Maintaining happiness/contentedness despite adversity

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slsdly
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Maintaining happiness/contentedness despite adversity

Post by slsdly »

Everyone I speak to tells me what a shit year 2020 has been. I suppose for myself, my partner and I broke up, I was very sick for a few weeks (not with COVID), my employer has had multiple layoff rounds (also not COVID), not to mention the pandemic itself. But I still think back fondly on the year.

For example, I made better connections with friends who moved away, playing video games online with them (they tell me it has made a huge difference in their own lives this year, which was a nice bonus beyond the entertainment value). I grew many kinds of edible plants, and successfully harvested some of them. I cooked new recipes, read more books, found ways to do hobbies I would have done outside the city inside it, talked to my family more, started new craft projects, programming projects, and such. There is a long laundry list. The details don't really matter as much as I don't feel any less happy because of the restrictions brought on by the pandemic.

Barring extenuating circumstances surrounding one's health, finances and such, it strikes me that one should aspire to be resilient when it comes to maintaining one's happiness. "I can't be happy if I don't get to do X" veins of thought are not particularly useful. I tend to ask myself questions such as "If I can't do X, what can I do instead?" and find an alternative. Not just in 2020 but for the last many years. Sometimes I end up enjoying the new activity more than the original.

At other levels, some seem unhappy because of the direction they feel the world is taking. Whether it be belief in government incompetence, maliciousness, excuse to remove freedoms, etc. I'm less interested in debating the merits of those, and more so about well, what do you intend to do besides complain? Why work yourself up about it? My philosophy has become roughly "If I'm not going to actually do something about X besides complain, then I'm just going to learn to accept it, do my best to act in a way consistent with what I want to see and otherwise move on."

Even the bad things that have happened in my life have always resulted in reflection. That reflection has resulted in a change in attitude or direction. So despite being bad, it often caused a net good in my life. I think that's a big part of why I feel like has just been getting better and better as I've gotten older, as even "bad" years set me up for having better future years. That's not to say that everyone else in my life is happy with the direction I've taken :lol:.

Have you struggled with adjusting your expectations? Why do you think that is? Or, are you like me, and feel 2020 wasn't that bad, and maybe share the process that brought you there?

sidra1968
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Re: Maintaining happiness/contentedness despite adversity

Post by sidra1968 »

I must say, I have also reacted like you. I am somewhat of a "stoic" in my way of thinking/living, which I suppose helped..and am just a very happy person naturally. Thank goodness for that!

I assume 99% of us on here never go out to eat anyway, so that didn't change my life like I think it "ruined" for the other 99% of people..most people I meet live for that pretty much. If it wasn't for the masks, I wouldn't even know anything was going on, really. Don't watch tv (I'm a reader), so not affected by that either.

I will very much admit though, that being 52 and not 32 is probably the main reason. I feel very sorry for the younger ones who are missing out on milestones, parties, going out..well, all of it. No amount of $$ can buy back being 20, and for them I truly do feel terribly.

sky
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Re: Maintaining happiness/contentedness despite adversity

Post by sky »

2020 was a very good year for me. There were some concerns and some annoyances, to be sure, but my personal life was very pleasant. I hope that those who did not have such a pleasant experience in 2020 forgive me, but I think 2020 was an excellent year.

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unemployable
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Re: Maintaining happiness/contentedness despite adversity

Post by unemployable »

I quit my last office job, and moved out of the big city, 10 years ago.

What little work I have done since then was gig work and 100% remote.

I've been trying to get further and further away from other people basically since the age of 18. The more people I deal with the less I like people. Corona accelerated this trend.

I lived out of my car this summer, hiking a bunch of mountains and visiting a bunch of places that have long been on my bucket list, while subletting my permanent residence at a profit.

I had to make an unplanned significant purchase (car), but it turned out to cost me about an ordinary good day in the stock market.

Financially I had a tremendously good November and early December, although the wait was arduous. If nothing crazy happens my net worth will have increased 8-10% this year to all-time highs.

So not perfect, not among my best ever, but I've done worse in more favorable environments. I was prepared, and will be.

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Lemur
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Re: Maintaining happiness/contentedness despite adversity

Post by Lemur »

I did well financially. Had my best YTD returns ever.
Mentally not great. I was too far deep into the election year politics.

Overall happiness is stable though. I can't say I deal with any real adversity having more than 14x yearly expenses between investments/savings. I also maintained employment from home in 2020 and LOVED not having a commute. Lost 20 pounds and managed to only gain back 5 the past two months.

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Re: Maintaining happiness/contentedness despite adversity

Post by jacob »

Bertrand Russell said something---I may be paraphrasing or adding way too much as I've been ruminating on this for a while---that the key to happiness as one gets older is to focus less on the affairs of humans and turn one's interests towards things that are less "human related". Essentially to disassociate oneself from "the affairs of humans". I can't find the quote.

