Is happiness a state of mind?

You know, one of these days I’m actually going to finish a post when I mean to. Recently I’ve got into the habit of starting posts and not finishing them… I’m not sure why, there’s nothing particularly wrong with them. I just don’t feel like posting them and they get put aside.

I started doing it again with this post; I started writing it on Boxing Day and only got back to it today. I needed a couple of days to clear my mind anyway, so it wasn’t a bad thing… it’s just annoying and feels too much like writer’s block to me. I have enough of that in my life already, thanks.

Anyway, I’ve found myself thinking about happiness a lot lately. What started it was when I had dinner with my parents on Christmas day. A funny thing happened. It was just the three of us as we’re never that fussed about having a big Christmas. A couple of hours before we were going to eat, my mother decided to use the good china and we spent about ten minutes trying to find the good glasses to go with them. I think they must have vanished into the Twilight Zone because we couldn’t find them, so we settled for some champagne glasses instead.

I don’t drink much, so it was just ginger ale and it probably would have been easier to have drunk it out of the bottle. But it seemed like a nice idea, so I went along with it. My mistake. I’m halfway through the meal – a nice salad; we can’t imagine a roast on a hot day – and start to take a sip. Except I can’t. The glass won’t go past my nose.

I’ve never thought of myself as having a particularly large nose, but I must have as I just couldn’t get the glass past it. Maybe my nose was broken when that sandbag hit me ten years ago; maybe I’ve been telling too many lies like Pinocchio. Either way, it wasn’t working and tipping my head back didn’t help. I had a decision to make; either admit defeat (ha!) and get a different glass, or work out some other way.

So very slowly I started to slide down in my chair. I was able to angle the glass more and eventually the drink started to tip out. Of course by this time my parents were in absolute hysterics and I’m busy studying them, trying to work out which was to blame for my humongous nose. Strangely they’re both quite normal. I guess the gene must have skipped a generation. πŸ˜•

Later on I thought about it and I realised that, in a strange way, it was a nice experience. I mean, yes, I was being stubborn, but I didn’t feel embarrassed or stupid; I was with family and it’s been a while since we’d laughed like that. Even now when I think about it, it still gives me a happy feeling and that’s something I’ll remember for a long time.

Happiness is a strange thing, isn’t it? It’s something that can feel so different; contentment and peace can give us one kind of happiness, intense joy another. The way we each experience happiness is different, as is what makes us happy. Something I find funny – a show like Seinfeld or Friends – might be annoying to someone else; likewise some of us might go through our lives without showing much emotion, but might still feel peaceful and content. Happiness is so hard to define, but plays such an important part in our lives.

What I’ve been wondering recently is, do I feel happy in my life? Am I a happy person? If I’m being honest then I’d have to say I’m not sure. Most of the time I’m probably not; I like to laugh (and make people laugh) and try not to take things too seriously, but I consider things carefully and that’s my natural response. At the same time I’m not unhappy or sad either. I actually think I’m at peace most of the time. Happiness or sadness is an emotional response for me; I’m neither all the time, I’m just going about my day.

I think a lot of people confuse being “positive” with being “happy”. Being positive is a way of looking at life; being happy is an emotional response which comes from your mindset. You can choose to be positive, but usually something happens that makes you happy. I’ve heard people say they’re positive and so they’re happy, but I’m not so sure. For a lot of people having a positive mindset is a great thing; it lets you look to the future and it’s helped sportspeople and people in everyday life. But I’ve met several people who I’ve thought are so positive that they’re miserable. They work so hard at creating their outlook that they bring everyone down, including themselves; their relations with their families and friends are strained and though they’re positive, they never seem particularly happy… they always want more.

I think having a positive outlook in life is more likely to make us happy, but doesn’t mean we will be happy. And I suppose that’s why I’ve been thinking about this. I’ve been reading some articles recently that indicate if you’re happier, you’ll be healthier too. One study found that “happy” subjects were one-third less likely to develop a cold, while another found that people who thought in happier and more positive ways were more likely to increase their longevity by an average of 10 years.

If that’s right then there’s a definite reason to want to be happier. And so maybe I should make more of an effort to be happier and not let things bother me… although again I don’t feel like I’m unhappy or particularly negative. I’m content with who I am and think I’m a fairly realistic person. Plus isn’t the whole idea of what makes us happy all relative? I’m writing a new poem at the moment and like a lot of my poetry, it’s quite melancholic… some people might find it depressing but even though it’s sad, it makes me happy because it’s something I want to write. I think the key to happiness is respecting yourself, and in that way I’m at peace.

I wonder what you think? Does being happy make us healthy? Is happiness a state of mind? I’d be interested to find out, and I wish you all peace and happiness in the new year. πŸ™‚

Love and marriage


Cartoon from Make4Fun.com

Just been reading this story out of Germany from a few days ago, where a German politician has proposed limiting marital vows to seven years. Supposedly it’s to make marriage more accommodating and would avoid the seven-year-itch, but as you can imagine it’s garnering all kinds of criticism from conservative and family groups.

At first it struck me as a publicity stunt, but the more I think about it the more it seems like quite a gutsy suggestion. There’s no doubt that the way we look at marriage has changed in recent years; with 34 per cent of marriages in Australia and 50 per cent in the US ending in divorce, fewer people are placing an emphasis on marriage. I wouldn’t say I agree with Gabriele Pauli, but it’s making people think and talk about marriage, and that’s a good thing.

My main problem with the idea is that it could give the impression that commitment is something to be treated lightly; if you think you’re only committing to a person for a given period of time, can you truly invest yourself in that person? And what happens if you agree to a seven year licence and find you don’t want to renew it, but have children in those seven years; you don’t have a messy divorce, but emotionally is it really any different to the scenarios we have now?

I think a lot of the problems we have with commitment stem from this perfect ideal we set for our partners that they can never live up to. You hear this idea of “The One” pop up in movies and TV and real life; a person has to look a certain way, be a certain height. They have to match this idea we have in our heads before we’ll even consider them as a partner. But that doesn’t mean they’re the most compatible person for us; once the early attraction wears off, we find ourselves in a relationship that isn’t sustainable. It’s this idea that we have to be swept off our feet, our heart has to stop and we feel light-headed and in luuurve. Sorry, that’s not love – that’s a myocardial infarction. We’re dooming our relationships to fail before they start.

But I suppose it’s understandable we’d want to be cautious as well; we’ve seen our parents, siblings, friends go through the pain of a separation or a bad break-up; we want to be sure the person meets our standards so we won’t make the same mistakes. And maybe that’s why this idea isn’t such a bad one. It’s not romantic but if two partners know the prospect of a messy divorce doesn’t apply but still have the option of a lifelong partnership, I can see that leading into an increase in marriages and a change in how we look at our prospective partners. It also wouldn’t be replacing traditional marriage as such, just offering another option, so I don’t think it would devalue marriage as much as some are suggesting.

It’s probably ironic that Gabriele Pauli is a two-time divorcee, but you could say that’s given her the inspiration as well. I’m torn on it myself, but I am glad something different is being suggested. I’m part of the generation that’s somewhat jaded with marriage; I’ve only ever considered myself to be in love once and to be honest, I don’t see myself getting married. I don’t define myself by who I’m with; if it happens, great, but I’m not looking for it. And I know there a lot of other people who feel the same way I do. What’s happening is that we’re defining what marriage means in the 21st century, to a generation faced with debt and climate change. I think it’s good that conversation has started.

Anyway, I wonder what you think? Is the idea of lasting love a thing of the past? Leave me a comment and let me know. πŸ˜‰