Happiness is more the consumerist trend of the day than it is something that we take seriously. That's why it's so easy for every self-help author and rando on the Internet to spew advice about it (hi). We're deflective because we don't know how to construct our own positive experiences much beyond the things that give us an automatic high, and we most certainly don't know how to cope or grow from the negative experiences until they all but force us to.
The reality is that figuring out what you need in and around your life to make you genuinely feel good about it is a lifelong #journey, and though those details may be forever shifting and readjusting as you naturally grow and change, there are a few core components that they tend to all sprout out from — components that we, as humans, all tend to have in common.
Some of them are rooted in survival, others in a desire to be loved. They all come back down to some very core, inherent part of us, regardless, and it's important to really understand this, because a lot of the ways we conduct our lives are extremely disconnected from them and only becoming increasingly more so. Modern life may have brought us miles and miracles away from the societies we once were, but that does not mean that all of the change is good. Here, all the basic components humans usually need to feel happiness, and how we're disconnected from them as a generation:
Most of the "purpose" that's in fashion right now is to follow your "passion" (excuse the rhyming), and while that may seem on the surface to be indicative of a society that wants people to pursue meaning and purpose, it's the opposite. Passion is not meaning. Passion is a high to numb or distract you from an intense lack-there-of. Truly purposeful work is not always fun, but it is, for whatever reason, always worth it. Now that we live in an age where our life work is less grounded (if you're a farmer, you know what your purpose is — to feed your community — and that ultimately would outweigh a desire to procrastinate), it's hard to feel "purpose" other than just to "feel good," which is, ultimately, not in the realm of being the same thing.
This is a world in which "friends" are just the people who are allowed to see your social profile — how fitting. The truth is that because we feel consistently exploited and comparative of the lives we consume, we close ourselves off to genuine connection. That's because connection doesn't happen through a screen. Social media keeps you informed, not connected. The difference is absolutely vital. A meaningful relationship is someone who is going to be at your door at 2 a.m. if there's an emergency, or someone who you don't need the Internet to necessarily sustain your connection with. Someone who knows you completely, not just what you project yourself to be.
A Sense Of Community
I have personally not heard anybody talk about community (other than in the context of one online) for longer than I can even remember. I don't think people even know what a community is or looks like anymore. It just seems like a catch-all phrase you throw around at town hall meetings. The truth is that as human beings, we desire community at a very core, instinctive level. Being outcasted from the group = not being able to survive, and so even if we don't actively realize we're craving a group of people to whom we can belong, a lot of our social anxiety and personal angst comes from not belonging to one.
Leisure (But Only When Balanced With Work)
We value nothing but leisure. Interestingly enough, that's not the mark of an advanced society, as you'd assume. It's historically what happens when a society severely senses a lack of meaning, or perhaps even danger. They turn to a distraction. The point is that we need to be able to relax and unwind, but it also must be balanced and contrasted against actually exerting ourselves in a meaningful and thorough way. An overdose of luxury is making us complacent and atrophied.
Seems counter-intuitive, but we don't know how to sacrifice, or what for, and at a very base level of ourselves, we want to. We want to act on behalf of the greater good, we just don't know what the "greater good" is (but more on that in a minute). We don't usually have to sacrifice our immediate desires for a greater goal because some invention or convenience will take care of that for us. That lack of personal development ultimately, eventually extends into our greater worldview. If we don't know what our suffering is for, it becomes almost impossible to bear. That is what humans fear most of all: suffering without reason.
A General Theory Re: The Grand Scheme Of It All
We're not a particularly religious or dogmatic generation. (And increasingly less-so, according to studies.) We know too much by science and we've been jaded too much by past generations to really subscribe to anything that we don't see having a very practical, real-time benefit, and honestly, that's a blessing and a curse (if you'll excuse the choice of language.) We really don't need to have a religion to be happy, per se, but we do need to have some kind of understanding or at least personal belief as to why we are here and what it's all for. Without that grounded belief, we're just specks on a big rock hurtling through space. None of us may ever know for certain what it's all about, but some of us may utilize that unknownness to create our own theories, of which can propel us forward.