Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Guest Post: What Makes Me Happy

Hey guys! My friend Vicki is going to guest post on my blog today! Check out her blog at <--- check it out! Her blog is about different ways societies come together and grow apart. Anyway, here is her post. Enjoy!

 "Everyone deserves, and should have, one thing or activity that makes them completely happy. For some that happiness comes in the form of prayer, perhaps playing tennis, maybe sitting and talking with your mom, or even just waking up to the smell of coffee. However, everyone should have one simple activity, which makes you completely happy. I’d like to explain something that I do that makes me completely happy, and that thing is garage sale-ing, as is the proper name for it. Garage sale-ing takes me to a nostalgic place - perhaps the reason why I’m so blissfully happy when my mom asks me when I wake up on a Saturday morning, “want to go to a garage sale?”

Let me explain.

For as long as I can remember, my mom and I wake up early every Saturday morning during the summer and go to local garage sales. Sometimes it’s just one, but on the jack-pot weekends we go to five or six. Thursday’s afterschool my mom and I scan and scrutinize the local paper for upcoming garage sales and then map out each of our stops. We decide which sales we will hit first based on its relative closeness and how good the description of its goods sounds. A garage sale ad including items like tools, furniture, car parts, etc. gets low-priority, but ads with descriptions like household goods, knickknacks, and miscellaneous are bound to get a top spot.

My mom began garage sale-ing with her mom when she was a kid, and so it was with my mom and I. Garage sale-ing has become a type of tradition, with each ritual being carried out every Saturday morning in the summer.

Garage sale-ing is more than finding a good deal on something; it’s finding the gem amongst piles of rubble and the surge of excitement you feel when you know you’ve found something good. I can’t imagine the thousands of dollars we have saved by garage sale-ing, but the best is coming home with each new good and finding a way to repurpose it in our house. As I look around my kitchen, I notice all of the things we have collected over the years and putting them all together to create a home.

Part of the happiness and joy I get from garage sale-ing comes from the fact that I get to spend so much time with my mom and doing something that we both equally love. The other part comes from the excitement of buying an old antique item with a story behind it or just finding something really unique and interesting. One of my best finds was an old, engraved jewelry box with oriental details marked at $6. It wasn’t until a few years after I bought the jewelry box, I discovered a small gold and jade ring in a hidden compartment of the box – a true deal-busting find.

Even if I were a multi-billionaire, I’d continue to garage sale, and that’s simply because I love doing it. So, readers, what’s that one simple thing that brings you happiness? Happiness can be such a complex word with so many different meanings and connotations, but it’s pretty simple to sense the joy in going to a garage sale with your mom on a summer Saturday morning."

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Happiness in Helping Others = Harm?

Recently, there has been much hype about KONY 2012, especially with their awareness video, which has gone viral.
I first heard of the Invisible Children organization when they first came to my school to give the school a presentation on the LRA and the current effects of the issue. When I saw the video, I felt helpless. How can I help their predicament? However, if I could do something, I’d gladly do it. At that moment, the only solution IC had provided was donating money to the booth right outside the auditorium by buying the IC shirts, bracelets, stickers, etc. In order to feel like I at least did SOMETHING to help, I donated the ten bucks I brought for lunch that day.

Did I feel better that I helped? Well, kind of. I’ve always been frustrated with the fact that “help” somehow magically boils down to throwing money at an organization, but I felt somewhat better that I could help.

However, now that I look back at what I did, what I did was unbelievably naive.

Not that any of what I did was necessarily “bad,” but I was basically a fool to get sucked in a sappy story, get emotional, and donate everything I had that day. Sorry, that’s harsh, but in essence, it’s what happened.

I did not once reflect if indeed the proceeds are going where they are suppose to go? Are the proceeds being used to the best of its abilities? And most important question of all, can it actually HARM someone?

This is the problem that many people face. And Folks, I don’t blame you. However, I urge you to take everything with a grain of salt. Here is a letter from Ugandan Amber Ha to the Founder of IC, who gives another perspective of the issue and outlines the major flaws of IC.

She mentions things that weren’t even shown in the original KONY 2012 video! She mentions the atrocities of the Ugandan government, and how the LRA was initially a rebellion against the government. She talks about some of the progress, the lapse of time, and the relative change in events. She talks about how Ugandans feel that IC might hurt them more than help them by bringing more instability to a region of current relative peace.

