There’s lots of people out there chasing the ever elusive goal of happiness. Bookstores (okay; Amazon) and the Internet is filled with books and articles on how to be happy; that somehow once we attain it, all would be okay and we can live peacefully onwards thereafter.
I’ve certainly tried to find my happiness, and I have to say it’s as fleeting as it is difficult. The moments of joy in realizing a goal - like buying a Porsche - is a momentary dopamine hit that doesn’t last. Worse, once it wears off I am back to base one, back to before I started on the goal. I’d immediately need of another aim to deliver me that same joy once more. It seems that for me, happiness is indeed like the hedonistic treadmill, rather than something constant, which is I think is what we’re all after.
Is it possible to be happy all the time - as the default state of mind? I’d imagine the answer is quite idiosyncratic. If it were so easy then there wouldn’t be a vast cottage industry to provide answers for those seeking it. Personally, instead of adding things to my life and hoping those things will fill up the happiness meter permanently, to achieve somewhat constant happiness, it’s about paring it down: to do less, to want less, and really focus on only the truly important.
These days I’ve realize that instead of chasing happiness, it’s far more constructive to eliminate stress. The side-effects of stress are readily apparent: my resting heart rate is elevated, I grind my teeth at night during sleep, and pimples sprout out on my face, even though you’d think at age 31 I’d be forevermore done with those marks of puberty. Nevertheless, it’s been a bit of an aim lately for me to be conscious of when I am feeling stressed, and to address the underlying cause.
For example, when I am wake up every day, my mind tends to wander to the work day ahead, even though I’ve yet to even leave the bed! Pondering about those various tasks fills me with anxiety and stress, needlessly so because I can’t do anything about those things until I actually get to work. It’s not something I should be thinking about while I go through my morning routine; if anything, I ought to be calm and relaxed so that I can perform my best later in the day.
There’s procedural examples, too: I gave up driving a car for the commute precisely because it got too stressful to deal with the massive amount of traffic every day. Taking the bus have been one of the best changes I’ve done last year, because riding the bus allows me to zone out and listen to my podcasts, rather than worry about other drivers on the road.
Obviously, not all stress are bad; some are crucial in kicking me in the ass to do better, like my daily checklists of tasks, and a self-promise to keep this website updated regularly. The stress from those pseudo deadlines are super helpful; what I am looking to eliminate are the frivolous and unnecessarily stresses.
As with anything in life, it’s a constant work in progress.