Is the season of happiness getting you down?

Is the season of happiness getting you down?

by Vanessa Ng 13 Feb 2018

Chinese New Year is often regarded as a day of joy, when people get together to celebrate familial bonds amidst wishes of prosperity and good health. Yet for some, this auspicious day can take on a blueish hue. Festive seasons can sometimes have the opposite effect on certain individuals, whereby feelings of moodiness and anxiety take centre stage.


Not everyone is fortunate to have the celebration they want or envision. Chinese New Year can sometimes come as an unwelcome reminder of how far we are from what we used to be or want to be. It should come as no surprise that such people are already acutely aware of their situation, and many are actively trying to improve things. However, the road to success is far from linear and winds differently for every individual.


The pursuit of happiness is often described as an endless and almost treadmill-like chase. Seemingly unattainable and unreachable, this process can be very daunting. Ironically enough, the journey towards happiness may make you feel miserable instead. This is especially true when you offer yourself to others for validation.


First and foremost, it is important to understand the difference between happiness and pleasure. For example, you get little dosages of dopamine every time someone likes your content on social media. This can develop into an addiction to people liking your content which by extension, translates to social recognition. This reward gives you pleasure for a brief moment, ramping up your heart rate, and makes you excited or crave for more. However, it is not to be confused with happiness. Happiness is when you realise that you are content – almost at an emotional equilibrium. You get a hit of serotonin, which makes you happy, and happiness can last from weeks to years. In fact, pleasure can be achieved with substances such as sugar, caffeine or alcohol, but achieving happiness requires a different approach.


According to the book, The Hacking of the American Mind, by Lustig, you should bear the 4 Cs in mind to achieve happiness. Connect, Contribute, Cope and Cook. To connect, have face-to-face connection with eye contact to empathise. To contribute, you need to have an impact on someone else by inspiring others through volunteering and other charitable acts. To cope, be mindful such that you exercise your prefrontal cortex (PFC) and lower your cortisol. Finally, you need to cook real food due to their nutrient density, which cannot be replicated in most processed food.


So, how does this apply to Chinese New Year? For those of you who dread this occasion, stop me if this sounds familiar to you: You go to your gathering but end up keeping mainly to yourself. Attempts at initiating conversation with you ends up falling flat due to your disinterest. The fact that you are so out of your element starts to get to you as you become increasingly anxious and flustered, to which you try and compensate for by indulging in copious amounts of snacks. By the end of the day, you wind up feeling like something the dog threw up.


The Chinese don’t exactly have a monopoly on criticism, but it flows freely enough. Big family gatherings can sometimes end up breeding small pools of resentment due to conflicts in beliefs or peer disapproval. Even if acceptance isn’t something that we’re actively seeking, signs of negativity can still sting.


Practicing the 4 Cs can make a remarkable difference in such situations turn out. Instead of bouncing off your antagonist like a rubber ball, take the time to sit down and hear them out while explaining your side of the story. This exchange of information is in fact a contributory act, as it can make a difference in the other party’s life. In the event the differences stand, accept it as such and make peace with it – some people just don’t eye to eye on certain issues. Lastly, fill your plate with actual food instead of the sugar-laden confectionaries that make their way out this time of the year.


Happiness – true happiness – is what comes when you realise your life and the people within it. Even the people who disagree with you have their part to play in influencing your journey. Your part is to simply make sure that you get where you need to go in one piece. If you can wrap your head around the idea of making everything that comes your way work for you, then you’ll have nothing to worry about.