On Happiness, for realsies this time

Of late, many of the people I know have been unhappy.  They don’t know why, they don’t understand it, they just seem to have a permanent cast of the blahs.  Many of them are in therapy, many of them take medication to try to stem their unhappiness, many of them like to complain, some don’t complain at all.

I think the cause of this is the structure of daily life for many people.  Go to work, come home, go to work, come home.  Clean up, eat, sleep.  Computer screens, TV screens, cell phones.  Finances, bills, credit cards.  All of these things for many people make up the majority of their life, and are part of a regimented, droll, unexciting existence.  With no escape, and no future in sight, there’s no wonder many are depressed.

Treating a depression or a sadness that results from these factors with medication seems to me to be avoiding the real issue.  It may work, in some cases, and self-medication is something I wholeheartedly embrace if it’s done with reflection and an open mind.  But addressing the root of the problem will work better.

The way I solve this problem for myself is by embracing freedom.  I believe in the ideal of freedom for myself and for everyone who desires it.  Since I consider myself free to make any change in my life that I desire, whenever I desire, I am less upset when it hands me things I don’t care for, and I am more comfortable being set in my ways (because it is a conscious choice!)

Here are some of the other ways I think we can achieve happiness without taking the chemical route:

  • Live a goal-driven life. Setting goals for yourself achieves two things at once:  it makes you optimistic for the future, imagining yourself in the place you want to be, and it creates a sense of purpose and pride upon the achievement of your goal.  I hope I’m not starting to sound like a self-help book.
  • Embrace intimacy. Make friends as best you can, and don’t be afraid to share with those friends your most intimate thoughts.  The more people in your social circle who are close to you, the more comfortable you are in seeking advice and help, and the more fulfilled you feel when you help and advise others.  The tribe is something that our modern society lacks; and having one can do wonders for your psyche.
  • Embrace freedom. Don’t be afraid to change your life any way you think it might help.  Change jobs, change locations, change your diet or your schedule.  Don’t let anything stop you from doing what you want to do.  If someone does try to stop you, explain your new philosophy to them and ask for help; usually this will bring them over to your side.
  • Be spontaneous! A fixed schedule leads to a dreary life.  If you get an idea in your head that’s different from one you had any other day, don’t suppress it.  Go out into the world and make it happen.  It’s so easy to do things, and you don’t realize it, not really.  This can be as simple as going outside and laying down to look up at the sky.  Twenty minutes of that every day might just brighten your mood a little bit.

I hope this helps.  I don’t do these things often enough, but when I do, it definitely has a powerful effect on my mood.  So just try it out!


2 Responses

  1. And get exercise; one of the many healthy things modern society has managed to remove from everyone’s daily life. Live somewhere you can walk to work or the grocery store, or at least a transit stop.

    This is one of the main reasons I’m in Planning school – I think modern land use patterns help make people miserable, unhealthy, lonely and depressed. Hell, we’ve zoned the tribe out of existence in most places.

  2. So, do you think more zoning will solve the problem, or less? I think I’m against zoning altogether, which I imagine would rub a planner very much the wrong way.

    I am very lucky in that I do get at least some exercise, I walk from the subway to work, about 10-15 minutes each way, and if I move to a new apartment, the plan will be to walk to the train from home as well, which would be at least another 10 minutes each way. It takes a fair amount of work to set up that sort of a commute, though, at least here in the suburbs of DC.

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