Sequels are, without a doubt, one of the worst ideas mankind has ever come up with.
Let’s think about it: “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.” “The Sting 2.” “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.” “I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer.” “Saw IIV.” “Saw IV.”
Okay, every “Saw” after the first one.
The most distressing fact is, even though we know the movie is going to be bad, even though we know there’s no way on earth it could be even remotely worth our time, we will go see the squeakquel—oops. Sequel.
We always leave the theatre feeling a little bit disappointed, but not at all surprised. Then, we go home and check our refrigerators for comfort food, only to find that it’s completely empty.
An hour later, we check the empty fridge again.
It’s only skimming the top of a much deeper issue. We live our lives in the so-called pursuit of happiness, but end up going back to the things that make us completely miserable.
We procrastinate over and over again on our homework. We get on Facebook, instead of doing something worth our time. We date people who we know are terrible for us.
We make ourselves unhappy, and it’s all because we’re stuck in a cycle that we can’t pry ourselves from.
The question is, why? Is it an obsession with everything familiar? Is it habit?
A review of 51 studies attempting to increase happiness was published in “The Journal of Clinical Psychology,” recently, and the research showed that happiness isn’t out of our control. In fact, there are five pretty simple steps people can take to make themselves happier.
•Being optimistic: What people see in their future directly affects their happiness. The ones who wrote journal entries envisioning a good job, perfect world and caring partner said they felt happier within a few weeks. However, the ones who could only see a good round of golf and Facebook stalking in the next few days didn’t.
•Being grateful: Telling someone they’re appreciated gives us a feeling of greater worth. Writing letters, even unsent ones, and saying thanks for being there are two simple ways to give ourselves a boost of happiness. It could be as minute as thanking your running and lifting partner, or as extraordinary as getting up in the middle of the movie for a women’s bathroom break.
•Keeping track of blessings: Writing down something good that has happened to us during the day helps us remember the reasons we should be happy.
•Acts of kindness: Donating to charities, volunteering, helping elderly citizens cross the street or telling someone that, really, the new Indiana Jones movie isn’t worth their time makes everyone feel good.
•Recognizing and using strengths: Everyone has something different that they’re good at. We can make people laugh, lend someone an ear, help someone clean their room or lift something for someone with our superhuman strength.
These are simple, yet productive ways to increase happiness. What do all of these have in common? Breaking out of the mold. As long as people keep doing the same thing they’ve always done, they won’t achieve a higher level of happiness or greater feelings of self-worth.
We play out our lives like movie sequels, always looking for a common factor in what we’ve done before. Unlike the sequels, however, the more we recreate what we’ve done, the more we spiral down into a colossal failure reminiscent of a movie that is only watched because it’s sure to have the line “Hasta la vista, baby.”
Our lives aren’t sequels. Every day is a new beginning, if we could treat it as such. We can start with a new script, a new role and a new supporting cast.
Although, it must be said—“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze” was okay.