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Finding Happiness Beneath the Mask

Photo credit: Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press

by Katie Matthew

The pursuit of happiness is a journey we all embark on at some point in our lives. Or at least I would say the vast majority of us. What makes happiness so tricky though is the concept of the thing itself, as it’s merely an idea, a state of being, an emotion. Call it what you will. Contrary to belief, we do have some control over the happiness of our lives, 40% in fact, or thereabouts. I recently learned about this in a Positive Psychology class I took. While there are factors in our lives that contribute to our happiness that we cannot control, 40% is a considerable amount that we can. In times of distress, we often fail to recognize the control we have over our lives.

Our relatively recent Covid-19 pandemic brought about many protocols and changes that disrupted “normal” life, forcing us to relinquish the control we have on our lives. I was sent home in March of my first year at college and finished out the year as well as my Sophomore year from my bedroom. Don’t get me wrong, being at home has its perks, but it certainly wasn’t the college experience I was expecting. Instead of being surrounded by students in a classroom or new friends I had made, I was surrounded by constant bickering about how we should handle the pandemic, a scientific topic turned political.

Far too often this happens to be the case, as we categorize beliefs to belong to political affiliations regardless of topic. Those of scientific backing such as the pandemic or climate change are presented in such a way that a person is forced to pick the side they believe in with little room for grey area. Even human rights issues such as the LGBTQ+ community are somehow a topic of debate. At some point in time, some people decided they are inherently better than others and have a right to oppress those in minority groups. As a country, we fail to look at the bigger picture to protect those around us, too blinded by our opinions and greed.

In the future, ideally, humankind will work together towards a common goal of preserving humanity and putting aside personal conflict. It’s important for colleges to address, inform, and facilitate opportunities for discussion for their students, to show them that they are a resource for controversial topics. On an individual basis, we can all approach life more open-mindedly and with more kindness.

I mentioned before that we can control some of our happiness. A few ways that this is possible include improving sleeping habits, meditating, and practicing acts of kindness. When we are in tune with ourselves, it allows us to perform better and alter our mindset. It is important to stay consistent with any of these practices and track any differences, as some exercises work better for some than others. Societal changes are not enforced overnight, but rather they are a process that starts with us on the individual level, emphasizing the importance of accountability.

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