Tuesday, 5 June 2007

How to be happy

I've spent most of my adult life knee deep in the shit and piss of other peoples' misery. It's an industrial hazard in psychiatry. I'm also atheist and therefore have no god to provide me solace. Existentialism is my natural philosophy and as such, I'm inclined to feel that life is arbitrary. When it comes to morality, and the rights and wrongs of things, I lean toward Nihilism. I believe that no true morality exists.

I like my music in a minor key and my art to be bleak.

I am however, one of the happiest people I know. Smug bastard, eh?

Someone asked me about this the other day. I can't go into any depth, as it was in clinical supervision. But suffice to say, the question was raised by a devout Christian. Her God hasn't helped her much in my view, as she's struggled with depression for many years. She knows about my world view and was bemused frankly, why I could feel so content with life.

I made some half arsed attempt at describing why this may be so, but I didn't do it justice. Today I've been musing on it a bit. I thought I'd use Sans God to elucidate it a bit more.

So, here's my recipe for personal happiness. Feel free to add seasoning to suit your own taste.

Don't try to be happy. Happiness is a bi-product of living life, not the purpose of it. A singular pursuit of happiness is rather like building a tower of bricks starting from the top.

Be imperfect. The most unhappy people I know are those who strive for perfection. Good enough is good enough. The last 20% is nothing but flounce anyway. I side with Schopenhauer in this respect. He said that if we achieve perfection then the natural question would be "Now what?". Frankly we'd be bored silly.

Don't confuse happiness with an absence of pain. A day can be bad, and life can feel crap for a while. Circumstances have a habit of getting in the way. Similar to the being imperfect rule, don't expect life to be a bed of roses. It isn't, simple as that. Being in pain, be it physically or emotionally doesn't mean that life is inherently shit. Just that particular part of it is. Don't worry, it'll probably pass.

Notice small things. There is beauty everywhere you look. All you have to do is see it. The corners of paving stones. Grass. Bubbles in beer. A strangers smile. Door handles, whatever floats your boat. It's all there for the taking. Worry not about being a Gaia junkie.

Be wrong. It's OK not to be right. But it hurts to be fallible right? If we're honest, we only hurt because being wrong damages the fragile identity we build for ourselves. Who you are is nothing more than a collection of memes. Treat is as such. As Kurt Vonnegut said, "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be."

Be Grey. Nothing, repeat nothing is certain. There is always another side to the story. There is nothing more stressful, and likely to make you unhappy, than defending an absolute opinion. Other people can be just as irksome. Doesn't it piss you off when you're arguing against someone who thinks they're completely in the right? Invariably there will be some small truth in their argument. Start with this as your retort. And the God question? Remember that atheism is just a lack of belief.

You are not that important. "I" is an overused word. We've been brought up to think individually. Your identity is important, of course, but can you really define yourself separately from others? Who you are is fundamentally intertwined with everyone around you. Your parents, friends, lovers, acquaintances and colleagues make you who you are. Appreciate how you're inextricably linked to them. You are less important than you think.

Exercise. Learn to manipulate your endocrine system. Exercise stimulates your body to release many feel good hormones. It's been proven in many studies that exercise lifts mood. In the UK, GP's have funding to prescribe gym memberships on the NHS for depressed patients. Exercise is a very cost effective way of treating mildly depressed people without drugs. Get of your arse, now!

Create. Make stuff. Don't just consume. There's nothing worse for you than an exclusive diet of TV, Gaming and Entertainment. Write if you're inclined to, dance if you want. Invent a story for your children or tell your lover how you'd make her feel like the most special woman in the world. Sit back and daydream for a while or drum a new rhythm with your fingers. Anything will do, as long as you make something new.

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These are some of the things that make me happy.

9 comments:

Intergalactic Hussy said...

Contrary to what believers say, atheists are not angry and tend to be the happiest people. I was the happiest when I was finally able to utter there is no god. People who say ignorance is bliss are only right to a point. Beyond that, truth is bliss (to me). I feel free that I am part of this wonderful natural world, able to live love. All free of judgment. I admit I have a dark side, but I am truly an optimist and see the beauty of life.

I completely agree with the "I" thing. For a while I would purposely use "i" unless at the beginning of the sentence. If the "y" in "you" isn't capitalized, then why is "I". Sadly, I stopped because i also be likin to haves good grammar! Haha

And I also agree about creating.

Thanks for the post.

Intergalactic Hussy said...

One more thing...

About not having to be right. That needs to be stressed more (sadly to many women). LOL

grooveadam said...

Okay my sister needs to read this. A lot of her depression right now is from her recent loss of faith. I went through the same thing and keep telling her that eventually she will appreciate life even more. It's just that atheism requires work as oppossed to being spoon fed easy to process garbage.

jamon said...

Well said Adam.

Who said that life was easy? Christianity and most other dogmas for that matter, offer what seem to be simple answers to very complex questions.

It reminds me of the saying "If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is." ;)

Mojoey said...

Jamon - an excellent post, and so much like me it is scary.

I am happy even when the arbitrary nature of life is throwing mud pies at me. Today is a good example. I visited my terminally in stepfather in the hospital. I was in a foul mood for a dozen reasons. He held me hand and told me he loved me. He meant it for the first time in 30 years. thing.

Five minutes later a random man was crying in the elevator. I asked if he needed help. He smiled and said "she's going to live". I don't know who he was talking about, but the experience was beautiful. I smiled.

As I walked outside the hospital. A cool wind blew these amazing purple jacaranda trees. It took my breath away. I realized how small I was in the world for the umpteenth time in very hard week, but at the same time I realized what a beautiful world is.

Tonight we calibrated my wife's birthday. I sat across from her while enjoying an evening of watching her mystically dark eyes dance around the room. It took my breath away.

I have to work hard at being unhappy. My world is filled to overflowing with beauty and joy.

jamon said...

Glad to hear your stepfather's surgery went well Mojey.

You're like me in that you can't help noticing beautiful stuff, even when all around things are going ape.

And, only a geek could "calibrate" his wife's birthday.

LOL! Spell check is great, isn't it.

Murph said...

I wonder then, what is the origin of a meme? Does the collection of memes defining who you are come from within you, or did you soak them up from the environment? If they're all absorbed, then what is within you to determine which memes to accept and which to reject?

jamon said...

I wonder if there is the pure meme. The one mother idea from which it all began.

I think like music, it's all been done before, though not necessarily in the same order. Memes then, are born from the synthesis of other memes.

Are we born 'memeless'? I don't know. I suspect this genetic code we drag about has one or two memes built in to get us started.

Mojoey said...

calibrated - that is so funny. My wife is an EE.