On Happiness: are there good and bad kinds?

Dear quarter lives, 

I was flipping through a magazine recently and this self-help exercise came up. Its aim was to help you identify moments of happiness you had experienced within whatever time frame you chose to explore, be it a day, a week, or years. I guess the point of that was two-fold: first, to train yourself to recognise happiness and second, to be able to better understand what triggers those moments so you can increase them. But as I read through the exercise, I couldn’t help but wonder if this logic of identifying what made you happy and trying to increase it was limited only to certain kinds of happiness — the good kind.

I don’t really know who decides what’s good or not but surely there are kinds of happiness that are more destructive. So perhaps let us step aside from good and bad happiness and speak of it instead in terms of its usefulness to ourselves and to others around us. Maybe we can refer to happiness as being of a productive kind and a destructive kind. I never really thought of happiness before as having any sort of diversity or texture but now it makes sense why sometimes deep down I feel a certain aversion to happiness. Yes, there is the normal doubt that kicks in that wonders if I deserve this happiness and insists to base it on some sort of criteria that is commonly referred to as “goodness” although we might be all referring to wildly different criteria, we all use the common terms good and bad to grade our progress as humans in this world. For some, goodness may be based on the spiritual, for others, it may be more financial or related to marriage or having children or a successful career. The thing is it doesn’t really matter what your criteria is; what matters more is that you have one. Why is that important to identify? Because it means somewhere deep inside of you sometime long ago, you decided that you cannot be happy until …, and now fill in the … with your criteria. While having a reward system in place might be useful to help you achieve other goals in life or to teach your children the value of discipline and how to work towards something, when it comes to happiness this is one of the most cruel things we can do to ourselves. We end up delaying happiness because of some idea in our heads that happiness only belongs to people who are … . Happiness, like sadness, like anger is an emotion. It is a temporary response to a thought, to our environment (internal or external), to events (internal, external, past, present, real, assumed) and to people as well, and all these responses, these feelings we feel about things influences how we experience and perceive the world. But happiness like other emotions comes and goes. It cannot stay forever but yes we have the power to call it in by influencing the inner or outer environment it is responding to. The inside we can influence with which thoughts and feelings we choose to pay attention to. The outside we can influence by taking ourselves to places we love, eating food that helps nourish both our bodies and souls, seeing and connecting with people we love. So you see what the magazine article was trying to focus on is the aspects of bringing in happiness we can control and influence. 

Though I must say that needs to come with many buts and disclaimers because not all sources of happiness are created equal, and therefore, not all resulting happinesses are the same. Happiness that you get from winning at the casino might be more dangerous and quite destructive to try to get more of than happiness you get by having an intimate heartfelt conversation with a friend. But in fact, I would say even the spending time with friends kind of happiness if done too much that it starts to impact your progress in life elsewhere then even spending time with friends becomes now a destructive source of happiness. Hence why at the very beginning of this I asked you to put bad and good on hold and refer instead to productive and destructive because it means that we steer away from blaming anything as being the cause of less happiness but rather take back the responsibility and emphasise that it is not burgers that are themselves bad but how many burgers we have, it is not alcohol itself that is the culprit but our relationship to it, it is not our desire for beauty that is bad but rather how much money we are spending on new clothes rather than saving for a home, if saving for a home is something you’ve been saying you want to do but just haven’t gotten round to doing it yet. 

At the end of the day, there is no universal strategy to happiness. One, because we all mean different things when referring to happiness. And two, because we ourselves will mean different things when we speak of happiness now and in ten years time. We are always changing and so is the world we live in, and perhaps there is nothing more destructive than holding on to an outdated idea of happiness because after all what is a human being without their capacity to adapt, to grow and to change. Can you imagine a tree refusing to shed its leaves in the winter because it’s being stubborn and holding on to the idea that it cannot be happy without its leaves? It is absurd. So why do we humans refuse to call ourselves out and catch the absurd demands we are making of life and of ourselves? Why put all this pressure on yourself to not shed your leaves when it is winter and on top of that criticise yourself for it? Now how damaging is that to your happiness?

