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The nature of happiness

I watched a movie recently, for the first time in a long time. Whilst I have been travelling I haven’t watched much TV at all, I have preferred to get out and about and when indoors, have used the free time to blog about the travels. This photo was taken probably a month and a half ago in St Kilda, south of Melbourne’s CBD. The nature of the photo reminded me of the film I am talking about.

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The movie was Hector and the Search for Happiness. I will add a spoiler alert here, so if you are wanting to watch it maybe do so before reading further. It is about Hector (played by Simon Pegg), bored of his current existence and career, questioning if he is really happy in life. He then goes on a quest for happiness, one destination at a time whilst his girlfriend stays at home reluctantly waiting for him. It is a feel good movie and made me think about what I would consider happiness to be.

So, the spoiler. I have warned you!

The movie concludes that happiness isn’t just one emotion, it is all of our emotions. This may sound a little confusing, however the wheel above helps me to make sense of this and give my insight as to what I take from this message.

The stormy skies and beams of light breaking through gives this image- for me at least- a sense of hope and optimism. Which is why it made me think of the movie. Imagine life is this wheel, instead of a long road. Also, imagine the wheel with a clock face.

Let’s say 12 is happiness. Bliss, joy, euphoria, whatever happiness is to you. 3 o’clock can be mental pain, a loss, a breakup, a fight with a loved one. 6 o’clock is physical pain, surgery, a work injury, illness. Lastly 9 o’clock can be personal development, maybe improving ourselves by going to the gym or quitting a bad habit. Something not easy, but very rewarding in the long term. Between these numbers is every other emotion and experience linking these together, as each and every experience varies in size and duration. There isn’t a universal standard of emotional experience for any of us.

We are all born on this wheel. And with that, we will always reach the heights of happiness. Every single one of us. But none of us will stay there. Like anything in life, these experiences will come and go and are never permanent. As unpleasant as this may seem to think about, it can be very liberating to acknowledge.

To get back to happiness, we have to experience everything else life throws at us. Whether this is a unsuccessful job application or sickness, knowing this is only a temporary feeling should help us to keep going and get through the hard times. If anything, the lower we feel means the chances are our next step is going to be a brighter one. Time heals everything. And although time seems to stand still during dark moments, these moments are as temporary as any other. The night can be daunting, or with a closer look can be magical. It can provide an view we would never see with the light of day, and prevent us from fearing that sun going down once more.

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No one is exempt from this either. Just because someone else is experiencing happiness doesn’t mean they won’t hit every other number on the clock. We all get on this wheel at different times, and with this experience different emotions depending on where we are in life. Someone feeling the bliss at the top will have to feel the lows at the bottom. It doesn’t always seem this way as when we feel low, the joys of everyone else seem so apparent. But the joys we feel when it is our time feel too good to compare to the lives of others and often we are too busy enjoying life to want to compare with others. This is a good thing. However it does give the illusion that others feel happiness more than us when it is their turn. But that is just that. An illusion. And if it isn’t, like so many successful people in life, the prolonged time away from happiness can only be a motivator to strive for success. Sometimes the distance from comfort and joy motivates us to get there quicker than we ever would have. And experience it much more than we would have.

So this is my take on life. We all share turns at the top, and to get back there have to experience than sinking feeling once in a while. But knowing we will have to experience this ride and feel it all over again, instead of picturing life as a path with the hope of not experiencing the low spells, is more liberating to me. And preparing instead of evading helps me to get through when the time comes.

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Night Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash


 

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Happy blogging,

Sam

35 replies »

  1. I like this outlook on life. Looking at life as a circle means that when things are bad they are bound to get better, and when they are good, we get to appreciate them even more having had experienced the bad. Great post, Sam!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Certainly close to midnight, not quite there as I’ve been moving flats, a couple hectic days at work too. But close enough!!

      And you?

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      • I have no idea why I said midnight haha, maybe because we were already past noon in the day here perhaps? So midnight was the next time it was going to hit 12. That or another reason unknown to me…

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  2. Thank you for this reminder, Sam. There’s something to all of human experience. What would the good times be if they weren’t contrasted by the bad times? Struggle is how we grow, and happiness includes the joy of accomplishment from victory in whatever we struggle with.

    Your post reminded me of a concept from Ignatian spirituality, wherein good times are described as periods of spiritual ‘consolation’, and bad times are periods of ‘desolation’. In desolation, we should make no rash decisions, try our best to maintain the status quo (a victory in and of itself, as anyone who has experienced deep sorrow will tell you), and rely on God for patience, knowing that consolation is coming, and hope, believing that consolation will be here tomorrow. In periods of consolation, we should remind ourselves how challenging the desolate period was, be grateful for the gifts we have, and give thanks to God for our joys and triumphs.

    These ups and downs are built into the human experience as features (not bugs!). As you say, preparation is key: The old adage that “this too shall pass” comes to mind. Good times won’t last, nor will the bad times, and that is OK!

    Thanks again,
    AMDG
    -Scoot

    Liked by 2 people

    • As you mentioned, to really appreciate the good times we need to experience the bad times. This was a lovely comment and very insightful for me and I am sure anyone else reading. Thank you so much Scoot!

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  3. Wheels; and spirals work for me as metaphor as well.I keep spiraling upwards (or downwards and deeper in, depending on how you read it) as I keep hitting the same places over and over but always a little farther along my path. Those same places of happiness or sorrow or anger may be disguised with different players wearing different costumes, but there I go again. In terms of progress, I feel less affected by each drama as I age. Rather than happiness, another (preferable) emotion, I aspire to joy. The older I get, the more joy arises in the midst of any state of mind or situation. I cannot command joy, but I can make space for it by cultivating a life that is in balance within each transition I experience. Joy abides more and more often.
    I do remember that movie from a while back. Good reminder.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Good to hear you are less and less affected by drama as you age, something we all need to do in my opinion! Sometimes it is hard, but if we can, we really will live a more fulfilled life.

      A lovely comment, and I am pleased you are finding ways to find that joy 🙂

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  4. This was a very motivating entry! I really like your concept of an emotional wheel vs the typical “life path with bumps in the road” type of thinking. With a road it’s often hard to think of the good coming again when you can’t “see” far enough down it, but a wheel you know at some point you’ll circle back around to the good parts. Nice job!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, I am so pleased that you could make sense of it as sometimes I worry what I am thinking is hard to put down in words. Really pleased you enjoyed and could relate!!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a great perspective. I believe there are two levels of happiness. We can be happy for moments throughout our lives (such as when things are going well) and we can be happy overall despite hard times. The second level is harder to achieve but is possible. I’m happy to say that with Jehovah God’s help I’ve found true happiness and contentment and I think a strong relationship with God is the epicenter (Matthew 5:3).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the kind words, I guess we all are able to find happiness in different ways, I have never really been religious so it isn’t an avenue for me but I have other ways and I am pleased you have found ways that works for you! Thank you for the comments 🙂

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    • I know what you mean, I feel with the dark clouds and empty seats it reminds me of an abandoned amusement park… which I assume would be very eerie to walk around!

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