Cause and Effect
Originally published 16.11.2014.
Let's talk about happiness; emotional subjectivity at its most basic.
In my ever-expanding pursuit of happiness, I have begun practicing meditation. I've even earned a sticker for "making a good start", and who doesn't love stickers? Now, prior to actually having tried meditation, I would have dismissed this specific pursuit as new-age hokum that serves up nothing but placebo. With that said, it's easy to forget how powerful placebo can be.
The dictionary definition of the placebo effect reads as follows:
"A beneficial effect produced by a placebo drug or treatment, which cannot be attributed to the properties of the placebo itself, and must therefore be due to the patient's belief in that treatment."
Simply put, the placebo effect is the phenomenon of having something affect you in a positive way, purely because you're expecting it to. So, if you had a headache, you might want an aspirin. If I hand you a sugar pill that you think is an aspirin, your headache might subside just because you think it should. This effect is used in pharmaceutical testing all the time in order to determine the effectiveness of a particular drug versus the results of sheer positive thinking.
Still with me? I hope so.
A huge part of overcoming my depression involved changing the way I view the world. Instead of having instantly negative reactions to the smallest of obstacles, I had to learn to step back, breathe, and think about why I was so pissed off. It began to occur to me that for as much as I wanted to scream and shout about the injustice of it all, this kind of behaviour serves nobody. More than that, it puts me on the back-foot and I avoid listening to reason. I suppose meditation is an extension of this effort. Do these results I'm experiencing stem from placebo? Or is there actual benefit in sitting in silence, and breathing out all my angst?
See, breathing is important. Aside from the immediate benefits it brings (not dying, for example), it gives you a moment to consider the situation you're in, and how best to approach it. I choose to ask myself three questions:
"What am I really angry about?"
"What am I planning to do about it?"
"Is what I'm about to do going to be negative or positive?"
If the answer to the third question isn't positive, than 9 times out of 10, I don't do it.
The most amazing aspect of trying to avoid all the negativity is that you become more open to seeing the beauty of things. Things that might have been irrelevant to you before suddenly take on a great deal of meaning. Take today, for example:
This morning, I went for a walk and saw two children playing alone in the park; a brother and sister no older than 6 years of age. In lieu of nothing, the big brother kneels down and zips up his baby sister's coat to stop her from getting cold. Something that simple and sweet made my entire day. At 6 years old, this kid is already so invested in his sister's happiness that he made sure to keep her warm and safe with no prompt from anybody. On my way back, I saw him holding her hand as he walked them both home; safe and happy.
I find I'm noticing these little things more and more as time goes on, and every single one of them brightens my mood to no end. The most beautiful acts of kindness are those that have the potential to affect people you're not even aware of.
So, today I'm happy because I chose to be. Now, I'll leave you with this:
Be happy. Don't just hope you will be, choose to be. Whatever it takes. Most importantly, remember that whether it's the result of medicine, positive-thinking, or the placebo effect; happiness is happiness. Don't waste time questioning it, because it's not the cause that matters.
It's the effect.