May we all learn to see where we asked the impossible of ourselves, where we have demanded the impossible from life, and forgive our hearts for shedding happiness during the winter. May we make together kinder spaces in our minds so we can hold the truth that much of what we do, we might not fully understand. May we all learn to just live through it all because there is a happiness to be found in all the corners of this earthly experience. Even when it is darkest, happiness sparkles throughout like the stars of the night sky shimmering and reminding us that we are always surrounded by Suns, even when our own Sun is yet to rise; the stars remind us to have faith. Faith that sooner or later, the Sun will shine again, so until then learn to enjoy the Suns you can see now, even if they are fainter and scattered. May we all learn to enjoy the sparkle of our own night sky and embrace it in all its magic! 

With love and as always for peace,


Finding Faith in Each Other

Dear quarter lives, 

There is no wrong feeling. There is no ought to feel, or should feel. There is only I am feeling. A truth only true in the present. A truth only true to you. There is no proof of it except your word for it. And I’m afraid words are fickle. People don’t believe words. They believe only their own thoughts on the words expressed. And so the more you can make your words believable to others, the more you become believable to others. So how do we get our words to be believable? How can we get people to believe us? To trust us? And the answer is simple: You need to believe what you say. If you believe your own words, others will. If there is an inkling of doubt in anything you say, people will know. How? They will feel it. And feelings don’t lie. They are our primary tool to discern information both emanating from inside of us and outside. Even though we can’t tell exactly what another is feeling, we can tell if what they’re saying matches how they feel about it because you either believe them or you don’t. You can validate their expression of what they claim the truth to be but not the truth itself. So why is it important if people believe what we say? Because it is the only way to tell if we believe what we say, if we believe ourselves. People need one another to validate each other’s truths. Our truth hides from us the same way our eyes do. We never get to see our eyes, we only ever see their reflection in mirrors and other people’s eyes. So in a way, we can never see ourselves on our own. It is only through other people that we can see what we look like. And so it is with our faith, the only chance we have at seeing it at all is through its reflection in others. Not everyone desires to see themselves, not all desire to see their faith, but for those of you who want to see it, you need other people to help you out.

People can believe in different things while still believing in each other. Finding faith isn’t finding what is absolutely and universally true. It is finding what is true to you. Faith is knowing what you believe in and continuing to believe in it despite what other people’s faiths are. Faith is holding on to your truth knowing all well that it is only true to you, and that it is only true to you in this moment. Faith is holding on to your truth knowing that tomorrow this truth could change and no longer be true, but choosing to stick by it anyway and committing yourself to it today. Faith is believing when there is no reason to. Faith is knowing there will never be proof for your faith except for your faith in it. And the only proof there is for your faith in what you say you believe in is other people’s faith in your words. We need people to have faith in us not because it feels good to be trusted and believed, but because it is the only way to know we have faith in ourselves, and there is no more crucial faith to have than in yourself. It is important to note that people’s faith in our words is not what creates faith in our words, it is simply the evidence for our own faith. You must believe your words first before anyone will ever believe them. You must have faith in yourself first before anyone else will. Other people merely offer us a reflection of our truth so that we can see what it looks like and learn to recognise it. But you know yourself before you ever see your reflection in the mirror. Always remember that. Always remember your faith comes from you. It is only through others that we can see it. But you always have it there inside of you. It is just sometimes we forget what it looks like, and when we do, people can help offer us a reflection of it until we can find it again. So allow yourself to trust your words, allow yourself to believe in yourself, and if you can’t, if you are struggling to trust yourself, a good place to start is with other people. Trust their eyes for a moment if you can’t trust your own. They will offer you a reflection of what you refuse to see with your own eyes, until one day you are finally ready to trust your own. So you see, dear quarter lives, when your faith is in crisis, extend it to another, and they will show you the way. When we are struggling to find our own faith, we can find it in another. In learning to believe another, we learn to believe ourselves, in learning to trust another, we learn to trust ourselves, in learning to love another, we learn to love ourselves. Sometimes it is far easier to zip up another’s gown than it is our own. So dear quarter lives, may you find your faith in one another because it’s the only place you ever will.