The Collegian
Tuesday, June 02, 2020

How to find happiness

As of late, the opinion section of The Collegian just hasn't been doing it for me. Most of the articles are pretty negative, dealing with who should do what and why life is miserable in some way. So I got to thinking that maybe the campus's collective toolkit for making happiness is short a few items. But then, I realized that's garbage, because everyone has the tools to be happy. Maybe what we're lacking is the know-how to use them. So I figured I would write up a primer on my understanding of the use of these tools.

1. Make happiness come to you. Contrary to what I learned on TV, happiness doesn't have to come in huge packages. While events such as winning $100, finding a great date or acing a final are definitely things to enjoy, just about everything else can bring you happiness, too. No matter how small or insignificant. Next time you roll out of bed (or simply get up, if you're more graceful than I am), savor the experience. The feeling of the rug on your bare feet, the cool air on your face, the fact that your body functions so marvelously and everything else that might happen are all potential sources of happiness, if you choose to acknowledge them. If you choose to find happiness in the little things, you eliminate all of the downtime between the big packages.

2. Be the willow and the oak. Other people can be a great source of happiness and angst. Learning how to make your interactions with people be a source of happiness is a potent tool for a happy life. The trick is knowing which situations you can bend toward your goals and which situations you can't actively shape. Take deciding where to go eat with your friends. This is the perfect opportunity to be the oak and push for going to your favorite restaurant. So you argue for your restaurant. But then everyone else decides that they want to go to some other restaurant instead. Now the situation has become something you can't change, and you have to be the willow and bend. You probably decide to go along with your friends and have fun at the other restaurant even though it's not what you wanted. The important thing about the willow and the oak is that they are both strong ways to be. Being the oak and getting your way can be fun, but being the willow lets you roll with change to have a ton of fun doing whatever. The strongest oak breaks in the storm, while the willow only loses a few branches. At the same time, the willow blows in every breeze while the oak can resist it. Learning to employ both mindsets is a great tool for being happy.

3. Know there are many paths. Just as each person's genetics are unique, so are their outlooks and views on life. This means that they will pursue their own goals, act their own way and sometimes get in your way. This can be confusing and annoying, often causing your happiness to be perturbed. You can avoid this merely by accepting that another person's view of reality may be radically different from your own. Easier said than done, but once you can do this, you have a great base to make some more happiness of your own. That frat guy might be an avid listener of trance music, or that B-school girl might be just as manic a Stephen King devotee, and if you accept that other things about them may be wildly different, you can find happiness in the parts of your paths that are the same. (And the ones that are different, but that's lesson 102).

Life is what you make of it. It can be fantastic and thrilling or dull and miserable, all depending on how much happiness you find along the way. Learning to employ these basic mindsets will hopefully push your life a little further toward the happy end of that scale.

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