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longgone's avatar

Do you think happiness is harder to achieve as our lives get more complicated?

Asked by longgone (17108points) March 2nd, 2015

I’m not sure how to word this. Bear with me.

There are lots of things that make me happy, but the clearest feeling of happiness comes with very basic assuagement *. A sandwich when I’m starving. A warm apartment when I’m freezing. A bubble bath when I’ve been in the woods all day.

Recently, I’ve been taking advantage of that fact. When I felt down last week, I went for a three-hour-walk before breakfast. I came home, took a shower, cherished my breakfast, and was in a good mood all day.

I can’t help but wonder whether the abundance of shelter, food, water, and other amenities in the western world may be causing people to feel unhappy for more “complicated” reasons.

What do you say?

* Did I use that correctly?

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12 Answers

ucme's avatar

For some people it’s a case of “can’t see the woods, for the trees”
My grandma used to say that, okay, she drank a bit, what of it?

LuckyGuy's avatar

@longgone I like that concept. We have nothing to complain about so we don’t realize how good we have it. I’d add one item to your list of shelter, shower and sustenance:
There is nothing as underrated as a good poop!

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

IMO happiness is harder to achieve because people are more and more becoming unable to recognize it and feel that stuff, and more stuff can deliver it. If not stuff, they truncate happiness under people or a certain person. People can fail you or not live up to what you expect, and stuff becomes old, obsolete, break, gets lost, or stolen, so they can’t bring happiness. Many in the western world enjoy satisfaction and contentment, and mistake that for happiness. As with celebrities that commit suicide, it proves you can have tons of stuff, and not be happy.

stanleybmanly's avatar

I say there are benefits to exercise, and one of them is its utility in beating back depression.

gailcalled's avatar

I read too fast and thought you said, “When I fell down last week, I went for a three-hour walk before breakfast.

zenvelo's avatar

It’s not our lives getting more complicated, it is our thinking that material things bring happiness. You found happiness through connection with nature, healthy food, emotional contentment.

It doesn’t take much. Nature: a walk outside to feel the weather on one’s face. A smattering of healthy food rather than a mountain of junk food. Emotional contentment through reflection and self honesty.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Possibly. It seems like it.
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
~Mahatma Gandhi

I agree with Gandhi here. Based on that, I would say that there are certainly more opportunities to be confused, misguided and compromised in your personal beliefs today simply because of the increased amount of stimuli around us 24/7/365 than, say, in 1890, or even 1960. We carry personal communication devices, we are online, many of us have radio or TV on in our homes more than 100 hours per week. There is no rest. This can’t help but influence the way we think. It makes us much different than those generations which came before us and the increased exposure increases the pressure to conform. The result is that we’re becoming a more homogeneous society, more alike with fewer differences between us, with less individuality, more of one mind. The growing lack of diversity in the way we think could be dangerous, especially if we are all convinced that unhappiness is the acceptable natural state of modern human beings. But down deep we are individuals, so this can’t help but cause an equally deep dissonance within us.

Many of us daily experience cognitive dissonance at work and our social lives where one must compromise oneself almost constantly in order to hold a job or maintain peace in a social group or among family members who accept dissonance as a normal way of life. Much of the programming on the TV, in my opinion, supports the false illusion that this is acceptable, that it’s the way things should be and always has been. I don’t accept this and documented history states otherwise. This behaviour has existed, but it was the unacceptable few who lived this way. Unless you were Machiavellian, you certainly teach your children that this was acceptable.

One must get control of one’s life. One way to do this is to get a good education in a field of endeavor you are genuinely interested in so that you will be attractive to employers in that field, or better yet, pursue that occupation or profession independently as self-employed. Then stay out of debt, so you don’t become a desperate wage slave that can barely keep your head above water. Staying out of debt will allow you the time and luxury of picking your employers wisely. Then pick your friends and associates wisely, and leave the rest behind. Be firm on these things and you will find it much easier to avoid these inconsistencies and the resultant mental stress and discomfort. You will also attract people who understand the importance of consonance and practice it as well.

What you describe in your question is not necessary happiness, but mere happy, pleasant moments. That is not happiness.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, it depends on your experiences. I was raised upper middle class, married a Boeing man and assumed my life would just go on that way. Well, it didn’t. I got divorced and my life tanked.
My life is finally comfortable again, and I don’t think I could ever take it for granted.

Coloma's avatar

Happiness is not and never can be a constant. The closest you can ever come to sustainable happiness is contentment. Attain contentment, and you have happiness in the long term.

longgone's avatar

Thanks, all!

I wonder whether it’s simply the uncertainty that gets to us at times. You know that feeling of not knowing what you want, but knowing that something is missing? It’s frustrating. Hunger, thirst, being cold, being warm, etc… shut up, @LuckyGuy – all those are simple, easily solved, and overpowering. All those other problems seem less severe in comparison, somehow.

@Espiritus_Corvus Thanks for sharing your thoughts. The part about cognitive dissonance was interesting, to me. I’m not sure I agree with your last statement. I quite like the thought that happiness is simply made up of lots of little happy moments. How would you define happiness?

Mariah's avatar

It’s definitely much, much easier for me to feel happy right after I’ve been through something shitty. My standards for happiness get really low and suddenly the smallest pleasures seem so fulfilling. I think this is common. People often think contentment is something that happens once you manage to remove everything bad from your life, yet this is not how we seem to operate in actuality.

People in less comfortable time periods experienced many more hardships and probably experienced far more “simple pleasures” than we do.

I find my life is currently better objectively (“on paper”) than it probably has ever been before yet I’m not at my peak happiness, far from it. I find it’s a lot of work to avoid falling into the trap of overthinking and feeling jaded and worn down by everything that goes on around me. In harder times of my life, when I was sick for instance, I would have been overjoyed just to eat what I ate for dinner tonight, to be physically capable of living the busy life I’m living, and to have the opportunity to attend lectures and learn new things. Right now, I’m terribly bored with the food I’ve been making, am tired out from my busy life, and am burnt out on school, so I’m not enjoying any of those things. It’s sad.

I guess it’s true there are no true highs without the lows to compare them to.

The way human happiness functions is something I’ve thought about a lot. I wrote out my thoughts in more detail here awhile back if that’s something you’re interested in reading.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@longgone I think Gandhi defined it rather well. Coloma calls it contentment. That’s what the effect of a consonant state of mind is. There are a lot of people who never find contentment and that is really sad. Being malcontent is to be unhappy by definition.

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