Understanding the Hedonic Treadmill and how to achieve sustainable happiness

Want to be happier?

Arthur Schopenhauer had once remarked:

“How insatiable a creature is man! Every satisfaction he attains lays the seeds of some new desire, so that there is no end to the wishes of each individual will.”

It seems as if our friend Schopenhauer was on to something which is that we always seem to be several steps away from having what we think we want, yet when we get it, desire itself still remains and the fixed state of happiness we assumed obtainable still seems out of reach.

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A guide on how to rebuild after life’s disasters

You don’t know how and you don’t know when but it happened.

Maybe you were completely in denial, maybe you saw it coming or even predicted it. Perhaps you were waiting for it, counting down the months, weeks and days until – CRASH. You knew it was possible but .. Did you really? What before was merely an image in your mind has now become your reality. You stand alone as the rubble surrounds you and there you are, an island.

“So what now?” you wonder.

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Part 2: History of the Soul

If you just joined us, you’ve happened upon an attempt to cover the vast ocean of contributions to what we know as the ‘soul’ today.

Quick recap: initial consideration of the soul began circa 200,000 BC, which lead to organized religion circa 9831 BC. Earliest written records date to around this time, and the first human considerations of the soul, religion and afterlife are evident from the remnants of ancient Egyptian culture. Worldwide, a boom in philosophical thought took place circa 5th century, which lead to Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and many other religions common today. We have this philosophical boom to thank in large part for Western concepts of Dualism. There isn’t much to note about the soul between the 5th and 16th centuries due the advent of monotheistic religions, which diverted focus from the individual soul to an omnipotent God. We last left off in the 17th and 18th centuries with Descartes and scientific research on the pineal gland.

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Part 1: History of the Soul

Do you believe you have a soul?

That all living things have souls (Animist religions)? That all living things have souls, but only human souls pass on to an afterlife, like supporters of Christianity and many—if not all—Abrahamic religions? That all things have souls resurrected within different forms depending on their karma, like Buddhists, Hindus, Jainists, etc.? Ever wonder just how the concept of this thing we call a ‘soul’ has evolved throughout the ages? Where did the soul begin?

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What’s your perception of depression?

Depression sucks. It sucks the life out of you, leaving you wondering if you will ever find happiness, energy or motivation; You may even question if you deserve the things you so earnestly desire. Sometimes depression can last a little while and at other times it seems endless. Depression causes real problems that can affect every part of a person’s life. Some believe that depression is an ‘addiction’ to self-pity, a downward spiral based on recurring thoughts that a person is never good enough and that the world is against them. Dr. Grieger calls the phenomenon a ‘victim’ mindset, where a person refuses to take responsibility for themselves or their happiness (consciously or not), and blames their problems on circumstances or people. Others like world renowned life coach Anthony Robbins refers to it as ‘learned helplessness;’ a person fails at something, repeatedly, whether by their own fault or not, and ‘learns’ that what they do doesn’t matter. So they stop trying. Some people view depression as a serious illness that has specific causes and treatments. They identify depression as a medical malady that requires medication, sometimes therapy, and then is over and done with. Others think that depression is just a mood that hits now and then, but will eventually pass, whether action is taken or not. The range of perspectives pertaining to depression are vast.

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What happens in our brain when we try to decide

It was Saturday morning and I was on my way to meet Caroline for brunch. It had been a while since I saw her and in order to express my apology for being such a ghost, and such a terrible friend, I told her I’d save her a trip on the bus and that I’d pick her up in my Suzuki; I wanted to provide the best door-to-door service. As we sat down at the table in Apertif in Bayside, Queens, the waiter arrived with our water, as well as.. *play dramatic music* our menus. I knew this feeling all too well. Oh, what it meant to be paralyzed by indecision. There I sat, intimidated by a list of food items, and the complimentary croissant that was placed on my side plate remained untouched.

