How To Figure Out if You’re Happy

Note: there is no “answer.”

Start in bed. How are you sleeping? Are you sleeping well? Do you leave the TV on until you fall asleep? Do you wake up in the middle of the night so you can turn it off? Or are you, like, drinking yourself to sleep every night? Or smoking weed every night so you can get to sleep? Because these things aren’t happiness.

Wake up. Do you feel bad already? Do you think that today is going to be the same as every day? That all you’re going to do is get out of bed, piss, get dressed, go to work, converse with your extremely dull and having-nothing-to-offer coworkers, come home, put on your sweatpants, and refresh websites repeatedly until you fall asleep? This is an unhappy situation. I promise that you will look back on this time as an unhappy time.

How much TV are you watching? How many hours is it? I hope you don’t watch very much. Watching a lot of TV is not happiness. Watching TV every night after work until you fall asleep is definitely not happiness.

Do you believe that a terrorist attack is imminent? How nervous do you feel on the subway? Flying? Are you afraid of North Korea? Ask yourself: Am I really afraid of North Korea? This is important information to know. Because generalized, doomsday fear of an entire country is pretty stressful and unmanagable and… neverending. Because, like, how could you realistically manage that fear? I guess you could go to war.

How much quiet time do you have? Because quiet time is happy time. How much time do you dedicate to performing a singular, non-multitasked task? What do you do during your free time? Do you have free time?

What about your friends? Are they all your coworkers? Can you actually talk to any of them, or is it something else? Is it like – they are in front of you and you are in front of them and you’re just sort of awkwardly aware that the two of you are in front of each other? That sort of thing? The kind of thing where you’re not engaged? Perhaps you should reconsider things.

And sex. Romance. Who are you seeing? Are they good? Are you in a relationship you feel is unsustainable? Are you simply “putting up” with your significant other? Or are you just fucking a new person every couple of weeks?

What does it even mean to be happy? Do you even have a definition for it? Do you have any idea what happiness is? Is it temporary? An emotion along a string of emotions experienced throughout your day? Is it that you are “at peace” with the world, have “found your way,” and that, despite any difficulties that may arise, you continue to feel peachy and neverendingly satisfied, because for you “life is good,” “hakuna matata,” etc? Or is it general acceptance and compassion? The stoic experience of a range of emotions on a regular basis in acceptance of the fact that reality is not “smiling upon you” because, in terms of emotional capacity, the universe is completely senseless and does not care at all what happens to anything – humans, plants, machines, the sky, the planet, the sun – even itself?

The universe. Do you feel it owes you something? Do you believe that everything will “work out” in the end? How black/white is your worldview? How much information do you block out? What kinds of things do you avoid thinking about? What are you hiding?

Do you think you’ll be happy eventually, so that it’s OK that you’re unhappy at this juncture? Do you think that you’re “putting your life on hold” so that it will be better, later? Do you think there is a “one day” (i.e. “One day I’ll do it, when I feel more ready”). I think that the universe is not privy to your plans. TC mark

image – iStockPhoto

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  • http://twitter.com/gay_lioness_fag david jones

    nice

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=505759069 Julian Tully Alexander

    Happy to know that I am unhappy.

  • http://twitter.com/kyleangeletti Kyle Angeletti

    really good piece Brandon. probably my favourite and i've read almost all of yours.

  • http://flavors.me/terakristen Tera Kristen

    Realizing that the universe owes me nothing is one of the hardest realizations I have come to. Along with the fact that my soulmate is not written in the stars somewhere. It was also extremely hard to realize that I am the ONLY ONE in control of my thoughts, feelings, behaviours.

    Part of happiness to me is having complete and total accountability for yourself. It's not a coincidence that a large part of depression is called 'learned helplessness' – which is essentially feeling like there is no use because you can't fully control your happiness and life situation anyway.

    Excellent article – people definitely need to be taught how to achieve happiness and the first step is recognizing unhappiness.

    • Cal

      this was a good comment.

      learned helplessness… interesting.

      i think, for me at least, realizing the indifferent universe and feeling helpless is the first part, but realizing how responsible we are for who we are, who we become, what choices we make, is the most intimidating part.

      what the hell have the disney movies we watched growing up done to us… happily ever after, finding the “one”, following your dreams at all costs…

      • http://twitter.com/timepilotaka That's Not My Name

        I was no older than six when I decided Disney movies were empty tripe. Perhaps that's why I've been bitter, depressed and essentially unhappy my entire life. Finding something to replace the bliss of self-assured universal significance is a tough task to accomplish.

  • http://twitter.com/MissKimball misskimball

    it told me I am happy but I don't think I am :(

  • Lana

    This is depressingly accurate.

  • http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoffmann Dan Hoffman

    Insomnia is a classic sign of depression. If you're experiencing insomnia and that isn't normal for you, you should be concerned about your mental health.

  • http://www.facebook.com/leckybang Becky Lang

    if you drink yourself to sleep you're NOT happy? oh shit.

  • Esra

    Great piece. Recognized little bits of myself in there.

    I still definitely have my 'one day' …for now anyway!

  • Dave McLeod

    Seems like one should question their happiness first from bed, where there isn't anything going on.

    Then, as you go through your day and stuff happens, if it happens, perform a happiness-check then too, at intervals, and see if you have found something to be sad about yet.

    If you don't, default to depression about how there are possible worlds where you would be happier at this exact age than you are now at this exact age.

    And then after that is a big wide frontier of “unhappiness I don't yet understand, but I will soon”.

    But I like this article, thank you. Nice.

    “I will not be happy until I know exactly why I am not unhappy”

    • http://twitter.com/davemcleod Dave McLeod

      I mean “I will not be happy until I know exactly why I am not happy”

  • Chaoscossack

    Nothing like an article full of open-ended questions and smug assertions.

    • http://flavors.me/terakristen Tera Kristen

      You missed the question mark on the end of this.

  • RamonaCC

    Makes me want to read 'The Stranger' again…

  • http://newhandsweepstakes.com/writings/this-is-your-cat-on-drugs/ Brian McElmurry

    Damn, good questions. No, sometimes. At moments I am happy. At others miserable. Reflecting now.

  • Jeffy Feelgood

    fragment, reword:
    The stoic experience of a range of emotions on a regular basis in acceptance of the fact that reality is not “smiling upon you” because, in terms of emotional capacity, the universe is completely senseless and does not care at all what happens to anything – humans, plants, machines, the sky, the planet, the sun – even itself?

  • 2ci

    Or smoking weed every night so you can get to sleep? Because these things aren’t happiness.

    Bro…..

    fuck you are right

    bro..

  • http://twitter.com/hallithbates hallithbates

    too real, tooo realll.

  • Sars

    i really like your writing Brandon Scott Gorrell. Your writing is really cute. I like it when you said 'put on your sweatpants' cuz it sounded cute.

  • http://timothypresence.com/ Timothy Willis Sanders

    “hakuna matata”

  • http://twitter.com/bdrapercomplex Carina Prynne

    Got eerily real after “Are you afraid of North Korea”?

  • Jody Fossler

    you could be a youth pastor, maybe.

  • brenda

    but tv does make me happy…

  • PERFECTCIRCLES

    I do all of those things! But I don't want to do them, so at least I have hope of attaining happiness in the future.

  • http://cmgrblog.terakristen.com/the-reason-why-everyone-should-learn-psychology/ The Reason Why Everyone Should Learn Psychology » Online Community Building Online Community Building

    […] what true happiness is. There was an article on a great website called Thought Catalog, entitled ‘How to Figure Out if You’re Happy’, and it touched on some great points. Do you have to sedate yourself in order to sleep? Do you […]

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