The Elusive Happiness and How to (Maybe) Reach it.
It’s so elusive, the feeling of happiness. Like a rare fish hurrying away into the depths of murky water, getting away before we get a chance to look at the details. Most of us striving to catch it, but it easily slips away no matter how hard we hold on to it. In a world like this it’s not easy to stay happy considering the turmoil around us, but there are a few things you can do to gain personal peace. As I see it, happiness comes through insights and it can sometimes be a long process to reach certain conclusions — and even more understanding that sometimes you just need to focus on something, deal with it and accept things the way they are. I know, I know — it’s easier to write than to do, and listening to an asshole somewhere in Sweden who claims to have found a certain form of peace through the years might not be the best way — but hang on there, give it a chance. Ignore the underlying bitterness that stops you from evolving and explore and see what I have to offer.
No, I’m not super duper mega happy, and that’s something I’m grateful for. Total happiness often creates ignorance, a disconnection to other people and experiences. It’s important to keep a balance, to sometimes be on the edge of your mood to be able to fully understand what happiness is. Some days I wake up in a terrible mood, one of those awful days when everything is pure shit. Or I wake up feeling calm and lucky, sipping on my cup of black coffee, petting the cats, enjoying my social media feed and then — suddenly like thunder and lightning — I get triggered by some tiny, silly detail from the world outside and I’m back on the depression grind trying to wake up from the darkness once again. Being comfortable in life is not the same thing as being happy, it’s about acceptance. It won’t always go your way, and that’s how it is no matter what you believe.
We all have those days, but the darkness is there to show what the light is. If you only watch masterpieces of films you will soon lose the ability to understand what a great movie is in your opinion, as there’s nothing to compare it to. It’s the same with mood. If you’re experiencing constant bliss it will turn boring, unproductive and maybe most of all — it will distance yourself from the seriousness in yourself and those you love and respect, and you won’t seem like an insensitive moron (and we have enough of them in the world).
1. Read books.
It might seem obvious, but here’s the thing: reading books, it can be fiction or nonfiction, will unlock your mind. Reading is triggering your imagination, and a life without imagination can be very boring. Working on your imagination doesn’t mean you must be creative in a physical way, so don’t worry — there’s no need to start carving wood, make pottery or paint landscapes in your free time. It’s brain exercise, and if you take that organ out for a mental run at least once a day, let’s say for 30 minutes, you will notice that things start to change. It will work better and push your mind into finding solutions in your daily life you never imagined could happen. If you don’t read normally, start with something easy — get that bestseller and read a couple of pages per day and then push yourself to read more. It won’t take long until it goes very smoothly and you’ll realize the world of literature consists of conscious expanding universes, one after another.
2. Don’t try to impress — but be proud.
Social media can sometimes feel like a self obsessed swamp of ego monsters, but there’s a difference when it comes to sharing what you’re good — or happy — about. First of all, you need to understand that not everyone has the same possibilities to do things as you, and you don’t have the same possibilities as them. So focus on the details and not the whole. Let’s say you sit in a fancy restaurant, enjoying a meal and you feel the urge like a billion others to share your experience on Instagram? Nothing wrong with it, even if it’s a bit unimaginative. No offence. Anyway, don’t try to impress people with the location, instead take a photo of that potato on a fork and proclaim your love for this particular root. I know, it’s a silly example — but in cases like this find something others can relate to, which will make them happy and you will feel happy to. Be proud over the art you create, genuinely proud — the same pride a child can show when they’ve made another incomprehensible drawing of what they claim is a cow or something. Nothing spreads joy as much as genuine joy.
3. Stop blaming others.
We all have that friend on Facebook or any other social media who ONLY posts negative news and somehow makes a statement that everything bad that happens is someone else’s fault. Does it make you feel good? No, so imagine how they feel wrapped in anger and bitterness about something that often doesn’t even affect themselves. It’s a victim-by-proxy approach that often gets a foul taste in the mouth after a while. They’re so bitter and unhappy that they blame their lack of personal responsibility on others, a way to externalize their own fears and sorrow onto someone or something else. Most political parties survive on this, tapping into the bitterness of the common man — who gets fooled into believing he or she are helpless victims in a world of unfairness. To put blame on others is always a reflection of your own state of mind. Even if it’s terrible you have no right to be a victim because someone else is a victim, that’s something that should be exclusive to them and not you. Turning into a victim yourself is both disrespectful and will make your bitterness and anger grow until you’re lost in the oblivion of passive aggressive social media updates. So in life outside the internet of course, don’t fall into the trap of victimhood.
