Whilst in London I took note that there were very few happy faces. I mean there are thousands of people in London but this appears to make it feel much more lonely. Happiness is an important part of life, well, it is to me and it was a real eye opener to see all of these people in such an amazing place seem so miserable. After returning to Sheffield I began to think about my values and interests but the importance of being happy stood out to me the most. I am interested in how everyday life and the environment can effect a persons mood. I intend to use this insight as my project focus.
What is Happiness? I am sure that not everyone will agree with these terms but it’s a start. Happiness is the mental state of well-being characterised by pleasant or positive emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.
Today I am reading, ‘Flow, The Psychology of Happiness’ by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi to begin to understand what makes people happy. It states that ‘happiness in fact, is a condition that must be prepared for, cultivated and defended privately by each person’, meaning that a person who can control their inner experience will be able to ‘determine their quality of life’ which according to this book is the closest a person can get to being happy.
The book then begins to describe optimal experience, from my understanding (so far) this is taking enjoyment from any situation and making the most of the opportunity given. The book gives a number of descriptions about optimal experience, one being ‘people who have survived concentration camps… often recall that in the midst of their ordeal they experienced extraordinarily rich epiphanies in response to such simple events as hearing the song of a bird in the forest, completing a hard task, or sharing a crust of bread with a friend’.
Optimal experience is something that has been worked hard for, in turn making the experience much more enjoyable and rememberable. These moments often occur when a person has been pushed mentally and physically to its limits. ‘Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen’.
All of humanity have goals, whether it be to raise healthy children or own a sports car, everyone wants something, the only problem with this is that once a goal is met (making the person happy), they then decide on something else they want to achieve, finding themselves back at ‘square one’. Small things like a new car are partial solutions that in turn will not make someone entirely happy, it is a quick fix. Optimal experience is the ability to control what happens moment by moment, ‘each person has to achieve it on the basis of his own individual efforts and creativity’.
I understand that I cannot exactly make people feel happiness but I CAN brighten up someones day. Everyday ‘chores’ such as going to work can be made better. The London trip for example opened my eyes greatly, as a tourist I enjoy taking in the culture, the architecture and even the tube, but it seems that people who are there everyday take the fact that they are in one of the greatest places on earth for granted. I want people to enjoy where they are and what they are doing, I mean people spend thousands on visiting places every year but the residents don’t appreciate what they have. I want to find a way to make people enjoy where they are. I am going to continue my research on happiness to see whether I can gain insights into what I could do.
I have a number of books thats I intend to look at as well as ‘Flow’.
- ‘Joy, Expanding Human Awareness’, William C. Schutz
- ‘The Art of Happiness, A Handbook For Living’, HH Daliai Lama & Howard C. Cutler
Stefan Sagmeister – The Happy Show