After the Covid-19 pandemic, mental health problems have evidently soared. The world has been witnessing higher levels of stress, anxiety, and a ton of other negative emotions that all convey the same gist: People today are unhappier than ever.
Now, if I were to ask you about what makes you happy, or what you’d rather being doing right now, this is probably what would come to your mind: Curling up in front of the TV, preferably in pyjamas, while you gouge on outrageous amounts of chocolate.
If you’re an extrovert, then your ideal response would be to catch up with friends in a cafe, and then gouge on outrageous amounts of chocolate.
More or less, people try to seek happiness in the same forms: comfort, entertainment, and food, since our brain likes the little reminders that it’s not starving. These examples quite clearly explain what our definition of ‘happiness’ has turned into: The sweet acts of doing nothing.
These moments of supposed relaxation are why we look forward to weekends. They are what helps us endure the Monday blues and the Tuesday greys, what we dream of when work piles upon our shoulders.
Unfortunately though, these moments of doing “nothing” create a false sense of happiness, since our mind is already so excited about not having to finish 50 assignments in a day. But has the modern lifestyle really diminished our happiness levels to such an extent that we resort to such lowly and passive forms of rejuvenation?
Even if you’re a part of the rare breed who doesn’t fantasise about practising paraplegia on a couch as people fight on TV, there’s a high chance that you’re running behind either of these things: Exceptional grades, a high paying job, a bigger house, etcetera etcetera…
Now I’m definitely not the first person to discover that material possessions don’t really perk up happiness levels. In reality, people begin to neglect them after a point of time, and their happiness is back to square one. But recent studies also revealed that achievements like good grades or an increased salary don’t boost happiness either.
This is because of the annoying fact that our minds don’t think in absolutes. People who achieve exceptional grades can attest to this fact. No matter how thorough and confident you are, there is always going to be someone who’s better than you, someone who reminds you of your own inferior abilities.
An interesting example to explain this observation would be a study which proved that bronze medal winners tend to be happier than silver medal winners. This is because the reference point for a silver medal winner is a gold medal, which would have naturally made him happier. The bronze medal winner, however, is quite satisfied, since his reference point is no medal at all.
My point here is: happiness is an internal state and not an external one.
A research proved that only 10% of our happiness depends on our external circumstances, while 40% of it is in our hands, and the rest of it is genetic. There are tons and tons (and tons) of articles that discuss about how to take control of this priceless 40%, but the most effective way is to constantly be in a state of flow.
Colloquially, the ‘flow’ can be described as a state of mind where you’re absolutely absorbed in your task at hand. If you’re an artist or a writer, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
It’s the feeling where the external world fades into oblivion, where time is irrelevant and where distractions don’t persist. This phenomenon, however, isn’t only limited to artists. Athletes, mathematicians, dancers, or in fact anyone, can transcend into a state of flow.
Being in a state of flow has myriads of benefits that I can’t even begin to describe. It increases productivity and concentration, it boosts enjoyment levels, elevates your mood, builds up engagement and… do I need to go on?
The secret to being in the ‘flow’ is to find the right kind of task. One that’s not too challenging that it gives birth to anxiety, and one that’s not too easy that it leads to boredom. It’s somewhere in the middle that we tend to find ourselves the happiest, and I can definitely vouch for this: It’s the best feeling in the world.
Sadly, this is an element that has been dwindling away from our lives. Students and adults alike have forgotten what it means to do something just for the sake of it. Not doing it because it’ll reflect on your resume or impact your grades in the next test, but doing it because it challenges you. Doing it because it makes you feel alive.
If we take a step back and reflect on our lifestyle, it’ll be no surprise why our country ranks 136th on the world happiness index. Most our time goes on social media, which is not only fostering a social media addiction, but is also incredibly low on skill and stimulation.
There are many articles that delve into the “how” of achieving this state, which I’ll link below. Although, keeping my dislike for social media aside, I think it’s safe to say that mobile phones are one of the biggest culprits for disturbing our state of flow. Meditation is one practice that can help you practice living in the moment and make it easier to be in the flow.
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