I remember specifically that one of the reasons I originally got into academic physics, specifically "basic/fundamental research" was so I wouldn't be limited to whatever my employer found profitable. I suppose the analogy would be a pharmacist who wants to find a vaccination for the common cold rather than hair loss. However, one of the reasons I got out of academic physics and wrote ERE was that I wanted to do things that was interesting to more than five people in the world. These are not necessarily mutually exclusive goals. It is on the other hand non-trivial to find the overlap.

I keep returning to Leopold's quote which I've also been ruminating on for a while
Aldo Leopold wrote: One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.
Insofar one remains interested in anything involving humans, Leopold+Russell suggests being more and more of a scientist and less and less of a doctor as one ages.

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Re: Maintaining happiness/contentedness despite adversity

Post by Alphaville »

jacob wrote:
Sat Jan 02, 2021 10:06 am
Essentially to disassociate oneself from "the affairs of humans". I can't find the quote.
that was a frequent theme with him i think. i remember reading something by him long ago--a book introduction, something--where he says that scientists were happier than artists because scientists dealt with the impersonal whereas artists were always steeped in their personal dramas.

that might have been more of a wish than anything though because as i recall he was always embroiled in messy adulterous affairs and domestic nightmares.

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Sclass
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Re: Maintaining happiness/contentedness despite adversity

Post by Sclass »

Somehow “maintaining happiness” stuck a chord with me.

It’s funny when I take a high up view of my life so far I’ve had a lot of depressing times punctuated by brief moments of extreme joy. If I filter it I feel I’ve maintained a baseline level of happiness for decades. But when I zoom in on some of the struggles it is quite scary to admit that life was quite miserable during multiple periods.

It’s like looking at a photo with one of those fun image filters and just flipping the same image through different filters observing different effects. Or like Covid surges using N-day windowing averages.

What I’m getting at is what I considered miserable, happy, baseline etc. has a lot to do with the filtering/fidelity of the playback device.

Funny thing, my ER has allowed me to control the influence of the outside world on me a lot more tightly. Like having a physical filter on my immediate world that allows me to have less filtering on my sensors and processing centers. Kind of like choosing a road with less potholes over buying a car with a heavily damped suspension, soft seats and lots of sound deadening materials under the carpets.

The funny thing is I feel numb these days like I screwed up and created this sensory deprivation chamber in response to my aversion to bumps and shakes.

I kind of long for the miserable struggles of my youth but then again it may be the way I replay it through my vintage playback device.

Just my random thoughts about how we perceive/sense happiness and how we remember it. I’ve passed a lot of the pandemic watching Disney+ movies and repeatably observe their formula of happy, sad, stressful then happy Disney resolution in their movies. Happy all the time seems boring. Sad endings suck but are memorable but leave bad memories. Maybe we need a mix of up and down and in the absence of fluctuations we have to inject just the right amount in our playback filters to stay sane.

the_platypus
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Re: Maintaining happiness/contentedness despite adversity

Post by the_platypus »

2020 was not much of a change for me; a lot of my hobbies are either outdoors or relatively independent. But this was a good year in many ways. Working remotely really opened my eyes to the servitude of regular, office/desk bound work.

The trick to happiness/contentedness seems pretty simple, but hard to implement (because it must be deeply learned as a habit). In my experience, it's some combination of gratitude, generosity, good relationships, autonomy, good health, reasonable/achievable expectations....as for when circumstances make those qualities less attainable, it's about letting go of control, forgiving ourselves, not taking ourselves/others/life too seriously, having a good sense of humor, and ultimately accepting with equanimity the slow march towards aging, sickness, and death.

I did more meditating in 2020 than previous years. I think I got rid of a lot of expectations that generated suffering. I think that ego is a byproduct of our culture/my upbringing. It's a culture of putting yourself before others and that selfishness, writ large, creates a lot of fear, resentment, depression, etc. I think the most contented times I've had were moments where the "I" centered thinking stopped or faded considerably. I think true freedom is letting go of control and reaching out to the experience of the world around you. It's a hard state of mind for me to be in, but I am learning how to do it more, and it feels good.

I think a big skill of meditation/prayer and one which is very useful for situations of isolation/stress is essentially self-soothing. I think, this year, I learned better how to say to myself, "I am okay." To feel genuinely that I am good, life is good, not only do I have enough, but I have more than enough. To wish upon all beings goodwill, happiness, etc. I think that's what I got out of 2020. I don't really have a survival strategy or a SHTF plan, because there is no survival strategy proven to work longer than ~ 100 years. So my strategy is just to make whatever time I have the most enjoyable as it can be. So far, I am improving at this.
Last edited by the_platypus on Wed Jan 06, 2021 11:04 am, edited 2 times in total.

