Friday, May 8, 2015

How To Be a Happier Individual


*This article is also published on Thought Catalog*

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be happy. What fulfills us? What is it that makes every one of us want to get out of bed in the morning? It sure as hell isn't my 11am Italian class. So what drives us? Is it our goals? Goals can range from finishing college to getting a job to beating a video game. What are we really trying to achieve? What is the goal of life?

Most of us would agree that our end goal is to be happy. But what does that mean? The first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of happiness is security: having enough money to sustain ourselves and also enjoy a pleasurable life. Having money may satisfy us for some time, but after a while, we want more, a constant influx of new goods. People enter mid-life crises and their lives begin to lose meaning. If we do not have a purpose for living, then what is the point of our existence?

I recently wrote an essay on why individuals would be more free living in Thomas More's regulated Utopia than they would be in a capitalist society. Is our happiness and freedom truly determined by meaningless products such as the types of cars we purchase, or is our freedom determined by something more? Utopians believe that money is meaningless and wealth is an illusory pleasure. People in a capitalistic society trick themselves into thinking that the ability the buy luxurious goods gives them the freedom to choose; however, there is such thing as too much choice. When people are faced with too many choices, they often become indecisive and make the wrong decisions. Unable to choose, people will begin to question who they are and what they actually want. For Utopians—who live a simplistic lifestyle like wearing the same clothes every day—choice is not a problem. With limited options, Utopians always make the right decisions, as they know exactly who they are and what they want. Utopians believe that there is more freedom in knowing oneself and one’s life purpose over materialistic freedom.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that yes, of course money is important in our society if we want to sustain ourselves. However, money does not fulfill us; money does not make us happy. Too many college students focus on majoring in undergraduate degrees that will help them "make money". Then what? We use money to purchase cars, clothes and iPhones, but aren't these items just substitutes for what we really want? Otherwise, we wouldn't continue to buy more cars, clothes and new iPhones every time Apple releases a new smartphone. Material goods do not give our lives meaning. Our beliefs and ideals however, last until we die.

Knowing what is right for yourself is important so that you are not lost, wandering the world in confusion. Our values and morals exist to give us a direction and also some meaning to our finite lives. These beliefs and ideals are what make us individuals and what make us human.

Knowing who we are and what we believe in is the truest form of happiness.

Now, here is a list of ways to help you live a happier life: 

1. Be thankful
There are so many things to be thankful for. Thank mother nature for providing such a beautiful earth for us to live in. Thank your friends for supporting you and being at your side. Give back to the community by volunteering or offering help. Thank your parents for bringing you into this world. Thank a random stranger on the street. Thank your bed for being there when you need to watch Netflix. Do not take anything for granted.

2. Continue to learn
Cultivate your mind by reading about things that interest you, listening to good music, learning a new language. Make an effort to be more aware and never lose the ability to be curious.

3. Travel and explore new places
There is a whole world out there to be explored. Study abroad, try new foods and live in a different culture. Traveling opens your eyes to new experiences and opportunities. Expand your worldly knowledge and become a more well-rounded person by meeting new people and creating meaningful relationships. Traveling also helps you develop skills that you didn't know you had as well as gives you a new perspective on the world in general.

4. Do something you love
If you like to play video games, continue to play video games. If you like to dance, don't stop dancing. You've been told time and again that you need to find a practical job regardless of whether or not you love your job. If money = happiness, then why are so many successful people unhappy? Just take a deep breath and allow yourself the time to form hobbies and work on something you are passionate about.

5. Treat yourself the way you deserve to be treated
Everyone deserves to be happy. Embrace your personality and your habits. If you are comfortable in your own skin, your confidence will reflect on others as well. Build a healthy relationship with yourself before trying to please anyone else. You are important.

6. Be introspective
Like I said above, knowing who you are and what you believe in is the truest form of happiness. If you don't know what you want, how are you going to live a fulfilled life? Constantly strive to become the best person you can be by questioning and improving yourself. Give your life meaning.