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I have been inspired by my 4th book of the year for this blog. It’s a deep one. Stay open minded though... Book is pictured above “Sapiens”.
One famous study by Daniel Kahneman (winner of a nobel prize in economics) asked people to recount a typical day, episode by episode. They had to evaluate how much they liked or disliked those moments. One thing he found was that with regards to the work involved in raising a child, parents experienced far fewer moments of joy to moments of drudgery. According to the results of the study it seemed that bringing up a child was rather unpleasant. However most of my parent friends would say being a parent is the best job in the world. I would definitely say this too but I am not for one moment saying it is easy. Do we hang onto the joyous moments more than the stressful? Or is it just important for the balance of our system to put a positive spin on situations?
Some scholars compare human biochemistry to an air conditioning system. It makes perfect sense. If we over heat physiologically, our body works to get the heat down. If we cool down too much, our body works to re heat to an optimal level. When we think about happiness this same entity will occur. When we are ecstatic, we soon come back down to base level. When we are low, our body soon comes back to a base level. You could argue, however that our base levels all differ.
If we won the lottery, landed our dream job and had children does that instantly equal happiness? There are some people in the world that live on less than a dollar a day, I have read articles and blogs that these people have been the happiest and most content that the writers have ever seen. These people may have to walk miles for fresh drinking water, they don’t have the educational systems and the health care systems that others are used to. I personally feel privileged and thankful that I have always had a roof over my head, I have never struggled to live each day, I have never been hungry, I have always had access to education, to fresh water and to a health care system. Does that instantly make me happy? When I get into a foul mood I have to shake myself out of it because look at the life I am living. I am of course very grateful. So, why are those in poverty sometimes the most happiest?
Expectation Vs Reality. I believe happiness is sapped as soon as we set expectations and they are not met. I have been sad, angry and frustrated about mundane and unimportant things throughout my life, even this morning! I feel terrible that I woke up feeling foul over something that is so petty and so ridiculous. This is because my own expectations may be high. Our expectations are highly subjective. Lets take one of the people living on a dollar a day. No access to social media, walks 3 miles a day for food and water, works long days and meal times are spent with family members, down time spent with the community playing games, dancing and sharing stories. Expectations of these people don’t tend to go beyond their village. They are content. There is no comparison, internally they are happy. Subjectively their expectations are met and therefore their chemical balance remains stable. Then lets take an example from a first world country. A teenage girl or boy, owns a smart phone, has access to social media, television, magasines. Instantly,
subjectively this persons’ expectations are high on their personal life, the way they look, the way people act, the activities they do, the places they eat, their holidays and other material possessions. Chances are that the expectations for this person are set slightly high and if they don’t reach that standard their chemical balance is continuously below their optimal level for happiness. I believe if we are more aware of this, it would help us. Money, dream jobs, holidays, material items and children (I believe) does NOT equal happiness. I absolutely believe it is the chemical balance.
Buddhism states that the root of suffering is neither a feeling of pain or sadness. It is the never ending and pointless pursuit of the ‘feeling’ of being happy. This can cause tension, restlessness and dissatisfaction. In this state even when a person experiences joy they are still not content for fear of losing that moment. They want it to stay, and intensify. Personally I have recently tried sitting, accepting and taking in the moment from time to time (I must do this more though). I have come to realise that the best feeling of happiness is when you sit and let things flow over you. Sitting, relaxing and accepting you are where you are and you are exactly where you should be really helps to create a good balance and contentment.
Moving to the other side of the world and experiencing very different cultures has really opened my mind to all of this. Someone put it really well recently.. as you grow older and more open minded you start to see more than just the trees (this is metaphorically- I haven’t turned into a tree hugger but of course if that helps others then fill your boots, who am I to judge!), then further down the line you start to see the bark, the life within the trees, everything that you never saw before.
What we as Brits expect to be ‘normal’ can be completely alien to someone else and vise versa. It is great to go somewhere open minded. If you close your mind off you could be missing out on so many experiences that open the mind further, that educate you and bring you a reason for a little more happiness. It may even help to balance out your body’s ‘air conditioning’ system !
Let me know your thoughts 😊
PT, Teacher and Mum. Currently living in South East Asia. Thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
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