Madhuranthakam: Happiness vs. Peace

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We are continually exposed to millions of movies, countless drama series, social media pages and websites that sell us certain lifestyles. These distractions are called just that — distractions — for a reason.

What are they distracting us from? Why are we allowing these to distract us anyway?

We often debate about technology being a boon or a bane to mankind, but we forget one important thing: Technology is just a tool. Excessive consumption is a choice. We can either eat to live or live to eat.

Why are we constantly consuming too much of everything as a society? Too much food, too much alcohol, too much sensual pleasures, too many stimuli. I don’t remember us all — and generations before us — being this excessive in the past. So what happened to us? Why are we so unsatisfied all the time, buying into these lifestyles and ideas being sold to us?

I guess dopamine is the culprit.

I love this molecule and all that it does to make us feel happy and joyful, but the control it exercises over our lives is so scary. We have three assignments, two quizzes and four lab reports due by the end of the week, but we would rather scroll down our Instagram or Facebook newsfeeds.

The reason? Simple, Dopamine. This molecule (or neurotransmitter for those who do know what is does) is associated with feelings of pleasure and sensual gratification. Watching a video gives us more dopamine, hence more pleasure, than working on our homework. At this point, it’s almost like we are all drug dealers pondering if meth gives us a kick more than coke.

To meet our ever-growing need for dopamine, we are overstimulating our five senses incessantly in a way we never did and that has really never been seen before in the history of mankind. In the beginning, we were satisfied watching movies and dramas, but now we have TikTok, YouTube shorts and Facebook stories for instant gratification and to cater to our shrinking attention spans.

If we enjoy the process of painting a picture, like the sound of a paintbrush stroke, getting messy with the colors and making something artsy, then why not do it ourselves rather than watching the ASMR videos of others doing this exact thing? Why not eat something and satiate our hunger rather than watch mukbangs?

Despite the abundant dopamine fix that we treat ourselves with, we all often have a strong tendency to feel sad and alone, yearning for moments of silence, solace and peace within ourselves. There are ways that we all have become accustomed to fulfilling these needs, like through the use of planners, journals, self-help books, Zen gardens, or listening to peaceful music when studying, writing, walking, sleeping and whatnot. But somewhere along our journey towards ecstasy, I feel as though we have abandoned peace and are now constantly searching for it in all the wrong places.

The idea that we would need external stimuli for internal peace is a call for concern. It is high time we stop for a minute, step back and pay attention to these prominent warning signs ingrained in our daily lives.

If you really think about it, we don’t need too much happiness (dopamine) in life. I feel like happiness is an overrated concept. All we need is a little peace; not the kind that is sold in self-help books, but the kind that lets us feel satisfied with life. Joy, like misery, is an extreme human emotion that blinds us to what is real. Peace is real. I know saying that peace comes from within sounds corny, but peace does, in fact, come from within, and we will only find it when we begin to look away from our phone screens.

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