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“It’s Easy to Be Happy”
Dr. Eckart von Hirschhausen knows
what people makes happy;
© Frank Eidel
MEDICA.de: Mr. von Hirschausen, your book is called “Happiness Rarely Comes Alone”. Who or what does it come with, then?
Eckart von Hirschhausen: The central message is right there in the title: The most important bringers of happiness are other people. Ideally, draw a red squiggle in your mental address book around the friends who you can laugh, cry and just be quiet around. There are people with naturally good moods, who spread joy no matter where they turn up. Other people spread good moods, no matter where they leave...
MEDICA.de: You make everything about happiness sound so easy. But there are usually worlds between theory and practice. What do you do personally in order to be happy?
von Hirschhausen: What makes me lastingly happy is to make people laugh and to care about other people. Cultivating positive feelings takes some targeted efforts, but it’s worth it. It’s easy to be happy. It’s only difficult to be easy.
MEDICA.de: Amongst other subjects, you studied medicine. How does a doctor come to write a book about happiness?
von Hirschhausen: There have been, of course countless books been written about happiness research. What drew me to it, however, is a central idea: Happiness is a paradox. A lot of happiness gurus, philosophers and advice givers try to create a formula for happiness. It’s the exact opposite that interests me: It’s the contradictory nature that I find interesting: Beauty makes you sad, sex is overestimated and the desire to shop fades the later the stores are open. But money makes you happy – when you’re spending it, not when you’re earning it.
MEDICA.de: Ideally, every person would like to always be “in a good mood”. Why isn’t that possible?
von Hirschhausen: Happiness is temporary – luckily. Because: We human beings are not intended to always be happy and satisfied. To the contrary, I have found out that it’s actually the dissatisfied people who move the world forward. The truly happy people do not create any inventions or any great art. Virtually all of the great composers were relatively unhappy themselves. If van Gogh had received good antipsychotics, then we all would have lost many happy moments with art. Of course, it would have been better for van Gogh himself.
MEDICA.de: Happiness research has become increasingly popular in recent years. In England, the subject “Happiness” is taught at schools and universities and in Germany, it is now part of the timetable at a Heidelberg school. Can one really learn happiness?
Happiness always depends on
the comparison: bronze makes
happier than silver; © SXC
von Hirschhausen: Yes, one can. Silver medal winners are more dissatisfied than bronze medal winners. The silver medallist thinks, I could have had the gold. The bronze medallist thinks: I’s great that I won a medal at all. In order to learn to be happy, one has to get to know one’s thoughts and ask, for example: Who am I comparing myself with? You can practice trying to observe your thoughts and interrupting negative ones more quickly. Modern happiness research has confirmed a lot of what Jesus or the Dalai Lama said. We can learn to be more attentive in assessing what is happening to us. The optimist says the glass is always half full, the pessimist says the glass is always half empty. And the corporate consultant says: You have 50 percent more glass than you need.
MEDICA.de: And for everyone who does not have a happiness teacher: How can they become happy?
von Hirschhausen: To put it crudely: Shit happens. Sometimes you’re the pigeon, sometimes you’re the statue. The good news: Most people don’t fall apart when they encounter difficulties in life; instead they emerge from them even stronger. Permanent happiness exists just as little as permanent unhappiness. The opposite of happiness is not unhappiness, it is when you don’t feel anything at all anymore, like being in a depression. Maintaining positive feelings is the best protection against burn-out and despondency.