November 18, 2012

MUSE: How to Be Less Miserable

We all want to be happy, without truly understanding how or why it occurs. Some of us can't even answer the question "Are you happy?" without wanting to define it. Happy how? Happy right now? Happy in life in general? What do you mean by happiness? Isn't happiness a choice? An emotion? A state of mind? Like love, it's an endless discussion, a grey zone. Like love, it's a simple truth which confounds us.

Here's the simple truth, which makes so many people groan and roll their eyes. (You see how we resist?) You are happy when you are helping others. You are miserable when you are only helping yourself. That's wasn't so hard, was it? Eleanor Roosevelt, at the age of 76 in her published guide to life, said it better:
Someone once asked me what I regarded as the three most important requirements for happiness. My answer was: 'A feeling that you have been honest with yourself and those around you; a feeling that you have done the best you could, both in your personal life and in your work; and the ability to love others.' 
But there is another basic requirement, and I can't understand now how I forgot it at the time: that is the feeling that you are, in some way, useful. Usefulness, whatever form it may take, is the price we should pay for the air we breathe and the food we eat and the privilege of being alive. And it is its own reward, as well, for it is the beginning of happiness, just as self-pity and withdrawal from the battle are the beginning of misery. 
It is easy to slip into self-absorption and it is equally fatal. When one becomes absorbed in himself, in his health, in his personal problems, or in the small details of daily living, he is, at the same time losing interest in other people; worse, he is losing his ties to life. From that it is an easy step to losing interest in the world and in life itself. That is the beginning of death.

1 comment:

  1. Have I ever changed my opinions. I used to believe like this, but not anymore. After years of living like this, I've adopted selfishness as the way to go. The armchair philosophy of Eleanor Roosevelt does not work for me. It never did, although I used to believe it. But no more. I take the golden rule, or biblical stance, to love others as you love yourself. Now I'm loving myself. And I find it more practical. Hey, I can love others now -- without the guilt.

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