Friday, February 25, 2011

Happiness: More Than Just A Feeling

For a long time, I was used to the idea of happiness coming and going, being dependent on my circumstances and emotional state. Then at one point in college (sometime in the first two years), I realized that the current bout of happiness I was on was lasting longer than normal, and was pleasantly puzzled. I wasn't sure what had made the difference.

     [The funny thing is that months later, when I was thinking about it, I tried to remember that time I was so happy. And I couldn't figure it out... My first semester was kinda stressful with making new friends, during my second semester I had a complicated situation with a boy I was falling in love with, that first summer was stressful with few friends remaining in the city... I couldn't figure out when that happiness was based on the events in my life at the time.]

I have a couple theories to account for the lasting happiness I felt. For one, life brings sorrow in one hand and joy in the other - they come together, and as you get older, you develop an increased capacity for both through experience. Coming to college opened up lots of opportunities for me to grow: I had newfound fears and sadness, and I had greater feelings of belonging and love. The other theory is that I was starting to learn that happiness is a way of life, not just a passing emotion. Because of that, I know I can be happy ALL THE TIME, not just in rosy situations. 

So what makes this way of life? And how do I make it an essential part of who I am? I've felt resurgences of this satisfaction and simply being a happy person occasionally, and I'm trying to pay attention to what sets those periods apart. I think that WORK and FAITH are the two basics that it comes down to. 

    - On the days that I skip/miss class, I get behind in the work (leading to feelings of inadequacy) and feel like a human vegetable (lacking depth or purpose). Both of the resulting feelings are very discouraging and contribute to a downward spiral of lacking self-worth, which leads to other destructive habits and mindsets. When I work - putting my mind to a task and accomplishing it - I feel like I'm being productive and making a small difference in the world. I feel my self-worth and confidence increase, and I'm motivated to go out and do more. 

     - Spiritually, I can go two directions: I can be fearful, worrisome, obsessive, and a control freak, or I can be faithful, trusting, confident, and meek. When I choose to let go of my worries, and trust that Heavenly Father knows better than I do, I feel much more at peace, and I can move on with my life with the confidence that as I listen to the Holy Ghost, everything will be alright! It's really a liberating feeling. It's really difficult to be happy if you're preoccupied with worries and fears, so exercising faith by giving those to Christ increases my capacity for happiness. 

When I work hard and have faith in Jesus Christ, that gives me a solid foundation. I become more worthy to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost, which gives me good feelings and leads me to do more good things. God wants all of His children to be happy, now as well as in eternity. The things that He asks us to do are the things that will help us to be happy, so why not listen? :) God is on our side! I testify that being obedient to God is the only way to be happy, and that when we truly humble ourselves before Him, He will raise us up. These are principles that will enable us to be happy all the time, inasmuch as we live them.

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