“Should I get the flatboard or the sandwhich?,” I thought to myself. I wondered if it was possible to get mushrooms on the sandwich, instead of ordering the flatbread. “Then again, there’s brie on the sandwhich, would mushrooms go well with brie?,” I pondered hopelessly. I wanted to design my own sandwich and then I thought about what a nightmare of a customer I’d be. This wasn’t a deli. Dare I be so inconsiderate? My order didn’t require many changes (although please, no onions), decision making just pained me. I didn’t have the stomach for it nor enough time to weigh all the options. What was my belly in the mood for? I hate to say but I wasn’t sure.

This was where the work came in. The work I started five years ago. I had to talk myself into making a decision. I had to force myself. How much of my own life could I possibly miss due to this absurd anxiety? When the waiter arrived with our mimosas, Caroline and I said a toast. When he asked if I was ready, I had decided: “Two minutes.” (Intro by Cheyenne Burroughs)

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Formula for Success: Myth or Reality?

The question of what allows a person to be successful is a question that has been asked of many people, who have sought the answer that would allow them a long, prosperous life. The answer is rarely simple, since what defines success is difficult to measure. Whether one talks about financial success or popularity or perhaps some other goal they seek to achieve, how one would be able to attain this goal would probably be the underlying definition of what it means to be successful. What creates a successful person? Their innate personality or their environment? To answer that question, one has to look at another old question, often asked in psychology:

Nature or nurture?

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What I found in a psychiatric emergency room

woman in a psychiatric ward

College was coming to an end and I needed some type of volunteer or internship experience. I found a program in a hospital where you had to feed patients, as well as keep them company (and out of trouble). The day of the interview my interviewer and I chatted away and it’s true when they say “it’s all about who you know”. Because I knew a good friend of hers she wanted to offer me something better than the feeding program. I left the interview with an opportunity I could never pass up: Shadowing a psychiatric doctor in the psychiatric emergency room. The thought was nerve wrecking and far more than what I bargained for. I tried to keep my mind off my expectations and fears until I was to begin the program. Sleep refused to take me and the hope of escaping my anxiety before my first day remained unmet. And so, I got into my business casual attire the next morning and somehow ended up in front of the hospital. I arrived earlier than expected and decided to find the psychiatric emergency department and get acquainted.

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The opposite of addiction is not sobriety

depressed woman coping with addiction

My best friend in high school was addicted to pot. He kept it a secret from me for close to a year when he went off to college because he knew I had a strong aversion to drugs. I was an innocent teenager who was terrified of illegal substances and could not understand his addiction, as hard as I had tried to. The addiction worsened despite his claims that he was improving. I could see the pain in his eyes when he witnessed my upset, and I could hear the truth in his words when he spoke: “I want to quit.” This drug was slowly turning my best friend into someone I no longer knew. I desperately tried to reach the funny, caring, hardworking guy I once knew, but this lazy, withdrawn college dropout had taken his place. The ensuing fights destroyed the haven of comfort we once shared and the tension between us transpired into compulsive lies with tearful nights. I often wondered if there was anything I could have done to save our friendship. Every vein in my body wanted to reach his heart and free him from his internal prison. Looking back at this experience, I realize how things could have been different. Not with just him, but with all of us.

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Does one ever truly heal?

pills, heal, medication, medicine
Some say that they have healed and live better lives for it meanwhile some are perplexed as to how they ever could heal. But what does healing really mean and how much time does one actually want to dedicate to it?

Augusten Burroughs, who has written countless memoirs of his very traumatic childhood, believes that heal is a “TV word,” and that while sounding pretty and ideal, that it is in fact forced and plastic.  The definition of healing is to get better, not to be cured and despite common belief, even to be cured does not imply to be rid of, rather, it implies to be relieved of the symptoms of a disease or condition. It seems as though people have adopted an overly idealistic perspective of what being emotionally healed really means and some will travel far and wide to attain it.

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