J_
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Re: Maintaining happiness/contentedness despite adversity

Post by J_ »

@platypus +1

except:
the_platypus wrote:
Wed Jan 06, 2021 12:36 am
..and ultimately accepting with equanimity the slow march towards aging, sickness, and death.
Is it a slow march to aging? Is sickness unavoidable? Yes death is unavoidable.

I am aging and accepting that is wise.

But to me age (73 now) is not a problem towards I am marching. It is more an feeling of richness and freedom, of having overcome much of what was, once upon a time, a struggle.

And sickness is also not a march which you have to walk, just by staying alive. As a lot of us study how to become free of the daily burden to earn money, avoiding sickness is, to a certain point, a reachable goal by studying health and applying such knowledge to oneself. It is one of the mayor ere-disciplines.

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Re: Maintaining happiness/contentedness despite adversity

Post by ducknald_don »

J_ wrote:
Wed Jan 06, 2021 5:14 am
And sickness is also not a march which you have to walk, just by staying alive. As a lot of us study how to become free of the daily burden to earn money, avoiding sickness is, to a certain point, a reachable goal by studying health and applying such knowledge to oneself. It is one of the mayor ere-disciplines.
That only goes so far, I've known quite a few people who suffered in old age despite having an active life and good diet. Do what you can but sometimes you have to accept that a lot of life is down to luck.

Myakka
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Re: Maintaining happiness/contentedness despite adversity

Post by Myakka »

To echo and enlarge (a bit) on what the_platypus has said, after many years of inner torment, I have found the keys to inner peace to be: 1) not to judge other people harshly. That is particularly tough to do with some politicians, but it is an improvement to choose to feel sad for them and to remind myself that if I want to see hope in the world NOT to look for that in them 2) to release my unreasonable demands (like those terrible things did not happen to me). One of the most painful things in the world is unfulfilled wants -- letting go of most of my wants has been very good for resolving the trauma I have wrestled with all my life. 3) It isn't good to only take. My mantra is take/give timed with my breath.

It is almost like everything that the culture around us teaches us to do is ass backwards. Having found so many of its notions of the right way to live faulty does put me in a place where I am sceptical about much of the information it sends to us. When it repeats an idea alot is usually a sign that they are sending out ideas intended to send us down a wrong path again. I tend to pay attention to what they do and to assume that there is an angle from which what they do makes a degree of sense. When I find that reference frame which makes their actions coherent, I assume that that is the real truth of things.

Compared to the traumas I have known in my life, 2020 is nothing. Even at its worst it was for me and my family an inconvenience and required a small adjustment to a new normal that is only a couple steps off of the old one. The new normals I choose for myself challenge me a lot more. Boredom is a usual stimulus for choosing to face my suppressed emotions or choosing a new normal that challenges me to be more than I have been.

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Re: Maintaining happiness/contentedness despite adversity

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

I've resumed tracking my Daily Happiness level for 2021 and correlating it with time spent on various activities. I also started tracking my Monthly Fulfillment level. It is my belief that I am naturally a pretty happy person, but this tendency combined with my tendencies towards distraction and curiosity/willfulness not infrequently leads to me winding up in less than happy circumstances. Simple example would be that because I am stuck inside with Covid, I thought it might be fun to color my hair two shades lighter than usual and now my hair is orange.

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Re: Maintaining happiness/contentedness despite adversity

Post by IlliniDave »

Sclass wrote:
Sat Jan 02, 2021 11:14 am
...
What I’m getting at is what I considered miserable, happy, baseline etc. has a lot to do with the filtering/fidelity of the playback device.
...
The funny thing is I feel numb these days like I screwed up and created this sensory deprivation chamber in response to my aversion to bumps and shakes.
...
One of my mantras is "happiness comes from within," and you are correct in that it seems to involve both filtering and controlling perspective.

I can also relate to the sensory deprivation chamber. At a certain juncture it was necessary for me to wallow in my nature as an introvert and discontinue trying to conform to the expectations of the extrovert majority. But it does lead to a rather sterile environment which is superficially pleasing but I think weakens one in the long run.

2020 I'd bucket as a strange year, for me neither good nor bad, just different, and adapting is apparently what I do. I suspect 2021 and onward will be much more challenging to adapt to.

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Re: Maintaining happiness/contentedness despite adversity

Post by Hristo Botev »

To the OP's question:
slsdly wrote:
Sat Dec 26, 2020 4:42 pm
Have you struggled with adjusting your expectations? Why do you think that is? Or, are you like me, and feel 2020 wasn't that bad, and maybe share the process that brought you there?
I'd say 2020 has been an apocalyptic year for me, in the original Greek sense of apocalyptic as revelatory--unveiling things not previously known to me and which could not be known apart from the unveiling. Many of my assumptions of the world have been shattered or at least brought into doubt, and I've begun the work of putting the pieces back together a bit by discarding (happily, turns out) all the meaningless rubbish I previously thought was important, and focusing on the things I've discovered (or re-discovered) really should be at the center of my own Rose Window: God, family, friends, community.