Some valid questions did come to my mind: Why wasn’t the issue being redirected to the Ugandan government? If Ha’s word’s are true, then why is IC continuing to expand its campaign? Will all things bad come to an end with the murder of Kony (which is actually pronounced Ko-en by Acholi people)?

In a discussion in my Current Events class, these questions were raised. I learned that Ugandan President Museveni is indeed responsible for the accused crimes against humanity, however, his political decisions haven’t necessarily displayed his wrong-doings to the public. It’s also interesting that the U.S. supports Museveni politically, and in fact has sent troops to help Ugandan government to get rid of LRA (which was started because of the government itself). Interesting, Huh?

Neither am I advocating Ha’s position, nor am I saying IC is good or bad: all I’m saying is knowing one side of an issue, a story, a life, or simply ANYTHING is absolutely dangerous. You don’t know the whole issue, until you get all perspectives on it. On Ha’s tumblr, I found an interesting TED talk about the danger of one story. PLEASE DO WATCH IT. Her words, her experiences, her ideas are absolutely amazing. (Btw, this is my favorite TED.) She alerts us that the knowledge of only one side of the story is the reason why judgements, stereotypes, and increasing misunderstandings are born.

Don’t fall for anything at cost value. Think twice before hearing/seeing something. Find as many sides to the argument and question reality, because things may not be as they seem.

P.S. Also, Just food for thought, Would you ever wear a shirt that said, "Hitler 1940" ? Does a criminal really need fame ? Is THAT fighting or fueling the problem ? ...

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Little Things in Life

As a high school senior looking back at my high school experience, the thing that stand out to me are people, events, and things I would have never expected to stand out. NEVER.

I expected my high school memories to consist of the biggest and most obvious parts of my life. However, this reflection was a mirror of the smallest, some of the stupidest, unexpected, unplanned and, most of all, fun-filled moments of my life. I remember the smallest things that gave me extreme happiness, which again, I never really expected.

This reflection was a bit of an "aha" moment for me and true realization of the utterly clichéed saying that happiness is in the journey, not something you get at your destination. Looking back, the smallest and most surprising moments were the ones that were filled with happiness; they're the things that stand out.

All these thoughts reminded me of a video we watched in our sophomore English class, a video that inspires me to cherish each moment we all have, no matter how insignificant it may seem, and make the most of them (because that just might be the moment we'll always remember.)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012 the background of this blog?

(Disclaimer: The background of this blog may or may not load if you're reading from an Ipad, phone, etc.)

This might be a relatively unnecessary post in relation to my other blogposts, but I spent about two hours trying to choose a better theme, layout, and background for this blog yesterday.

"Cool Story, Bro," might probably be your reaction, as was the voice of my alter ego, however, the complexity in choosing a background that might define happiness to everybody was a a bit fascinating to me.

Even though I was on a time crunch, I decided to take the time out to choose how to best represent my theme of happiness? Should it be about what I think happiness is? Or should it be about what you think happiness is? And if it should, then how am I to decide what your definition of happiness is? (How would I even know what your definitions is? Do you know your definition of happiness?)

Looking at the futility and unnecessary over-analyzation of my questions, I decided to choose something somewhat universal or something y'all might be able to relate to.

I thought of choosing a background of a person in the "Namaste" pose, doing yoga. Yoga and meditation are activities that many people find happiness in, right? But does that reflect the definition of happiness in everyone's daily life? Well, maybe. Eh. Not my fav.

What about a background picture of a candlelight with a dark maroon background? It's very peaceful, right? The single candle represents a ray of happiness in the dark maroon background color of life, right? Well, no. Life isn't (or at least shouldn't be) as black/as morbid as the picture portrayed it to be and there isn't only one ray of happiness in life (at least there shouldn't be), there are multiple things that bring us small or large moments of happiness.

How about a nice nature-y picture. A picture with delicate white flowers. It's pleasing to the eyes...but that seemed like that was it. It wasn't that bad of an option, but then I asked myself, why not the current background I had chosen?

