On Happiness

I live in America. It’s common here to think of happiness as an exuberant state when you are beaming smiles.

I’m going to argue that’s not the case. I am a woman who has been told by men to smile more because I look unhappy. In fact, I have never been happier in my life. My happiness is deep and steady. I don’t have to be giggling and showing my teeth in order to be happy. These past few years have been joyous.

Happiness is the state of being unperturbed. That is mostly within your control. It’s up to you to decide what perturbs you.

I face challenges. Just the other day, I was thinking about how to deal with a potential problem. That doesn’t make me unhappy. It’s a chance to work out rationally what I should do and see how it works.

Stoics often engage in such things. Marcus Aurelius often went over what he may do in an expected situation and wrote his thoughts in his journal. Dealing with expected challenges does not need to make you unhappy. It doesn’t need to perturb you.

In America, we have a false and shallow view of happiness. It is fleeting and dependent on external circumstances. It is smiling with your teeth showing. It is exuberant laughter. The type of happiness I experience is not so fleeting. It is steady. And I feel it even when the circumstances around me are bad. It’s my goal to stay that way and, with practice and meditation, maybe I will.

I am unperturbed. And that, I think, is the true state of happiness.

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