In the psychiatric rotation of my medical training in 1966, my very first patient lamented, “All I want is to be happy. Is that too much to ask?”
Good question. When we talk about being happy, what exactly do we mean? A terrific film, “Happy,” directed by Roko Belic, who made the equally terrific “Genghis Blues,” seriously examines the subject. You can find it at
Happiness depends on how much time we spend in what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “the flow.” We’re in the flow when we are absolutely at one with what we’re doing. It’s a magical realm uncluttered by time or obligation or even, as a matter of fact, mortality itself.
We can literally “lose ourselves” in running or in writing, heart-fluttering love, painting, yoga, sex, music, daydreaming, whatever: it doesn’t matter what the activity is. The opposite, evidently, is remaining “in our heads,” experiencing unengaged distance. Gestalt psychology founder Fritz Perls advised, “Lose your mind and come to your senses.”
If you’ve never experienced this total immersion, you might want to take it on as a quest. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get great press in our culture, as we assign productivity a higher value, and I guarantee that the quest for happiness is decidedly unproductive.