Well, there's...uh...uhm....well...there's...I guess there's really nothing... wrong, in my opinion. Take a look at it. Happiness, indeed, is as abstract as the canvas of my blog. The strokes of happiness in our lives are as unexpectedly abstract, some more heavy (dark) with happiness, some small and light, and some mixed with random similar colors in order to achieve what we thought would make that pink color of happiness, but it wasn't quite what we imagined. We all want to get a pretty pink canvas full of happiness, but our tragedies, our mistakes, our successes, our stupidities, our relations, our being human never really allows us to do so. But at the end, it turns out to be a unique piece of art, regardless of the fact whether you appreciate it or not.

I mean I could go on. Or I could be wrong, to you. Maybe you don't see it. Maybe you see it a different way. Maybe it's just an abstract background. Whatever it is, IT is now the reflection of my theme: happiness.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

It’s true folks: Money can’t buy happiness

An interesting study was conducted, showing a correlation between income and the rate of depression. It's actually quite interesting, as I initially guessed that a person in a third-world country would be more depressed due to the lack of financial security than the wealthier person living in western countries. However, my hypothesis completely contradicted a survey, which was completed July 27, 2011.

Of the 18 countries that were surveyed, about 15% of the population in the top ten wealthiest countries were suffering from or had been diagnosed in the past with depression. On the other hand, only about 11% of the population in the developing countries suffered from depression.

The following is a breakdown of the surveyed countries:

From High-income:

  • Japan: 6.6 percent
  • Germany: 9.9 percent
  • Italy: 9.9 percent
  • Israel: 10.2 percent
  • Spain: 10.6 percent
  • Belgium: 14.1 percent
  • New Zealand: 17.8 percent
  • Netherlands: 17.9 percent
  • United States: 19.2 percent
  • France: 21 percent

From Low- and middle-income:

  • China: 6.5 percent
  • Mexico: 8 percent
  • India: 9 percent
  • South Africa: 9.8 percent
  • Lebanon: 10.9 percent
  • Colombia: 13.3 percent
  • Ukraine: 14.6 percent
  • Brazil: 18.4 percent

These statistics definitely caught me by surprise. How are richer countries trending towards depression? Shouldn’t they be happier because of all the comfort money can buy? According to the Huffington Post, the reason for this depression is.... jealousy! Yes, jealousy! In richer societies, there seems to be a level of competition to be rich, while in the developing countries, that sort of pressure isn’t as prevalent as everyone around seems to be going through the same financial circumstances.

In addition to the wealthier being more prone to depression, women are generally twice as likely than men to be prone to depression. There is a direct relation between gender inequality and women’s depression, as shown below in a 2010 chart projecting the percentages of women depression.

Living in the western world, I can definitely see the effect of competition: everybody wants to be THE best. However, this is obviously taking a toll on people's mental health, and even physical health. While being the best might be important, it's also important to realize when competition is taking over your life and happiness.

Here's my two-cents: Even if you believe in reincarnation, you're going to live THIS life once: YOLO! So don't make it miserable. Re-evaluate your decisions in life. Is what you're doing making you happy? If not, then friends, you're doing life wrong. Change your thinking. Do YOUR best. Someone is ALWAYS going to be smarter than you, prettier than you, [insert adj here] than you, but no one is going to be YOU. As my grandma tells me, "You don't have to be THE best, just do your best, and be happy with what you have." That doesn't mean don't stop trying. It just means the only person you should compare yourself and try to be better than is the person who you are today, and be happy with your best.

P.S: If you truly are the Western person described in the study, and the above doesn't convince you, then the following quote might: "The best revenge is happiness, because nothing drives people more crazy than seeing someone actually living a good life."

Monday, February 27, 2012

When your world seems to end...

The topic I’m going to talk about is a topic I hate, but many of my readers have asked me to write on heart-breaks, as they feel that there’s no chance for happiness after it. Well, my friends, to start off, you’re definitely wrong.

When it comes to two people really liking each other, I’ll literally be the first person rooting for the couple-even if I don’t like them very much, or even if they're fictional characters-but I feel like there’s nothing more wonderful than when two people have that mutual feeling. On the other end, there’s also nothing more painful, even for me to watch as a spectator, for those two to break up. (I’m not even kidding-I seriously won’t want to watch a movie with that plot line.) For me to watch the loss of something that was so special and intimate, it’s just painful.

