The Answer to 'What Is Happiness'? Maybe

22/04/2016 16:52

The question that remains the most perplexing of all isn't who shot Kennedy or what happened that made the Big Bang, bang. The most perplexing question of all is 'what is happiness?', and also 'how do you get some?' More books are written about it than everything else combined. Many folks think it's that gut-rush of fireworks that shoot up your front, a jolt of internal lightening or an erection (for the shallow). Whatever you call it, it's basically a 'buzz' or 'hit', as we say in the drug trade, but the bitch is it only lasts about as long as smoking a cigarette does and then all you want is more buzz. That's where the unhappiness part comes in; the buzz will never be as buzzy as the first. You could say happiness only leads to unhappiness - otherwise you wouldn't know what happiness is.

The 'H' word is only available in squirt form; no one can keep it up forever. If you start gushing too much adrenaline and dopamine (some of the ingredients of happiness) they'll eventually burn you up and spit you out just as any drug will if you keep it pumping. So, if it's not the buzz or the high that makes you feel happy, what is it? If you ask me, (I know you didn't but I'm telling you) it's being able to pull your attention from what you don't want it on, to where you do want it; to be able to be in the present; free at last from constant distractions.

These days, a sign of success is how many emails are waiting, the number of meetings lined up and how ram-packed our social life is. It's very chic to complain how little time we have with a slight smirk of pride even though this is exactly what keeps us from being happy. As smart as we think we are, we willingly sacrifice our precious time in the name of getting things done. Things will never be done because there will always be something else to do. On an average day we receive 110 messages, check our phone 34 times, spend a half an hour 'liking' things. Right now while I'm writing this blog I could have eaten seven sandwiches. (I don't really know what I'm trying to say but I thought it sounded dramatic.)

People blame technology as the reason we're so distracted, forgetting that we are the ultimate machines. We have the power to switch all other machines off. No one is holding a gun to our heads to keep communicating. Let's all agree that we need technology as much as it needs us to build it - so I'm not saying don't use it, I'm saying use it when you really need it and, when you notice you've slipped into autopilot, close it down and smell the roses.

To switch off the distractions isn't as easy as it sounds. If we could do it, we would. Just like learning any other skill, we can learn to be digitally mindful. We can learn to make peace with technology rather than let it tear us to pieces from overuse. I've heard there are online sites, which help you to sharpen your ability to pull focus from distractions but it's not a substitute for self-discipline. You have to keep practicing to hone any aptitude; nothing is a one hit wonder. We can become our own smart tools by becoming smarter selves who can decide where to focus our minds rather than be run ragged by them.

If you can recognize when you need your mind to work and when it needs to play and then consciously shift from one to the other then you have hit the main highway toward happiness.