"Why Can't I Just Be Happy?"

I mutter to myself as I look out onto the glistening sun and the clear blue ocean. A view that I am so fortunate to see at my request and should make me feel privileged enough to not complain about life’s troubles.

Did you know that as you grow older, the synapses in your brain that release dopamine slowly loses its function? This means that as you age it is increasingly harder to be just happy. Along with life’s mundane struggles of responsibility and a growing discontentment of one’s self, it’s sometimes hard to even get out of bed. Physical exercise, mutual friendships and even recreational drugs release dopamine, but unfortunately the formula for happiness is different for everybody- there is no one size fits all. It is why we are constantly in search for that warm feeling in our stomachs, at times mistaking it for either a swipe to the right leading to a one-night stand or three shots of tequila. These small, quick and short lived dosages of stimulating pleasure is not quite the same as the natural and effortless state of happiness.

Over time this state of mind continues to be manipulated from the influences of the people in your life, which makes the search for contentment that much harder. I know people who, from a young age, were taught that academic success was a stepping stone to self-actualization. They felt validated from every high distinction they received and measured their worth from the appraisals of those around them. I always felt inadequate when in the presence of these people for I believed I was lesser than them. However, after high school I realised that they had this anxiety too. We were all in the same boat trying to figure out who we were and whether our capabilities matched up with our worth. These people found happiness elsewhere- some even dropped out of their 80+ prerequisite courses. It was the sense of security that stood in their way, ingrained from birth that life should only be simple.

Again, the formula for happiness is not the same for everybody. Some people find contentment in security and live for stability. Unfortunately for those of us who suffer from hedonic adaptation, no matter how good something makes us feel- we will always drift back to a feeling of restlessness. We embrace change too much and grow tired of routine, relationships become tedious and friendships unfulfilling. Every source of happiness that we had has been exhausted and we are hungry for more. Sadly, I don’t have the answer to the million-dollar question. All I know is that life is like a labyrinth, there are many dead ends and complications. Although we’ll find as we have found before- that with every dead-end, there’s a different path, another way. And one day when we make it out of the labyrinth, we’ve encountered every opportunity of happiness there is in every mountain and valley, that we won’t need to come back.