The situation is grim and depressing, so when you say you’ll never be happy again or you feel your world is ending-I feel ya, but as Rick Ross put it,”Regardless of how it goes down, Life goes on.” Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Honestly, I hate clicheed quotes thrown at me like this also; I don’t feel they help at the moment, but they do have some value when you take a few minutes to analyze it.

You can choose to mope, be sad, or simply wait patiently, in remembrance of a person, but if happiness is your goal, that most probably won’t be the best way to achieve it. Also, it helps to take life a day at a time. Let's say today was the last day to live, would you want to spend it happy or sad?

The path to your goal of happiness is strength. It takes strength to overcome grief. It takes strength to acknowledge your feelings from any type of loss:unrequited love, death, heart break, etc. Some people don’t want to find that strength.

For those who think this is the end-that is not true, in fact, it’s time to write the next and most beautiful chapter in your life yet. It might take time to realize you want that strength and finding that strength may be difficult, but the best thing you could do for yourself is learn to grow from your experiences. Think of things that might have gone wrong. Acknowledge that you and your significant other are human. There might have been mistakes made and it’s OKAY to make mistakes; it’s the only way you’ll learn not to repeat them in the future. This will only make for a better future for you! :) Strength also comes faster when you have a great support system. To get out of your low mood, get out there and enjoy a great time with your friends and family. Take up dancing or painting classes, read, give yourself a treat to the spa-Take care of yourself, improve yourself and have fun! Keep yourself surrounded and busy! Do things you love! Focus on yourself rather than anyone else, because you can do that best. Most importantly-Carry yourself with confident swag. Find your style and don’t be afraid to be who you are. Smile and let your confidence radiate and shine! Let everyone know, including yourself, that you’re happy no matter what and your happiness is not dependent on anybody, but you!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Valentine's Day: Hallmark Creating the False Definition of Happiness

You could count me in on the bandwagon: To a certain extent, I, too, believe that Valentine’Day has become a “Hallmark Holiday”.

Don’t get me wrong, I guess it’s a great day for couples to rejoice and go through the ritualistic motions of giving flowers, candy, presents, and going on a romantic date. Besides the fact that such emotions, sentiments, and expressions of love shouldn’t just be an annual event, I don’t think it’s that bad of a day for couples necessarily, but the over-excessive bombardment of the idea of “being with your significant other” makes the day almost blind to the many other lovely people in your life for many people.

One of the most complaints I hear of this day, is how especially aware people are of their relationship status if they’re not in a relationship-resulting in joke of a day, “anti-valentine” sentiments, or a straight-up “kick-it” night for those who can’t handle the idea of being single on this day or are made especially lonely by this hallmark holiday. This money makin’ scheme might have succeeded, but it seems to me that this holiday has become depressing for those who aren’t in a blossoming relationships-and no, I’m not only talking about “the single ladies.”

Besides funny statuses like, “RIP to all the virginities to be lost tonight LOL” and “hopeful” statuses like, “God looked down on you and said I’m saving this one for a special someone,” it was interesting to hear a different perspective. My mother, a nurse, works at a nursing home and told me how she found one of her geriatric patients crying on Valentine’s Day. She was crying in remembrance of the past and how she used to spend every Valentine’s Day together with their children, always planning something special for the six children. Today, it’s been years since her husband passed away and her six kids have dumped her at a nursing home, rarely calling-even on annual events like Valentine’s Day, which was a special family event for her.

Stories like these are what makes me think that Valentine’s Day has turned into more of a selfish event than the selfless day of expressing your love. It’s become more about the “significant other,” than your family, your friends-and when the day gives single people to really care for those other loved people in their lives, they feel especially depressed and lonely about not being “loved,” blind to all the love that truly surrounds them.

Some, who can’t deal with the fact of being single, go on and decide to get themselves into some bad…sh-tuff. For those souls, I’d recommend watching this video. Actually, it's a good one for everybody-watch it.

So folks, I urge you to be thankful of what you have. Imagine those friends, those family members, those people around you and evaluate the impact of their existence in your life. Now imagine if they were not in your life….Exactly, you most probably can’t. So, go on and appreciate the people around you. Just send a card or you can even by them flowers, like a nice member of our class did for the whole class. It’s just a wonderful thing to do and it will make you feel nice too.