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Old 06-15-2013, 02:23 PM
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Happiness can be learned, research finds | UTSanDiego.com

Good article about trying to find happiness.
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Old 06-15-2013, 03:06 PM
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All of this makes sense. But notice they're talking very generally - I think with your average person, happiness is a choice. However, once you factor in brain chemistry, people with "chemical" depression issues are not able to make that choice for the most part.

My depression issues are tied closely with my ADD and actual life events. Depression is just a side effect in my case, and when I address it aggressively, I get good results. That's not possible for people who are just wired for depression.
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Old 06-15-2013, 04:13 PM
Location: Gettysburg, PA
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Originally Posted by JrzDefector View Post
However, once you factor in brain chemistry, people with "chemical" depression issues are not able to make that choice for the most part.
That's not possible for people who are just wired for depression.

I think what the article is saying is definitely true; seems rather obvious, actually. I see this in my own life where I am often prone to depression from what I feel is a chemical imbalance. Some days I can feel very happy, and other days excessively depressed when there is nothing at all different exteriorly from one day to the next; therefore it seems obvious that it must be something chemically going on. Though it might be able to be treated with medication, I do not wish to go down that route since it isn't interfering with my ability to function in society yet. I say yet since though I've always been rather serious and somewhat morose from the time I was small, the last several months I have taken quite a depressive turn because of a sense of loss.

But where I work there is this very happy person with whom I sometimes very gratefully share part of my shift with and I notice that whenever I work with him I am oftentimes not feeling very blue compared to the days when he is not there. The past two days was a perfect example. On Thursday, someone was there who doesn't talk hardly at all, and I fell into such a depression at work--even my eyes started tearing up from time to time (it hardly ever gets that bad). Yet the next day when he was there, the depression hardly surfaced.

It is a very good thing for me to be working with him, and I must be sure to tell him this before I leave--about how much good he has done for my mental health; it will be a hard thing to leave someone who has such a gift of promoting good feelings in others, especially when I know not to what I environment I will be going into next.
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Old 06-16-2013, 07:09 PM
Location: Northeastern US
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I don't think it's merely a matter of "accentuating the positive". I've noticed two main types of people. There is the kind who pretty much accepts whatever each moment provides and flexes with it, and those who have a set of preconceptions about how things "should" be, judge everything by those preconceptions and try to influence their life to conform to those preconceptions. Undeniably the person who will accept a wide variety of vicissitudes and incorporate them rather than fighting them is going to be happier (or at least, less frustrated). I view unhappiness as the impedance mismatch between what you expect and what you get. If you have no particular attachments to outcomes then whatever happens is fine. Most of us have areas of our lives that we find it difficult to be sanguine about, and happiness is to me generally a question of whether areas of "sanguinity" predominate or not.

Everyone is a mixture of the two coping styles but one or the other coping style tends to predominate. People compartmentalize what they will allow to be as it is and what they will resist. I for example am very easygoing about most things but have what I perceive as high standards and ideals with respect to many aspects of close relationships. Consequently I find, e.g., career success to be effortless but find relational happiness and contentment far more elusive, despite having an outwardly good marriage and seemingly good relationships with my children. They all tend to fall short of what I was aiming for and even when things are going well they seem vaguely unsatisfying. It is problematic enough that if I inventory my 56 years to this point I can only rate about 12 or 13 of those years as distinctly positive, and the 75% of those years that are by turns somewhere between mundane and awful relate to relationship issues and various tragedies and dramas related to them -- divorce, sickness, death, and the like. Most of the good years were early to middle childhood where I wasn't directly burdened with the cultivation and maintenance of such relationships and I was fortunate enough to have loving and supportive parents and an adequate standard of living.

Does this mean I have unrealistic expectations of my special relationships? Probably. Can I do anything about this? I don't really see how. The article effectively suggests I simply decide to ignore aspects that I don't like and groove on aspects I do like. But it seems to me that, for example, running a victory lap because my daughter sent me a nice Father's Day post on FaceBook this year for a change and neither forgot nor was fashionably late is rather trivial compared to the years of prickly conflict we had in her early adult years and the awkward silences in our conversations even now. It's still objectively stressful to call her and navigate the list of taboo subjects that she can't handle discussion or clearing the air on. Our relationship is still objectively limited compared to what any parent would hope for. And this is objectively not a good thing. I just am not constitutionally able to hand-wave that off, anymore than, say, an atheist is capable of forcing themselves to believe in god or a double amputee can objectively claim that they are no worse off for the absence of their legs.

I think what the question of happiness comes down to is, do you have at least most of the things you really care about in life, or at least reasonable hope that they are attainable, and do you have enough time and energy to strive for them? I don't care about money or career much and so paradoxically I have lots of both. I care too much and therefore try too hard about other things and end up holding the short end of the stick. It's easy to talk about letting go, being philosophical and so forth, but the truth is, if you don't have what you need to feel stable, safe, and fulfilled, you don't have it. And if you're self aware enough to know what you and others are capable of, what your limitations are, and what reality consists of, you're going to be aware to some greater or lesser degree that your are SOL about at least some of that stuff, and that is not a happy realization.

What I try to do is to avoid hanging with people who tend to help me put my head up my butt and embrace people who help me keep my head out of it. I suppose this makes me something of a social vampire but I simply don't have enough juice on my own in the areas where I'm vulnerable to disappointment. It keeps me out of trouble and functioning and ultimately you gotta do what you gotta do to get through each day.
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