Saturday, March 9, 2013

Carry-On Luggage

Hooked on Happiness

Sustaining Good Feelings During Our Everyday Lives


"I wanted...to pack [the good feelings] in my carry-on luggage..."
I am back from vacation and currently sitting in the Saxbys on Penn's campus. The break proved to be exactly what I needed in order to be refueled and revived. I am bursting with good feelings that are stemming from the wonderful trip that I was able to take with my Mom. As I left the Cayman Islands I found that I had gained more than just a kick ass tan. I was departing with new feelings- calm, relaxed, hopeful, contented, energized, and happy. I was enjoying these feelings so much; I was truly hooked. I wanted to be able to bottle them up (in a 3.4 oz container of course) and somehow manage to pack them in my carry-on luggage and bring them back to Philadelphia with me. Of course I knew that was an impossibility because feelings and emotions are not tangible items that we can put away and store for later.
Hooked on Happiness
But still, I am so hooked on happiness that I need to figure out a way to sustain these good feelings so that they are able to positive influence me and my everyday life. After experiencing something pleasant- vacations, a good date, receiving praise, a reunion with an old friend- we are left with good feelings and happiness. But so often we fear the end of the happy event because we are concerned that once it is over- the trips ends, you have your goodnight kiss, your friend says farewell- that good feelings will cease to exist as well. Seeking and enjoying pleasantries is important; but it is probably more important that we learn a means of sustaining the resulting good feelings. 

Not all pleasures will make us jump for joy-
"Tranquil pleasures last the longest; we are not fitted to bear the burden of great joys."

- Christian Nestell Bovee

I chose to include Bovee's quote because I feel that it provides an explanation for why these moments, which bring us such overwhelming delight, must end. We are not meant to be overjoyed in all instances of our lives. If every moment or experience was a "great joy" they would start to lost their worth and meaning. It is the fact that these "great joys" are scarce that makes them so special and pleasurable. Perhaps it is the ability to maintain the good feelings, which accompany these moments of elation that allow us to achieve the longer lasting "tranquil pleasures."The "great joys" get us hooked on happiness.
It is this love of happiness and joy that leads us to pursue means of sustaining good feelings even during the monotony of our everyday lives. Just because happy experiences or "great joys" end does not mean that the positive emotions that they induce need to be fleeting. We can manage to hold on to these feelings- contentment, peace, happiness, etc.- so that they play a role in our everyday lives and provide us with the less demanding "tranquil pleasures." Although I was unable to literally pack up my positive emotions, tucking them away in my carry-on luggage somewhere between my dirty socks and the souvenir candle I purchased for a friend, I do believe that I have managed to bring these good feelings with me back to Philadelphia and as a result am continuing to experience the "pleasure" of which Bovee speaks. 
Sustaining Good Feelings
So, the question is: How is that I managed to metaphorically pack up my intangible emotions? Truthfully, I am not sure that I can offer an honest answer to this question because bring these good feelings back with me was truly an unconscious act. All I know is that they are here with me now. But I worry that once school gets back in full swing that I will somehow lose them while walking from one class to another. 
"It was easy to...maintain my good feelings...on vacation."
It was easy to experience and maintain my good feelings while I was away on vacation. I had no obligations. My only duty was to wake up in the morning, head to the beach, soak up the sun, read for pleasure, and drink margaritas. So obviously there was no concern that my happiness would cease because there was no outside force threatening it. Now that I am home and have somehow managed to bring these pleasant feelings along with me I am terrified of losing them. 
How can I continue feeling good?
How can we manage to sustain good feelings during our everyday lives, despite the many elements that could interfere with our abilities to do so? I would like us to consider two quotes as means of grappling with this question and potentially finding an answer to it. 

"Only one thing has to change for us to know happiness in our lives: where we focus our attention."

- Greg Anderson

This quote seems fitting with respect to the way in which I have managed to sustain the good feelings I experienced during my vacation. Of course Anderson's words could accompany a plethora of themes and notions; they can be applied to other situations in which we find ourselves. However, the idea of "focus" and its connection to "happiness in our lives" struck me. This thought can be applied in two ways. First, we can utilize focus in our everyday lives, especially in a moment of sadness of anguish, by remembering the things from our previous experiences that brought us happiness. 
"...the sunshine...always [brought] a smile to my face."
For example, the sunshine and the beautiful beach in Grand Cayman filled me with joy, always bringing a smile to my face. If I can hold onto these images, and choose to focus on them in mundane or unpleasant times, then I can elicit the sense of happiness that they provided me with while I was on vacation. I may not be on the beach, soaking up the sun, but I still have the memories and distinct images of the sun and sand ingrained in my mind. I can't physically find them as walk the streets of Philadelphia, but they exist within my head. I can tap into these mental pictures, focus on them, and allow them to bring me happiness and good feelings wherever I am. The second way in which we can apply Anderson's "focus" theory actually works well in conjunction with the following quote-

"Some pursue happiness, others create it."

- Author Unknown

Anderson suggests that we redirect our "attention" in order to have "happiness in our lives." I want to assert that we "focus" on the elements of our pleasant experiences that brought about good feelings within us. I was able to find happiness in a number of sources while I was away. I found joy in being able to read for pleasure. I loved having the opportunity to spend time with my Mother without any stressors or distractions. I had fun sitting in the hotel lobby or on the beach playing endless rounds of 500 Rummy. I couldn't help but feel pleased each time I took my first sip of a frozen peach margarita. And it was nice to take the time to get dressed up and go out to dinner. 
"...endless round of 500 Rummy."
Now that I have given "focus" to, and in doing so recognized, the different things and activities that brought me happiness while I was away, I can work to recreate them in my everyday life now that I am home. I may not be able to magically create 80 degree weather and white beaches, but I definitely have the power to incorporate some of the other aspects of my vacation into my routine. 
I certainly can't recreate this-
This is where Anderson's idea of "focus" and the above quotes assertion about "creat[ing] [happiness] are able to work together. Redirecting the "focus" of my "attention" helped me to determine what is was about vacation that evoked good feelings within me. Now I am equipped to "create [happiness]" in my everyday life by integrating these practices from my vacation. 
"I can plan activities to do with my Mom..."
I can easily make time to pick up a book and read a little bit each day. I can plan activities to do with my Mom that allow us to escape the pressures of reality, even if only for a short period. And I can arrange to have nice dinners with friends and family that require us to get dolled up. It is so simple for me to recreate these elements of my vacation even though I am now back in Philadelphia; it is all about choosing to take the time and effort that's required to incorporate these little things into my everyday life. If we are able to identify actions that bring us joy and are feasible to include into our routines then we have the capability of literally creating happiness for ourselves. Just because the "great joy" has passed does not mean that you need to slip back into the frustrating monotony that defines so many of our lives. Once we become hooked on happiness we do have the power to feed our fix. 
False advertising! Happiness requires a will and a want-
We must redirect our "attention" in order to summon pleasant memories and consequently good feelings is merely one way that we can sustain good feelings. We can also make the decision to  identify and focus the elements of our pleasant experiences that brought us joy, and then proceed to actively recreate these factors, in order to achieve happiness in our everyday lives
We may not be able to pack up our good feelings, shoving them into the confines of our carry-on bags, but with the right tools, we have the power to sustain them during our everyday lives and conjure up happiness no matter where we go! It's ok to be hooked on happiness once you've discovered your capacity to achieve it everywhere and anywhere!

Let the good times roll,
xo






Lets work to sustain good feelings during our everday lives-

If You Wanna Be Happy, Jimmy Soul


We hold the key to our own happiness-


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