Here’s the thing: We all strive for happiness. But I think the term “happiness” is overused and therefore without meaning. So let’s have a closer look. I have found there are three kinds of happiness:
- Momentary emotional happiness: excitement
- Long term emotional happiness: base level happiness
- Rational happiness
Excitement is the kind of happiness where someone is jumping up and down in joy, because the happiness cannot be contained. This kind we experience, when we for example see something pretty, or when we get a phone, or dress. It is the kind of happiness, that lasts for minutes, hours and in rare cases for a day or two. And it needs a trigger.
Base level happiness is way less outgoing. It is a state where a human being is content and no matter what happens in one’s daily life, we trust, that it will be alright. And while of course, we get mad or sad from time to time, we still have that underlying happiness and peace to keep us from letting the negative emotions get to us. It is however an emotion, because we feel happy at the core, even if we are going through a though patch.
Rational happiness is tricky: This is when we do not feel happy. We may even feel sad, but we know that we have no reason to feel that way because our life is more or less very good. It is when we keep telling ourselves, that we are fine. When we try to feel better, because we cannot see the reason for not being happy.
How do these affect our mental health and how can they be utilized?
Excitement is, what we get, if we are depending on someone or something for our happiness, this is why depending is an issue. Excitement can keep us from becoming base level happy. While it really only makes us momentarily happy. And that’s how we develop addictions. We feel happy for a bit, then it goes away and whatever it is that made us happy: we need it again. That can be drugs, alcohol, shopping, sex and watching TV or even things that we would not typically be viewed as potentially addictive like studying or reading or playing with a pet.
The problem with excitement really is the dependence, which again only occurs, if we are not happy on a base level. Let me explain: There is nothing wrong with having a glass of wine to loosen up once in a while. But we have a problem if we do not feel comfortable when we are sober anymore. This also ties in with my latest post about relationships: of course we get excited about our relationships. And of course we experience happiness beyond description. It is natural and great as long as we do not depend on that to make us happy. Because excitement is not base level happiness, which is really what makes us happy in the long run.
Rational happiness is what many of us have. We nourish it by practicing gratitude and by focusing our mind on the good things in life. It is what we can experience even when we are at our lowest emotional state. This can lead to frustration. Because we feel bad, but we know we should be fine. And we start faking. We start hating ourselves, for feeling down for no reason. It can also lead to us questioning if we are actually bad or if we make ourselves miserable.
On the bright side however rational happiness can help us tab into base level happiness. Because we can actively tell ourselves that our lives are good. And if we tell ourselves often enough at some point we will believe it. Of course we need experience to back this up, but in essence that is how it works.
And finally there is base level happiness. And I have hinted at it a lot: it is what we want to achieve. Because the others are either not emotional or they are to momentary. Both of them can help to achieve it. Because with excitement we can experience why we are happy. And rational happiness helps us to preserve that excitement. Helps us see, why we are actually happy. So in essence base level happiness is what we get when we combine excitement (pure emotion) with rational happiness (pure rationality). But there is another aspect to it: and this is the longevity of base level happiness. And this is what ties happiness to positivity and awareness: We experience the calm of this happiness, because we stopped searching for happiness outside our lives. We stopped thinking: “Once I do this or that life will be better.” or “Once I get this or that, everything will be easier.” and instead started loving what we are doing on a daily basis.
To start doing that rational happiness can help. It helps to identify the nice things. And then we can start feeling that happiness. When we go to bed, we can look forward to getting up because we can go do our jobs. Whatever that may be. At this point there is one important realization: We are not getting up, for our alarm clocks. We are getting up, because we chose to. Because there is a day awaiting us. And it will be an awesome day. And sure, there will be moments, when we wish we could just walk away, but isn’t there a reason, we are not walking away? Are we not sitting through that meeting to get ideas on how to improve? Are we not trying to understand that mathematical formula to be able to solve problems later on? And are those goals not what we genuinely want?
This is the beauty of base level happiness. It allows us to be happy with our life for the sake of our lives. It makes us independent and self-confident. And it gets us through the rough patches, because it is not only the exciting things in our lives, that we love, but also the constants: the things we do on a daily basis. And even if these things fork (Good Place equivalent for f*ck) us up hard, we trust that it will be alright. Because when it comes down to it, we chose them for a good reason. In my experience this makes life so calm. We stop thinking about what others think of us, because we are content. The fear just goes away. And deep down we know that when it comes down to it everything is just fine. We stop hating ourselves, because we are living the life we want to live.
How the heck do we achieve base-level happiness?
Create a vision of yourself. A vision of our lives. I elaborated on this in a previous post. When we start doing what we want to do, which is exactly what happens when we start working towards our vision, we can love what we are doing, even when it’s hard from time to time. And the other point is to enhance the other two kinds of happiness. For example: get a hobby that we love doing and gets us feeling good. And of course, enhancing rational happiness by trying to make our mindsets more positive.
Noticing how independent we actually are, because at any point in our lives we have the possibility to just walk away. This means, we do have the power. Even if we are fighting some sort of mental illness, we can still walk away. We can still choose what our life looks like, which is really all we could ask for isn’t it?