Monday, April 19, 2010

Day 10: On Happiness

On happiness:

I finished a book today called "Geography of Bliss" by Eric Weiner. It
was a good read, mostly by virtue of the author's wit rather than any
great revelations or secret paths to happiness. The sad surprise is
that there are no surprises in the world of happiness. Everything you
know, think, or even intuit about happiness is true and just as you
imagine it. Statistically, the only relief you will feel from the
doldrums of life will come when you are old enough to realize that there
are no surprises and you should just enjoy the little pleasures in your
life. They call this the U-shaped curve which describes how you are
either happy because you are too young and dumb to know any better, or
because you are so old that you no longer care.

I think the most depressing finding in the world of happiness research
was when they did a long-term study of people who had undergone either a
tremendously positive life event (like winning the lottery) or some
terribly negative life event (i.e. horrible car crash or getting
married) ((ok, jk on the married part)). While there was some initial
change (positive or negative) like you might expect, the researchers
were surprised when they followed up years later to see that overall
happiness levels had not changed from the original, pre-event levels.

What does this mean, ladies and gentlemen? Despair! Your current state
of misery is lifelong and unchanging. That new job you're aiming for,
that pile of money you expect any day now, that person for who your
loins quiver in red-hot anticipation: none of it will make a dang
difference in your overall life contentedness.

Give up and jump off a bridge? Not just yet. In all of the studies of
things that make people happier, they consistently found that they were
short lived and often contradictory. What no one has suggested however
(until me, right now), is that maybe what we should do is pile together
a string of short-term happiness boosters to get us by until old age.
Why didn't anyone think of this before? They lacked my sarcastic,
cynical, and overtly contradictory optimism. So here, in no particular
order, is a list of things that can provide short-term happiness boosts:

1. Alcohol (I guess there must be some order to this if I put this at
#1, right?)
2. Drugs (Moderation here. And, you can get the self-esteem boost of
strong willpower when you quit)
3. Affairs (Again, only until you are caught: then there is a terrible
negative happiness dive)
4. Monetary gains (Pick those winning numbers! Or rob a bank)
5. Medications (Most medications work temporarily, so just mix them up
on a 6 month rotation cycle)
6. Learning something new (Just read my blog and you should be fine.)
7. Helping people (Lame. I don't even know how to go about this, other
than letting people bum smokes)
8. Laughing (Watch funny videos every day. I recommend "Scottish Guy
Hates Iceland")
9. Moving (Move to a place that has opposite traits of where you live
now: i.e. Iowa to Florida, Arizona to Minneapolis, California
to Amish country, etc.)
10. Get laid (A lot)

That's probably a good start. Or a terrible start, depending on your
perspective. I also advocate eliminating Mondays and Tuesdays entirely.
We'll just make Wednesday extra long and call it the "big hump day."

The scariest finding, for me, was that too much thinking is detrimental
to happiness. So, fellow over-thinker, I guess we're out of luck.

Happy Monday!

PS I still haven't shaved yet, as every single day someone has mentioned
me not-shaving. Going on a month now.

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