The Power of Perception and Imagination in Determining Happiness

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As we go through life, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that external factors like a new place or a new taste are what bring us happiness. But have you ever stopped to think about the role that our perception and imagination play in shaping our emotional experiences?

Let’s use the example of people being at the beach in Hawaii or on a mountaintop somewhere. It’s in seeing the beauty of that place that gives them happiness and that overwhelming sensation that in some cases “words can’t describe.” These experiences can “pause” depression, increase our mood, and genuinely make us feel happier overall.

But what’s the difference between just closing our eyes and visualizing ourselves being there? What’s the difference between seeing them with our eyes and seeing them with our imagination? Why do we put so much of ourselves into things that we can essentially experience just by closing our eyes?

I know that there are a lot of variables here, and I too would prefer to be on a mountaintop than being there in VR or in my head, but you have to think about it. Everything we experience is our perception of that thing in which we’re seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, or tasting. It’s just a series of signals being sent to our brains that’s telling us what’s happening, what we should be feeling because of it, and releasing chemicals to make it happen.

So, why can’t we trigger those same feelings by telling ourselves that we’re standing on a mountaintop and that we’re happy because of it? Well, from what I understand… we can.

Real-life examples of this concept can be seen in the practice of meditation and mindfulness. Many people who practice mindfulness and meditation report that they are able to find a sense of peace and happiness within themselves, regardless of their external circumstances. Additionally, studies have shown that visualization techniques, such as guided imagery and mental rehearsals, can be effective in helping people achieve goals and overcome challenges.

Another example can be seen in the field of psychology, where cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used to help people change their negative thought patterns and perceptions in order to improve their emotional well-being. The idea is that by changing one’s thoughts and perceptions, one can change their emotional response to a situation.

I personally haven’t mastered this yet, and aside from “thinking happy thoughts” when I’m not in the greatest mood, I’m not great at “tricking my brain into believing something other than what I’m visually seeing or physically touching, but apparently, some people can, and I think that’s pretty damn interesting. It also gives me hope.

In conclusion, the idea that happiness is a choice and not a result, emphasizes the power of our perception and imagination in shaping our emotional experiences, and I can at the very least attest to changing my mood by focusing on the good in a bad situation, so maybe all this hippie-dippy energy stuff is legit after all.