Not that I’m one of those science types who study happiness like they’re dissecting baby toads, which really does happen. No, I’m the sort of expert who has spent a great amount of life unhappy, wondering why that is, and ultimately stumbling on a couple solutions to the age old dilemma. It starts with identifying two big things you’ve been telling yourself. Because I’m an expert, I can tell you that you’ve experienced at least both of these sentiments over the course of your life. Let’s start with the most obvious one:
I’m too poor.
Yes, you’re so poor, you poor bastard. You don’t have two pennies to rub together, do you? Not to trivialize your pain but none of us in Canada even have pennies to rub anywhere anymore. We’re totally sick of pennies. Anyway, you’re poor and you have this thought in your head that only if you had another X amount of dollars you’d be able to buy the things that make life simple enough to enjoy. If you could afford that new television or that new vibrator you’d be able to kick back, relax, and let your problems massage themselves away.
Lather, rinse, repeat, right?
Call me crazy but this happens to be exactly what money does to people when they’re not careful. We condition ourselves into thinking that every time we spend money on something we want, we gain it’s attributes. Want to be sporty? Buy a sports jersey. Want to be creative? Buy a box of crayons. Sassy? Clearly that new pair of boots will accentuate the right curves.
Hollywood makes money look like it solves everything, but the truth is it doesn’t. You know this, your mother told you this before.
So why don’t you act like it?
Mother Teresa established an order of Missionaries whose sole purpose on this earth is to serve God by administering to the sick and the poorest of the poor. It should be noted that they themselves are very poor. Here’s the thing though, I once had the immense pleasure of meeting several of the Nuns who belong to the order at an airport and I noticed something.
They are all ridiculously happy.
There are plenty of testimonies out there to confirm this (just Google that shiz-nit), but to summarize them for your convenience: their pores secrete joy like Nathan Fillion secretes funny things to say. Want to know why they’re so happy? Probably because they never say:
I’m the most important thing in the world.
This might sound a little counter intuitive, but worrying about whether or not you are happy all the time kind of, sort of, may indicate that you are a narcissistic prig. “But Spencer,” I hear a few of you saying, “depression is a serious thing and you shouldn’t downplay it. Depressed people have a hard enough time as it is without being called narcissists.”
… Let me explain.
I know this isn’t your common wisdom, even professional sites like Helpguide think you should “List what you like about yourself,” but I’m here to humbly tell you to pull your head out of your ass. Depressed people can’t list things they like about themselves because they don’t even like themselves.
The Missionaries of Charity are so full of joy despite their undersized wallets because they are part of something bigger than themselves and they know it. There is a mystery in the riddle of understanding our place in the world, but it isn’t revealed through self-analysis. It’s something that comes only in relation to others, only through the mirror of human connection. One of the best helps for depression is the act of volunteering or helping someone who doesn’t have the power to help themselves, regardless of whether or not you think you have the guts/strength/time or whatever to do it.
Because it gets you out of your own self-obsessed pattern of thinking. It puts your mind to a bigger picture where you are a cog in an elegant machine, where you depend on your neighbor and they depend on you. Even Helpguide agrees with me on this one, though not in so many thought out words.
You should probably keep in mind that feeling better takes time. Like I said, happiness is a gift, and gifts cannot be rushed because they turns into a service. Put in a different way: happiness comes to those whose first desire is not to acquire it as one acquires a bottle of Prozac.