Why has there been a surge in the search for happiness? What does this say about how we are living? Happiness books, happiness workshops, happiness sites, happiness tips and instructions. Is it because we feel entitled to ever more satisfaction? Is it because the current culture is breeding unhappiness? What could possibly be wrong with so many gratifications just a mouse click or pad touch away?
Maybe we fear discomfort or forgot how to live with it. A little discomfort is good. Asceticism is enlivening, empowering. It makes you happy in a proud, “I can do it, I am strong, I don’t need that” manner. Building things and staying focused on a task is more likely to produce lasting satisfaction than surfing and sitting. And also, as you know, too much immediate gratification leads to dullness and inertia. You can feel yourself spreading and sinking as you and your chair become one.
Breadth not depth, excess choice and mailboxes of minutia can paralyze, confuse and make you tired. On the other hand self-reliance, a time-tested form of self-help, is so useful for inner highs. A capacity to focus on one thing and do it deeply is great for happiness. Unless you have an enormous talent for quick, accurate selection you might be too swept up and overwhelmed by all the stimulation.
There was this song from the musical Little Mary Sunshine and the
“Running hither, running thither, running everywhere and all around.
Running hither running thither, running, running who knows whither.
Running everywhere and running down.”
All this connecting! Is it really connecting or is it pseudo-connecting? Maybe you don’t need to connect to the whole world. Maybe all information does not have to be available to you. Maybe you could have a superior mind if you read 100 of the greatest writers ever, or listened to them on tape while running and then had a nice lunch with a companion who says interesting things.
Last week I flew from Texas to New York after participating on a panel at UT Austin on Creativity and Mental Health in the Views and Brews series at the Cactus Cafe sponsored by WKUT. On the plane home, I caught three headlines on two channels that were something like “Is Social Media Making us Miserable,” “Is Face Book Making You Envious?” and “The Failure of Social Media. ”
A few 20-somethings I treat say that connecting with old friends via the inter-net carried them through hard times. Maybe it is all about moderation and having enough inner awareness to know what lifts you and what trammels you.
In our book The Creativity Cure, Alton and I offer a Five-Part Prescription (5PP), which increases your chances for happy moments. If you can practice these exercises a few minutes a day, in your own way over time, you might feel different, think different, change habits and feel better. It is worth it to take some time away from technological immersion and try some other ways of connecting to your self (mind and body) and to others.
You will notice that in the following list of 29 tips, many are common sense. Many are subsumed under the suggestions in the 5PP.
29 Happiness Tips Worth Trying:
But know that a little loneliness, emptiness and sadness is part of being human and there is no need to fear such feelings or to try to remove them completely. Negative states can be useful and lead to better decisions.