Defined Words: anger, frustration, sadness, happiness
If you can understand something, then you can control it. Your brain is a machine that can be understood, now is your time to take control of it. Let’s start with the understanding part. You have the ability to create expectations of yourself and your surroundings. You also have the ability to take in your own physical surroundings and self and compare the two. When your expectations and your reality are compared, an emotional response will likely be triggered based on which is better.
When your expectations are greater than your reality, meaning your reality isn’t living up to what you want, you will likely experience anger or sadness depending on your prior experiences. If your expectations are less than your reality, meaning you want nothing more than what you already have, you will experience a feeling of satisfaction and happiness.
This concept can be a little tricky to understand so let’s go through some examples. Let’s say you are texting a friend and the autocorrect keeps messing up and then your phone switches apps on you. Your expectation is to type out and send the text message; your reality is that your phone isn’t letting it happen. You’ll likely feel some anger or frustration from this.
Now let’s say you get a call and you are informed that your friend has died. Whether you were currently thinking of that friend or not, you had likely created expectations of being able to hang out with that friend. Now you realize your reality can never live up to those expectations because they are gone; you feel sadness. On the other hand, if you are waiting in line at the drive thru and the voice comes on and offers you a free dessert, you will feel happiness because you are being given something beyond your original expectations.
You may think that this description is oversimplified but it is the simple truth: happiness can always be attained by adjusting your expectations. You’ll hear the same advice from religious leaders and wizened scholars: if you want nothing, you are happy with anything.
We often have incredibly high expectations because of the privileged world we’ve been born into. Add in the constant bombardment of advertising and social media and we compare ourselves to the people in commercials or on our News Feed. It is important to remember that commercials have an agenda that benefits from your envy and that everyone on social media only posts what they want others to see. You cannot compare your everyday life to someone else’s highlight reel.
With today’s technology we can easily see all of the things that others have that we don’t and we become habituated to all that we already have. Do not forget that you are alive; do not forget that you are made of atoms; do not forget all that we have been through and discovered as a species to bring us to right now. You are a human and your story stretches back farther than you can imagine. When we see that we have come from nothing, we can be happy about everything for existing at all.
You are descended from a long line of organisms that have relied on their ability to adapt and survive. Trust in yourself, trust that you can adapt to everything that’s thrown at you, and never forget where you’ve come from. Happiness comes from humility: when you see that we have come from nothing, you will be happy to take each breath.