Image

Like no other year before, 2020 provided me with both the opportunity and the justification for really properly ordering my life around that center, such that I've been able to largely detach from those things that are at the outer edge of my Rose Window--i.e., the Rota Fortunae.
Oh, Fortuna, blind, heedless goddess, I am strapped to your wheel,' Ignatius belched, 'Do not crush me beneath your spokes. Raise me on high, divinity. - John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces
I'm indebted to ERE and Jacob (and others) for helping my family build up the resiliency that's resulted in us not being negatively impacted by COVID, really at all (thus far; knocking on wood). Granted, we are very fortunate that we've not lost anyone close to us. And we are also very fortunate that our kids have continued in-person education at their parochial school, as our neighbors with kids in the fancy public school system have been pushed to the edge (and beyond) trying to juggle full-time jobs with kids at home doing virtual "learning," as the world they thought they lived in falls apart.

BUT, here's the thing, thanks in part to ERE (and thanks more to our shared Catholic faith), I am fully confident that had DW and I been faced with the "problem" of having our kids' school shut down to in-person learning, we would have viewed it as yet a bigger opportunity to re-examine priorities, focusing on the "center" and discarding the rubbish. Indeed, as the 2019-20 school year ended, with the kids learning virtually and while it was still a bit of a ? as to whether the kids would return in-person in the fall when the 2020-21 school year began, we'd already organized a group of families from the parochial school who were going to share home-schooling education responsibilities--which, given the make-up of the parents, would have been an education more "Catholic" in nature than our kids' Catholic school currently provides. At a minimum, either DW or I would have quit our jobs or taken a sabbatical of some sort. And we'd be the better for it. And being relieved of the obligation to pay Catholic school tuition (where most of our money currently goes), it wouldn't have really even affected us financially.

So, yes, I will look back very fondly on 2020.

As this year's Christmas cards came in, with family after family making some sort of "thank God 2020 is over!" statement, DW and I frequently looked at each other questioningly, wondering: "was it really THAT BAD, in the grand scheme of things?". I mean, we didn't have bombs falling from the sky, or dust storms prompting mass migrations, or mass starvation, or internment camps, or mass looting of private homes; and although DW's hospital and others in the system have been full, at times, it's not been overwhelming (I can only speak locally).

Now, I tend to think all that is coming, and more, and quickly, as the real effects of climate change reach even the shores of western nations, and as the globalized economy collapses under the immense weight of its own over-complexity, and as the chasm between the uber, own your own space station-level wealthy and the rest of us grows even wider. So why on earth does anyone think 2021 and beyond is going to be any better; or that 2020 was just some sort of random fluke? I choose instead to focus on all that was great about 2020, like how clean the air has been, how few cars have been on the roads, the vegetable gardens, all the walks and hikes, all the home cooking and newly-learned DIY skills, the more frequent phone calls with extended family members, all the time spent with the family and friends we most cherish, and all the time NOT wasted on those family and "friends" who we've known for some time are really just a drag, and all the time NOT wasted on big trips (I hate going on trips; my wanderlust days are well behind me). I mean, my already strong relationships with DW, DD, and DS are even stronger now, thanks to hours of time spent playing baseball/soccer/football, playing chess and other board games, playing Texas hold 'em poker as DS makes it clear he's going to go through life putting it all on the line with no aversion to risk, family cooking and meals, all the Masses we've attended and participated in, the nightly prayers, all the DIY projects we've worked on together, all the hikes and walks, etc. What a great gift we've been given.

Also, unlike both 2018 and 2019, and despite a global pandemic, I managed to make it through 2020 without spending any time in an ICU, hooked up to a ventilator (knocking on wood for 2021!).

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Re: Maintaining happiness/contentedness despite adversity

Post by fiby41 »

One who is not envious but is a kind friend to all living entities,
who does not think himself a proprietor and is free from egotism,
who is equal in both happiness and distress, who is tolerant,
always satisfied, self-controlled, and yogi with determination,
his mind and intelligence fixed on Me – such a devotee of Mine is very dear to Me.
From whom are never agitated people, and anyone who is not agitated also
who is equipoised in happiness and distress, fear and anxiety, is very dear to Me.
How and why as per Bhagavadgita 12.13-15

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Re: Maintaining happiness/contentedness despite adversity

Post by Ontarian »

Thanks for posting that excerpt fiby41. I appreciated the exposure and content.

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