How To Be Happy
Human consciousness is a wonderful thing. It enables us to feel we exist.
According to the latest research, this ability is achieved by a constant stream of short circuits in our heads.
All day long, tiny electrical impulses fire across the synapses (the gaps) between the connections in our brains. As each spark connects, the quantum space left behind collapses and, as a result, we become "aware" that we existed a split second before the current moment.
Our brains are constantly comparing the previous "collapsed" state of our awareness with the latest version - and noting the difference.
This dual relationship with the world - the ability to see ourselves now and previously - is what we interpret as consciousness or more literally, self awareness.
Time is the critical factor here.
To us, time is linear - by necessity. If there was no human concept of linear time, we wouldn't know we existed. We'd just be, and probably wouldn't properly know it.
Because the problem with consciousness is that, also by necessity, there is not really any such thing as NOW.
Because each NOW is almost instantly replaced by the next NOW, which is then replaced by the next, and the next, ad infinitum.
So NOW you're thinking, what's this got to do with being happy?
We often say to ourselves that we'll be happy when... whatever.
Taking the above ideas about consciousness into account, you can immediately see that the problem with this is that at the very moment you're (in theory) happy, then another moment will come along in which you WERE happy previously - if only just a split second ago!
By the way, this idea is what Keats is obsessed by in his poems, most notably Ode to a Nightingale.
It's also this kind of self awareness that the Buddha, for instance, found unsatisfactory about human existence. Everything is fleeting and therefore meaningless, he said. (Bit of party-pooper was he.) True enlightenment, according to Buddhists, can only be achieved when you're somehow 'stuck' in the NOW and literally lose all sense of time and other trivial human concepts.
For years I've accepted that living in the NOW is a fine idea - in theory.
These days, I'm not so sure.
Because, in practice, nirvana is almost impossible to achieve. You'll know if you've ever tried.
Plus, as any drug taking alcoholic will tell you, there's a much easier way to achieve a very real sense of timeless euphoria!
And even if you could achieve true nirvana, as in total connectivity with everything in the present moment, by definition, you're no longer truly 'conscious' because in essence, you're just 'existing' and not really 'living' in the sense that self awareness usually decrees.
(Ask any drug taking alcoholic.)
So what's the answer?
To my mind, happiness is not a state of being so much as a state of anticipation.
Over the years I've noticed that I'm happiest, not when good things have actually happened, but when I believe they're going to happen.
Actually getting and receiving all that you desire is often anti- climactic - because the brain just goes, ah well, got that, now what?
But rather than thinking this is just a cruel trick our brains play on us, we should use it to our advantage.
If true happiness is merely a state of anticipation for rewards or pleasures to come, then that's something we can work on in the here and now.
If you want to be happy all the time then clearly you just need to have good things to look forward to.
Sounds bleeding obvious when you write it down like that, doesn't it?
But what happens when you can't see good times ahead?
Misery of course.
So the trick is to constantly work on your attitude about the future.
If you see nothing but gloom and doom ahead you will be unhappy - NOW.
But if you believe that you will be happy and fulfilled one day very soon, then you're more likely to feel happy NOW. Just the thought of a future filled with contentment, purpose and fun-filled activity will make you feel happy NOW - and NOW is all that matters.
It doesn't matter what actually happens, as long as you fill yourself with the belief that everything is going to be fabulous soon, you'll find that you're much happier in the present.
It's a fact of life.
To return to Keats, his main philosophy (if you can call it that) was that there were only two important things in this world: truth and beauty.
Both require human interaction, you'll notice.
While truth and beauty might function as independent concepts intellectually, in practice, they require the participation of an observer to truly exist. Ask any quantum physicist!
And it's because our brains are so fickle as to change their perspective on what is true and/or beautiful, it's probably what led Keats into depression and, perhaps, suicide.
There again, Keats didn't know as much about the human mind as we do today. That it's the very fickle nature of the brain that makes us self aware and able to appreciate truth and beauty in the first place...
Similarly, you need to use your knowledge of how the brain works to understand that dissatisfaction and unhappiness are purely emotional by-products of self awareness - and therefore, within your control.
Take control of your state of mind, be positive and expect miracles, and I've no doubt you'll be happier.
Would I lie to you?
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