Most of us can point to a time in our lives that we were truly happy, just as we can point to a time that we were truly unhappy. What makes the difference in the lives of people who feel they are trapped in unhappiness? Why do some people seem happy no matter what happens, while others remain unhappy when everything says they should be in a much better place?
To understand the question and the answer, we will look at the elements of happiness. We are all familiar with the old cliches – happiness is a soft purring kitten, happiness is the extra cherry on your sundae, happiness is a loaded gun. What this tells us is that we place more stock in the outcomes and evidence of being happy than we do in understanding the root of what provides us that feeling.
Happiness can not be bought. I’ve been to the Mall of America – there is no “Happiness Here” store. It can not be dug up, learned or given to you. An awesome gift might make you happy, but it does not give you happiness. That comes from somewhere else. As innate as our instinct for survival, happiness comes from within.
But how can happiness be realized by someone trapped in poverty through income inequality? How can someone with unknown medical issues be happy without the ability to seek treatment? How would you expect an unemployed worker to feel happiness when unemployment insurance is denied? How can a hungry child in school feel happy when other kids get meals and theirs is taken from them in the lunch line? How can a college graduate feel happy, knowing they carry more in student loan debt than many average homeowners? How can an American vote with confidence and happiness in a gerry-mandered district with risk of voter ID laws eliminating the voices of fellow constituents?
We hear reports all the time about how mental illness – specifically depression – has reached all but epidemic proportions in this country. Yet we seem unwilling to recognize that many of these people that struggle with this insidious disease might fare better in a world that gives them hope for happiness – health, income, education, career; what ever values we seek to attain that feeling is everyone’s right. Not rights of those born to rich families, those with the correct color skin, those with “normal” sexual orientation, those with the right credentials and connections.
When you feel unhappy, know you are not alone.
When you feel happy, look for someone to infect. This is the one thing I hope ObamaCare can’t cure!