Happiness, Please

Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth.  We are happy when we are growing.

~John Butler Yeats, 1909

Is there a difference between pleasure and happiness?

I had never really thought much about it until today.  My husband sent me an interview by Dr. Robert Lustig, who just recently published a book on this very topic.  He is actually quite well known for his stance against sugar and processed foods (which, as a side note, is something I wholeheartedly agree with) and it seems that this is where this topic stems from.

I encourage you to watch the interview HERE.  But if you don’t have the time, let me summarize his main idea:

Pleasure is not Happiness.  In fact, pleasure is the opposite of happiness.  Pleasure can never lead to happiness.

Does this seem counter intuitive?  Well, perhaps it is… until you understand the mechanisms in the brain that control these experiences.  One experience is rooted in need and addiction; the other stems from satisfaction and contentment.  Can you guess which one is which?

I’ll keep it simple, because this idea spoke to me today on very simple terms.  Pleasure is a quick fix that leaves as quickly as it comes: it always leaves you longing for more.  Happiness, on the other hand, is a state of being and can only be realized when you stop searching for that fix.

 

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Shakespearean Comedy

“Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.”
~Charlie Chaplin

From The Old Blog, November 19, 2014

Can we define “Comedy” and “Tragedy” here?  Because based on what I remember from my Shakespeare class, a tragedy means everyone dies and a comedy means that everyone falls in love and gets married…  I don’t know how they convert.  Oh wait, except usually in those comedies there is some huge mix-up or screw up, or miscommunication that eventually gets sorted out.  Maybe that’s it…

Regardless of the definitions and whether or not you read “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at some point in your life, I think this quotation offers some hope that in the end, it will all work out one way or another.  I’d like to think that in 10 or 20 years (I will most definitely need that much time) I’ll look back on this time and laugh at how “silly” I was for making such a big deal out of everything that’s happening.  Maybe not.  Or maybe I’ll just need to add more wine to life and then it will become a comedy… or maybe a tragic comedy…?  Either way, I’m pretty sure I’m in Act III, and maybe even Act III.II of some unknown number of sub-acts.

I’m happy to say that I have emerged from the worst part of this Shakespearean Comedy that I call my life.  As I’ve seen in this little month-long exercise of going back and re-reading, re-posting, and responding to my posts from last November, I am much better off now than I was a year ago.  I feel like I can start to see the end of this chapter of my life (likely known as the medical education chapter) coming to a happy, or at least amicable, ending.  I still have a long way to go, so I’ll assume I still at the end of act III, or maybe just beginning act IV, but at least things are going in the right direction.

Happiness Is…

“Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.”

~Guillaume Apollinaire

From The Old Blog, November 9, 2014:

Happiness encompasses so many different things: It can have different meanings for different people, and we all measure our level of happiness against varying standards.  I like to think that my happiness is multifactorial and that there isn’t just one thing that ultimately defines whether or not I’m happy.  With so many different pursuits happening simultaneously, it is often difficult to know (or define) a moment when you have achieved “complete happiness” in life.

 

In last year’s blog post I wrote about a recollection of  a happy moment with a friend.  It was a moment that I had forgotten about, likely because I have tried to stop thinking about this friend.  As I read through the post and thought about how I was going to write this post, I though that there was no way that I could describe as happy of a moment that I’ve had in the last year.  I haven’t come close to making as good, meaningful friendships in this new life that I am living.  I am overworked and spread thin by my job.  And, I hardly have enough time to spend with my family.

But, then I stopped thinking about all these “big” things and thought about all the smaller moments, like the other day when I woke up post call, sat on the couch with my kids and cuddled with them to watch a movie.  I had one of them on either side of me, one arm around each of them, and their heads resting on my chest.  I was happy.  It was a relaxing, non-stressful, special, and enjoyable moment for the three of us.  In that moment, I was happy.  It’s so easy to forget about those small moments of happiness when we are always fixated on the bigger things in like that we believe are supposed to make us happy.

When I pause to think about more of those small moments of happiness, I find that they are times that are easily overlooked and sometimes missed.  Another great example is from a few months back when I got my first positive pregnancy test result: I felt a fleeting surge of excitement and there was a smile on my face that couldn’t be stolen away from me.  It only lasted for a few minutes before all my fears, anxieties, and irrational thoughts broke into my mind.  Regardless, in that moment… I was happy.

Last year’s discussion of this quotation involved an important memory of an old friend, and that memory is no longer something that makes me happy.  This year I’ve really come to realize that the little moments that cause me to pause and feel true happiness are smaller, everyday instances that mostly involve my family and kids.  Despite the differences between this year and last, the end of last year’s post still stands true:

It is those moments of real, true happiness that remind us that life is wonderful.  If we worry too much or we try to hard, it is easy to miss those little moments.  But we live for those.  We work for those.  And, those are the moments that remind us to keep moving forward.

Motivation for Positivity

“A positive attitude may not solve all of your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.”

~Herm Albright

Over the past year I have worked harder at having a positive attitude?  Maybe it’s because I was told by a certain someone that I was too negative, or maybe it’s because in January I set a goal of trying to be more gracious and positive in life.  That worked out really well for me, at least until July, when I had to close my other blog.  See I used to keep a monthly accountability log of my personal goals on my blog.  I thought about keeping that up with this new blog, but it was hard missing most of the back story.

Last year I wrote about how this quotation alluded to motiviation for positivity, and then I went off on a tangent about what motivates us to do the things we do in life.   based on this excerpt from last year’s post, it’s obvious that I am not always placing motivation in the right spot… and I questioned if that was alright:

But what about me?  What if the reason I keep going on from day to day is because I don’t want to let people down?  Or that I don’t want people to know that I quit?  Or maybe that I have too many student loans to pay off and this is the only way to do it?  What if I don’t always feel motivated by the desire to reach my goals – or that I want to finish my residency, or to become a knowledgeable, capable and compassionate physician?  I *want* all those things, I really do.  But they all just seem so far away and so out of reach.  If I just keep making it through for all these other reasons, will it matter in the end… if I get all those things I want in the long term?

This year, I feel like I am much more motivated by the things I really want (as described above) and not nearly as much as by the more superficial ideas I mentioned.  By what about my positivity?  Has my positivity influenced the way I am motivated?  Or, what motivates me to be positive.  I have to say, I don’t think I am motivated to be positive because I think it will annoy people.  I have come to learn that having a positive outlook on life and on the situations in which I find myself makes those situations (and life) seem more tolerable and worth getting through.  I need that at low times like these, otherwise I will continue on a spiralling path downwards… and I know I don’t want that.