A few years ago I become ill with the stomach flu. I woke up and felt fine, but by the time I was driving to work I knew I had better turn around and go back home. I don't mean to be crass or crude, but I spent the rest of the morning being violently ill. It was difficult to walk, I felt terribly weak and shaky, and by Noon I began to wonder if I shouldn't take myself off to the emergency room.
I really did not want to go to the emergency room, but I couldn't keep even a sip of water down. Even thinking about a drink of water was enough to send me crawling back to the bathroom for another prayer at the porcelain altar.
By one pm I determined that I probably needed to go to the doctor, but by god I wasn't going to. I clamped my teeth shut and said to myself "SELF! You are not going to be sick anymore. You will lay quietly on the couch and you will not be ill again today. You will drink some water within the next hour and you WILL keep it down".
And you know? It worked.
Now what I want to know is this: If I can grip the stomach flu and by sheer force of will turn it away, why can't I force my mind to think happy thoughts when I'm down?
Sounds simplistic, doesn't it? Nevertheless, most of the literature I've read on the subject states that happiness is in the eye of the beholder and it is up to the individual to choose happiness over unhappiness. I want to believe this, as it goes along with my own personal philosophy that we are all in charge of our own destinies. We are not at the mercy of fate or some capricious god. The paths of our lives are up to us.
So when I'm unhappy for whatever reason, why then can I not simply clench my teeth against those negative thoughts and spit them out, rather than swallow them down?
I ask you, JoeUser, are you able to do this? Do you catch yourself in a negative thought spiral and begin to count your blessings and turn your gray thoughts to sunshine? What constitutes your happiness? What in your life makes you truly happy, and how do you define that happiness?
Abd Er-Rahman III of Spain (960 C.E.):
I have now reigned about 50 years in victory or peace, beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies. Riches and honors, power and pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any earthly blessing appear to have been wanting to my felicity. In this situation, I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot. They amount to fourteen.
Money does not make me happy, but the lack of it certainly makes me unhappy. I don't need to be in charge of every last thing to be happy. I don't need servants or lots of clothes or a huge mansion and I don't need to be dreaded by my enemies. I'm not even sure I have any enemies...but if I do, eventually I'll destroy them. I have patience.
You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.
I am constantly searching for the meaning of life (and for you jokers out there, if the meaning of life is 42 then I'm still searching for the question, which is not likely to be 7x6). More specifically, I'm looking for the meaning of MY life. There is nothing more unsatisfying than knowing that I'm likely never to find the answer. It makes me very uncomfortable. I think Mr. Camus has a point, but in truth I feel compelled to think about the meaning of my existence. It's like a scab I can't stop picking at.
So what makes me happy? The times in my life that I remember of pure, and genuine happiness (I can immediately think of 2 days), I was sitting on the couch, warm and comfortable, reading a good book. Maybe at the end of the day that's all it takes. It's worth a shot anyway.
Allan K. Chalmers:
The Grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.