What is true “happiness”— and how can we achieve it?

1. Happiness ain’t pleasure

Laughing lady artbooks by haptic press
Laughing lady artbooks by haptic press

First of all, I don’t think “happiness” is pleasure.

There is something called the hedonic treadmill — whenever we have a pleasurable experience, we get accustomed to it.

For example, the pleasure you get when eating a really good dish for the first time diminishes the more you eat it. For example, if you go to your favorite restaurant and order the most expensive steak, it probably won’t taste as good the next time you visit.

Sydney, 2016

Or, consider if you buy a fancy sports car for the first time (let’s say a BMW M3). The pleasure you get from it will be very high. Then you soon lose the initial sense of pleasure that you had when you first got it. Then you must upgrade to a Maserati, to get that hit of pleasure again, and so forth, with upgrading to a Bentley, then a Rolls Royce, then perhaps your own private jet, then your own private spaceship.

Therefore, physiologically — it is impossible to always feel “happy”— assuming that happiness is mere pleasure.

2. No heroin for me

The pleasure we feel is chemicals like dopamine and serotonin hitting our brains.

But— shouldn’t true happiness be more than mere chemicals hitting our cortex? Then if happiness were merely pleasure, would someone addicted to heroin be truly “happy”? I think not.

3. Creative flourishing

Cindy making cutouts. Saigon, 2017
Cindy making cutouts. Saigon, 2017

I like the definition of happiness as “human flourishing” (eudaimonia in Ancient Greek).

In modern times, a better definition is probably “creative flourishing”— which means, you are happy when you are creating new things, making new things, solving challenging problems, and making new art works or solutions or ideas.

Cindy’s Kyoto artistic schedule, 2017
Cindy’s Kyoto artistic schedule, 2017

For example, creative flourishing can include writing poetry, taking photos, drawing pictures, dancing with your body, making music, making witty conversation, doing stand up comedy, doing freestyle rapping, teaching, making film, or anything that exercises our creative muscles.

But as a reminder — creative flourishing isn’t just having all these “creative ideas” swimming around in your head — it is actually producing stuff, making stuff, creating stuff.

4. Have fun!

Cindy’s cutout. Saigon, 2017
Cindy’s cutout. Saigon, 2017

I personally don’t think there is good or bad art. Just authentic or inauthentic art.

For you, if you really want to be “happy”— make more art. Empower yourself by making art (not fancy art with a capital A, but everyday art). This is why I’m so inspired by Cindy what she is doing with HAPTICPRESS.COM — she is creating a platform to empower other artists, and she is being creative by curating (curation is also a form of art). Cindy is a visual historian, and it brings her great joy and happiness to bring together awesome artists, and share their awesome work.

5. Make more photos and stuff

Spread from MODERN PHOTOGRAPHER // yes to creative experiments
Spread from MODERN PHOTOGRAPHER // yes to creative experiments

To be happier as a photographer, make more photos. Always carry your camera around your neck, or wrist, and shoot a lot. Give yourself permission to make photos of whatever. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Be like a child. Experiment, and have fun.

The most prolific artists have a lot of fun, like children.

If you’re not having fun during your artistic process, you’re not going to be happy, nor are you going to be productive.

6. Make more art!

Cindy and me about to eat Indian food. Prague, 2017
Cindy. Prague, 2017

So friend, keep making art. Keep exploring all forms of visual art, and find inspiration in anything, anywhere, and everywhere.

Just make photos with your phone, or to respark your creativity, pick up a copy of FILM NOTES and try shooting film. Try making film with iMovie, or just make a simple video slideshow. Learn how to make your own beats in GarageBand.


Just make make make— don’t think. Don’t worry about your tools, just use what you already got.

The more stuff you make, the happier you will be.




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