Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Can You Stimulate Happiness?

Perhaps because the shimmer and shine of the holidays is wearing off, my kids are starting to feel the after effects of the New Year. Post Party blues, is common this time of year. The year has started again and it feels in many ways like starting over. This might be a good thing if you're looking forward to an increase in job opportunity, fame, fortune or just a better lifestyle. For many though it starts over the amount of money which has to be paid for co-pay's and deductibles on insurance. It starts over the amount of your escrow being higher if it was too low and it begins again the planning, purchasing and saving for vacations, trips and birthdays that must be figured into budgets. Many details like these can bring on frustration or depression. This is the point where you're encouraged to see the glass as 'half full' not 'half empty'.
How does one do that? Stimulate your attitude toward happiness, when there is much to be depressed about?
That's the problem, right there. You can't stimulate happiness.
Happiness is a state of mind which translates into a state of being. Yes, you can stimulate the mind toward pleasure or pain...but neither of those is happiness or a lack of it. Pleasure is a temporary state that once the stimulation is absent, the consequence takes up the slack. Often we stimulate ourselves toward pleasure to escape pain, but both are temporary states. What do you feel when you are neither happy nor unhappy? If someone gives you a cupcake, does it stimulate happiness or pleasure? If someone offers you a back rub does it stimulate happiness or pleasure? Only you can know. If your state of being is calm, peaceful, kind and positive then the cupcake or the back rub are stimulants toward pleasure. If your state of being is anger, frustration, hatred, or fear then those same things can stimulate you temporarily toward pain or pleasure. After the frosting is all licked away and your back is holding up your head again...Are you happy?
This is why we get addicted to pleasure seeking activities: Food, shopping, extreme sports, tattoos, drugs, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate. Whatever it is, it doesn't bring happiness, just pleasure or pain.
My son showed me the truth about this when I asked What he felt, once the pleasure was gone. "Nothing," he said. "I'm just bored."
"Would you be more likely to help someone else with something if you had pleasure in your life?"
"No, doing work will make my pain worse and take away from my pleasure."
He's a teenager with a common understanding of what happiness is. How sad, though. The reason the world is struggling is because we are all looking for happiness and finding only temporary ways to stimulate pain or pleasure. Money, fame, facebook friends, notoriety...the list goes on and on. We disguise it as caring about others, but if we are happy, then our love, kindness, concern and goodwill for other people should be our state of being. It isn't stimulated or squashed by anyone else. It is work, to see others as we see ourselves. To care about everyone else as much as you care about yourself. To hold back our own tendency to judge because we are not responsible for our state of happiness. Instead, we are frustrated by others who don't stimulate us properly.
I promise you I have failed to conquer this ideal as well. I'm learning to let my inner state of being have more control. I believe you can be stimulated with things that bring pleasure and happiness by participating  in activities and habits that have positive consequences. However, you must seek happiness, not stimulation and its a challenge to see the difference. "I'm grateful to my son who explained it so clearly. It means that you seek true happiness instead of simply what you want. Discovering true happiness is what all of us want in the long run. Don't be afraid to feel what's inside of you once the stimulus has worn off and you're alone with your thoughts and feelings. Without stimuli, without pleasure or pain. Just you, your Father-in-Heaven and the happiness knowing Him and being loved by Him brings. Its the only happiness there is!

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