The Secret to Happiness // Christian Hellmers

It’s Christmas day. You watch everyone open up their gifts, and see the excitement on each person’s face. It’s now your turn; you open up your gifts, and received everything you wanted, but for some reason, you’re not as happy as when other people were opening up their gifts. Why? Is it because you are in a bad mood, or because for some reason you don’t like a certain gift?

Happiness. Where does it actually come from? Many people claim to know the answer, but no one really has the definite answer. John Allen Paulos, a professor of mathematics at Temple University said it best by stating that “uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security” (Sparkles). If everyone knew the answer, then technically everyone would be happy, and no one would ever question why we get sad, because no one would be sad. If no one were sad, we would never learn from our emotions, and would live in a never-ending paradox. However, as we continue to age over time, we find that comes from being surrounded by others.

Awareness. Some have it, others don’t. I’m not talking about things like whether or not to cross the street while oncoming traffic is close by; what I’m talking about is the idea of realizing when you are in a repetitive daze. In This is Water, a commencement speech given to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon College, David Foster Wallace talked about “how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out” (Wallace). By being aware of our surroundings, we don’t miss out on the little things, which, in turn, have the ability to make us happy in the long run. For example, let’s say you are waiting in line at the supermarket, and are waiting in this never-ending line just so you can get to the only cash-register that happens to be open at the one time you went to the supermarket.

Although, if you happen to take a step back from all this, you may realize that maybe the lady in line is standing there because of her job that requires more physical labor than yours, and this was the one time each week that she could go to the store. Or maybe you see that lady “yelling at her child in the store, but maybe she’s not usually like that, maybe the reason she’s like that is because she has been awake for the last three straight nights just to hold the hand of her husband, who happens to be dying from bone cancer” (Wallace). By seeing what other people are going through, and realizing that we are not the only ones who might be going through a rough day, we can avoid the “daily routines” that people get themselves into, and not fall into the automatic daze.

Another thing we tend to miss out on are the little things in life. Again, basing this statement off of David Foster Wallace’s speech, we tend to miss out on the little opportunities that could affect the rest of our future. Back to the idea of being in line at the supermarket, instead of realizing the things other people may be going through, a guy may not notice that there happens to be a very attractive girl standing next to him. If he were to take a look around once in a while, he may see that just by talking to this girl, he may have a girlfriend after a week or so, and maybe after a while this same girl who was initially standing in line next to him that day in the supermarket may be his wife down the road.

Happiness, as you can see, doesn’t revolve around ourselves. We are happy based on the people and their content. Based off of personal experience, I can attest to this statement, because I had to do a project that directly relates to this statement in the fall quarter of my freshman year. The assignment was to email a teacher who had made an impact on me during my four years of high school. I had the teacher in mind right from the start; my economics teacher who taught during my senior year had done exactly that. When I had initially received that assignment in fall quarter, I thought the whole idea of the assignment was to perform a random act of kindness and make someone else’s day. However, I later realized that the morality of the assignment was not designed to have an impact on my teacher, it was made to have a greater impact on me, the writer. My teacher had actually ended up writing back to me, and for some strange reason, I was so happy that he had written back, because I learned that I had just made his day. Because my teacher was happy, I was happy.

Actively participating in community related activities is also a way that people tend to find happiness. It has been noted that “individuals living in a county with greater access to sports facilities are more likely to participate in physical activity and also report higher life satisfaction” (Huphreys). By surrounding ourselves among others, we are less likely to think of how we are doing in the moment, and instead focus on the satisfaction of others, which in turn, makes us happy. Just like we cannot do many things alone, we can’t be happy alone, because we need people to make us happy. By participating in something greater than ourselves, we give ourselves an identity, but become happy when other people make up that identity.

Apply this to the rest of the world. Maybe in some countries that are less fortunate as us. Yet, there are still people in our society that are depressed, and even some that commit suicide. How do people in other societies prevent themselves from getting depressed, even though they may be less fortunate and in different situations than we are? How can we spread happiness so that these kind of incidents seize to exist in the future?

Humphreys, Brad R., and Haifang Huang. “Sports participation and happiness: Evidence from US microdata.” Sports participation and happiness: Evidence from US microdata. ScienceDirect, n.d. Web. 14 June 2014. <;.

Tia, Sparkles. “75 of the BEST, Most Inspirational Kickass Quotes on Life, Love, Happiness, Change & Growth. – Your Life YOUR Way.” Your Life YOUR Way. N.p., 6 Sept. 2011. Web. 14 June 2014. <;.

Wallace, David Foster. “This is Water.” Graduation Ceremony. Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio. 21 May 2005. Speech.





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