For most of us, we all crave happiness. In fact, some of us want it more than anything else in the world. So, how can something that everyone so deeply desires to obtain be so difficult to acquire? The elusiveness of happiness causes people to do all sorts of irrational things which only lengthens the distance between them and the equanimous state of mind they so deeply crave to dwell in.
Countless self-help books and motivational speakers do their best to sell you the false promise that your life’s woes are all due to your negative thoughts and nothing more. The odious ramblings of such ignorant charlatans should be mocked into obscurity. The product they are selling is not one that should be desperately sought after, but one that should simply be experienced when it’s time to experience it.
Happiness is a virtue we all desire, yet no one knows how to maintain it once we’ve acquired it. This is because it cannot be maintained, at least not for very long. Just as quickly as your happiness illuminates out of the ether, it will dissipate just as abruptly and just as unpredictably.
Once we realize that happiness is just an emotion – like fear, shame, and anger – the sooner we will realize that shallow attempts to thwart the disintegration of our happiness is completely futile. Sure, we can try to prolong our happiness as best we can by means of purchasing expensive objects, desperately clinging to relationships we know deep down are toxic, or by abusing drugs like ecstasy or heroin. However, such endeavors come with a heavy price. Paradoxically, it is not healthy to always be happy.
There are moments in life where happiness would not only be glaringly inappropriate but also very odd, such as while attending the funeral of a loved one, after hearing that you have an incurable disease, being sent to prison for a crime you didn’t commit, being robbed, being cheated on, and so on and so forth. In many situations, experiencing happiness makes no sense and can actually be a very harmful emotion.
The moment we realize emotions are nothing more than transitory experiences which by their very nature cannot be permanently maintained under any normal circumstances, then the sooner you will be able to accept that the emotion of happiness can therefore never be maintained either. And that is ok. This is not a depressing revelation. In fact, it should be the antithesis of that.
When we realize that our emotions are not permanent, that they will typically only last for a few moments or for a few hours at best, then the better adept we will be at coping with the more painful emotions which are commonplace in the human experience, such as shame, guilt, and jealousy. It is a powerful perspective to have knowing that these painful emotions are just momentary, that they will dissipate just as quickly as they assembled into your mind.
Even as I pondered this fact a couple days ago (before writing this article) while experiencing a rush of happiness – knowing that the intense joy with which I was feeling at that very moment would not last very long – it made the euphoric feelings I had that much more special, meaningful, and significant.
We should realize: Loneliness is only momentary. Fear is only momentary. Anger is only momentary. Sadness is only momentary. Shame is only momentary. Jealousy is only momentary. Boredom is only momentary. Envy is only momentary. Guilt is only momentary. And happiness is only momentary.
Let this perspective fill you with contentment and equanimity. The next time you feel an influx of unwanted emotions, remember that it’s just momentary. Conversely, when you are experiencing uplifting happiness, take a moment to appreciate the sensations that are associated with it as it will surely be gone before you know it, only to arise once again when you least expect it.