4. Censor negativity.
Censorship is bad, but not always. It’s destructive when those in power tell you what to think, say and enjoy — for example by banning or censoring art or lifestyles. But from the viewpoint of an individual I would say censorship is a sublime way to actually feel good. I’ve discovered something controversial, and I know many won’t agree with me — especially those with a deep issue of victim-by-proxy/blame throwing: stop reading and watching the news and you’ll find that the only news that’s important for you will come to you no matter what. I haven’t actively read devoured news for at least ten years, mostly because the news media live on negative news, fear porn. They want you to react and not respond. They want you to click on that article and get upset, but that’s not important as long as you read the headline and get upset. Mission accomplished. They’ve traced your activity on their homepage, they let those who pay for ads know what a success their media business is and they earn more money for making you angry. I don’t believe there’s any difference between “mainstream” and “alternative” media, it’s only media to me — all with an agenda, and that is to earn money. It doesn’t matter there’s good and intelligent journalists out there, in the end it’s a money making venture behind them. Articles need to sell, and good news rarely sells to be honest. It’s the same with the blame throwers, the mindless slaves of the news media, who always share news without reading the actual content. Unfollow or mute them, block if necessary. Hey, do the same if the only interaction they have with you is when they post a negative comment on something nice you’ve just shared. It’s not about not educating yourself, stay educated. Please. But get rid of the sources that only will make you upset. Soon you’ll find peace in both yourself and the world around.
5. Be happy for someone else’s success.
This is obviously a tough one for a lot of people out there, but if it comes to someone you know — a friend or relative — stay happy when they have success. Don’t get bitter, not post something negative or passive aggressive. Let them share their joy, let them create and explore their own inner and outer world through whatever means fits them the best. If someone manages to sell their art (even if you find them talentless!), be genuinely happy for them. I mean, they have their path and you have your path. Just because you haven’t managed to reach their success — even if it’s small — doesn’t mean you need to be an asshole about it. Years ago I found my way into bitterness every time someone I knew succeeded in making a movie or writing a book or getting a nice job or whatever, stuff they obviously hurt my ego because I haven’t achieved the same thing. But here’s the deal with that, why would I even want to achieve the same thing? It’s not me. I don’t want to make the same movies or write the same books as them! I don’t want to be stuck at an office even if the salary is obscenely large! That’s not me, and whatever someone else does it’s not you. You do your thing and they do theirs, and that’s it. I prefer to build my own monuments, because what I create is my creation — no one else’s.
6. Pretend to be happy.
Words and behavior are magic, that’s something I say without hesitation. I have periods of what can simply be described as depression. Every third week or so, sometimes more often, I fall into what seems to be an endless abyss of darkness and self pity. It’s just human, and for some of us it’s worse than what others have. Being a highly active person on social media (especially on my accounts on Instagram, Homo Satanis and Schmollywood Babylon and maybe even more on Twitter) I’ve noticed it’s quite easy for me to be very open about my moods, way too open to be honest — as my followers have noticed through years. So I’ve decided, as much as possible, to just pretend to be happy. And if that’s not possible I either deactivate or delete that app for a day or more so I can’t do any updates. But most of the time I just stay away from posting the depressing stuff, keeping it neutral. Oddly enough, that has helped me a lot to get back into a good mood, even happiness from time to time. Because writing down my sorrows programs me to think about them in a very destructive way. The words enhance my feelings, letter for letter. This also goes for private communication, on the internet and in life outside of it. If I look back on my behavior years ago things were so much worse, and to be honest I’m not sure how I could cope with myself at the time — not to mention how others could cope with me?! I’m happy most of those posts were on now deleted accounts. I’m not saying this is a perfect solution to change your mind into something brighter and more positive, but the (maybe) horrifying thing is that most people don’t care when you’re sad. Why? Because they don’t know how to respond, They’ve been there themselves and know that very little can help, and feeding someone deep down in victimhood just makes it stronger.To be honest, just by writing this text, focusing on the ways I do to keep my mind healthy have made me happier. Once again, words are magic — and you can program yourself to the desired mood, destructive or constructive. I suggest the latter, from personal experience.
I would say there’s more tricks to stay happy, like not feeling guilt for your smaller addictions and quirks, but to be honest: I could go on forever. The path to happiness is basically a road of insights, and it can take years to reach the state of mind you want to achieve. It’s also very personal, not everything will fit you — but I would say that the most important thing is to stay realistic, don’t stress it and spend time by yourself from time to time, a great way to actually work on your issues without getting sucked into the melodrama of the world around you. Some prefer meditating, but the whole concept — or maybe more correct — the word “meditation” can be so distant and complicated, something others do while listening to whale songs surrounded by thick clouds of incense in a new age retreat somewhere. That’s just an act, trust me. Lay down on the sofa or bed, take a deep breath and enjoy the silence. Maybe it will turn into a slumber, but that makes it even better. Do it your way, not someone else’s way.
Fred Andersson is a Swedish story producer and writer with over twenty years of experience in commercial television and the author of three books. He lives in Märsta, outside Stockholm, with his photographer husband Grzegorz and two overly active cats. Join him on Twitter and Instagram.