Reflection on “The Happiness Project”

One of the concepts discussed in The Happiness Project is the idea that small periods of deprivation from an item may bring greater happiness when it is (re)introduced.  We get used to the things we have, and therefore appreciate them less.  Additionally, the happiness begins with the desire.  We enjoy the party far before the event– it’s the wait, the planning.  We enjoy the item we bought online– the delay, the anticipation of the package’s arrival, the opening of the box.  

Today, eating a chunk of cantaloupe (juicy, orange, and perfect), I thought about the fact that I tend to see these deprivations as self-inflicted periods of abstinence (from a happy place, a happy food, etc).  Really, though, God’s design is so lovely, so pure and so meant to bring us happiness.  Fruits become ripe in certain seasons, not others: natural periods of deprivation!  Nowadays, we can beat the cycle.  We import fruits from where they are currently growing in the world in season– but this is more costly and even now there is the push (both economically and ecologically) to “eat local”– and (therefore) in season.  And truly, most agree that these are the freshest and tastiest– which makes them the most enjoyable. 

Now, I’m not saying we should only eat local food (although it’d be nice) or that we should never import something or eat a frozen fruit (your February birthday still warrants your favorite blueberry pie!).  But, as a general, eating things in season is a gift.  Something to be looked forward to, something to bring happiness.

Depending on where you live, there are other natural deprivations– sunshine, rain, warm and cool weather, snow– pick your fancy.  They all cycle through, creating times and periods of deprivation and plenty.  A natural boost to our happiness.  And who is to say that this was not created in this way simply for our pleasure?  (A challenge to those with views of a far-off, uninvolved, or apathetic God.) 

My views on happiness are complex, and a topic for another blog.  But the truth is, it seems the original plan was happiness.  Not as an Extreme Good.  Not as the Highest Priority.  But certainly as part of the goal.  Eden was a happy place.  A garden– where all the parts of happiness Gretchen Rubin identified would be satisfied: plenty of feeling good, never feeling bad, always feeling right, and growth all around in the form of garden-tending, relationships, etc.  

I also remember discussing in an English class once if we could really know Good (which I believe was equated with happiness) without the presence of Evil.  Now, as a Christian, I know Good must be able to exist without Evil– because it did.  Whether it was hours or days or years or decades or centuries– before  sin Good existed purely alone.  (I’m sure many traditions have a similar “fall of man” story.  Pandora’s box comes to mind…)  But then the question stands– would we appreciate this state of purity?  I was never sure.  My life has never been simple or easy.  While never diagnosed as clinically depressed, I have dealt with many periods of what I would call depression.  To me, my life has been marked by challenge, outsidership, heartache, and grieving.  There have also been fabulous, happy times, but as with happiness, often the sad stick out more to mind, and since my adolescence, I would say this is mostly true.  And for a very long time, I definitely felt that my happiness was based on the foundation of what my sadness made me feel.  I certainly felt this way during this English class, and for years after.  

I disagree now.  Eden meets happiness criteria.  And even with our ability to get used to things and therefore undervalue them, seasons allow natural periods of deprivation and cycle that would naturally recharge us! Additionally, how many of us had happy childhoods despite what more trial-ridden teen years would bring?  Our happiness as children was not based on our experience with trauma or heartache.  It was pure.  Had we not run into troubles as we grew up, we may have stayed the naturally happy kids we once were.  Now, we must work at it more.  Some of us may undertake happiness projects.  Sometimes, they can start with a piece of fresh, seasonal fruit.  


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