The lottery winner would gain more burdens, and the paraplegic would gain more help. Also, for a person that can't fend for themselves, even the smallest joys would seem enormous.

We live in a world where we are constantly being reminded of what we don't have, and that somewhere out there, other people have better. Yet, when you look at the people who seem to have everything, they seem more unhappy than the majority of people we know. Could it be that the desire for self fulfillment in itself could be the cause of our unhappiness?

Please don't get me wrong here. I'm not saying that we should not strive for happiness. What I am saying, is that maybe as a society we are so self absorbed, and looking for more so much that we can't see the small joys in life anymore.

What do we do about it?

It seems that all of the sources I looked into said basically the same thing. In order to be truly happy, we need to step away from ourselves and seek to create happiness in others without expecting anything in return, including recognition for our actions. We also need to distinguish between happiness and pleasure, as they are both completely different things and know that when we are unaware of anything greater than what we have, nothing that we have is unsatisfactory to us.

This is of course easier said than done. We are all designed to fulfill our own desires, and to seek affirmation and recognition. Doing differently takes thought beyond our inherent nature. However, it does make sense to me that finding happiness outside of my own desires would be my first step to understanding what being happy really means.

This video explains why we must have a need in order to be satisfied.


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