The Fleeting Nature of Happiness

There are few things that most people in this world can agree on. Differences in culture, education, upbringing, and several other factors make it hard for many people to even co-exist with one another. You could say it is amazing that people with many differing perspectives can form friendships at all. However, there is one thing that all human beings want in their lives: happiness.

Everyone from the schoolteacher to the engineer to the vagabond wants to be happy. Most of us make finding happiness the primary objective that motivates all of our actions. Different people need different things to make them feel good. Some of us need friends and family around us constantly while others prefer to keep social interaction to a minimum. Some people need to feel like they are making a unique contribution to their communities while others care not what work they do as long as they are occupied. You know better than anyone else what makes you happy.

Another thing that you should know is that happiness, like all the other emotions, is temporary. Eventually you have to isolate yourself from your friends and family to get something done or you are forced to mingle with people you would rather not speak to. The day may come when you are laid off from your job which leaves you wanting for both money and purpose. The happy feeling can be replaced with anxiety, anger, or despair. These feelings are not pleasant and you wish that you could feel happy again. Unfortunately, the universe does not care what you want and you continue to be unhappy. You know that you will feel good and motivated sometime in the future, but would it not be so much better to always have that feeling?

No it would not. Have you ever had too much food to eat or beverage to drink? Did you stay up late one night and have trouble getting out of bed in the morning? Food, water, and sleep are essential for your survival. However, too much of those things can negatively affect your life. Consuming too much food will make you feel sick and while sleeping in does not cause you physical pain, being late to start your day could still negatively affect you. Your employer will punish you if you are late often or you could miss important course content by being late for a class.

Your happiness works in a similar way. Your happiness only feels ‘good’ because you know what it is like to feel ‘bad’. I personally am very happy on any day that I wake up and not feel physically ill. I can remember the feeling of having a cold or flu and those memories make me grateful that today my throat is not sore. Would it be better to have never been sick for even one day of my life? Maybe it would, but that version of me would surely appreciate it less. One does not simply appreciate things that are always there.

I am not trying to say that people should stop pursuing happiness. My point is that feeling down sometimes does not mean that you are failing. Being on a high all the time is just as much a mental disorder as being depressed all the time. Pleasure must co-exist with pain. If you understand that then you are less likely to lose hope as you move forward.