In the Pursuit of Happiness

Let's jump back over a year ago, to May of 2015.  I had graduated from university with Honours in Political Sciences.  I had gone on a two week vacation to Laos and Thailand, two of the best weeks of my life that had followed four of the best years of my life.  I was in a good place.  I was in an amazing place, the world was my oyster.  And that oyster certainly was not ready for me. 

I spent the next four months unemployed.  I adopted applying for jobs as a full-time job, and was disappointed time and time again. I formed a routine that repeated day after day: I would wake up whenever I wanted, had a coffee, sat down to watch CNN and open up my laptop to look for jobs.  I became one with CNN, basically a news anchor myself.  Then I would spend some time gaming, followed by cooking dinner for the household.  Rinse and repeat, day after day. 

This is not a blog about that routine, nor the state of mind that I adopted during those four months; that will be a blog for another day.  I should consider myself relatively lucky, many recent graduates go more than a year without a job.  But this is not a blog about unemployment rates or the economy either.  That would take multiple blogs. 

This is a blog about happiness. 

The part of that routine that I want to focus on is watching CNN almost religiously.  It got to the point where my partner and her family would – and still – make jokes about how I would always put it on.  The thing is, for a few months now at least, I haven't turned CNN on at all.  In fact, I usually ignore most news outlets.  The only news I will look at are articles shared by those I follow on Twitter, or the curated selection I have chosen on my Google News feed.  On top of that, it has been nearly a year since I have logged into my Facebook account. 

But I am not just here to list off miscellaneous things that I have stopped viewing.  Like I said, this blog is about happiness.  I thought that going on Facebook and keeping up with my friends and acquaintances would make me happy.  I thought that letting CNN imprint itself into my brain and knowing exactly what was going on (although the bias of mainstream media did not escape me, even then) would make me happy, too.  And then I decided to stop. 

I had grown sick of hearing of the atrocities going on throughout the world every single day.  I became weary of the xenophobic, ignorant, disgusting things that somehow managed to worm their way onto my Facebook feed, no matter who I blocked or removed.  It was like a non-stop assault on my mind, wicked talons trying to drag me down into the muck. 

I believe that the negativity that resulted fueled some of the worst parts of those four months and I knew I had to make a change.  And so I did, and it is one of the greatest changes I have ever made. 

I am not going to berate you with statistics about the effects of being happier.  If you want, you can Google the many studies done about it.  I can tell you that, to me, the change was immediate and it has been lasting.  The power of having a smile on your face, or of having negative thoughts almost non-existent in your mind, has been tangible for me.  Productivity increases, I want to get out more, what I do is done better.  People around you become happier because it is contagious, people you don't know want to get to know you because you exude joy like a cologne. 

The thing is, happiness is not a random occurrence.  Happiness is not someone that comes and knocks on your door, it is not dependent on the wind or the temperature of the day.  For most of us, happiness is a choice or the result of our choices.  You can choose to get rid of things that take away from your happiness, filter out that which upsets you and only let what you want through the net.  You are in complete control. 

Now, I am not being insensitive to those suffering from depression.  I have had friends suffering from the condition and have seen firsthand – to the absolute worst outcome – the effects of depression.  And I am not one who can tell you how to treat depression.  But I genuinely believe that the steps towards happiness are the same no matter where you are right now. 

You have to choose to be happy.  Get rid of what makes you unhappy and choose to surround yourself with what makes you feel better.  Life is too short to be bombarded by hate and fear.  Take that first step.  It is not the roadmap to happiness, but it is a start.  You have the destination and the first step.  The rest is for you to figure out and tell the world about.