Aside from the generic “pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps” shtick, people generally characterise New Zealanders by their penchant for whining. Yet, according to the Human Development Index 2010, we are the country with the third best living standards in the world. We’re lucky enough to have food, water and shelter, the opportunity to work and get an education and still we bitch and moan. But as Bread, the 1960s-70s rock band from Los Angeles, California, so wisely put it in their 1969 self-titled album, human beings can’t live on bread and water alone. Once we’ve satisfied our carnal needs we want meaning in our lives and we spend our time and energy trying to find it. Whether it’s the environment, anorexia or religion, in the “developed world” we’re all trying to find something to believe in. Our tendency to whine, aside from being a cultural trait, is a manifestation of both not having achieved this and viewing our contentment as something over which we have no control.
This is where Abraham Maslow comes in. Psychologists tend to study aberrations in the human brain. Maslow instead analysed the brains of “self-actualised people”, the happiest 1% of people, and the brains of such accomplished individuals as Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt. Maslow’s eight ways to self-actualise are as follows:  
1. Experience things fully, vividly, selflessly. Throw yourself into experiencing something, let it totally absorb you. 
2. Life is an ongoing process of choosing between safety (out of fear and the need for defence) and risk (for the sake of progress and growth): Make the growth choice a dozen times a day.
3. Let the self emerge. Try to shut out external pointers as to what you should think, feel, say and so on, and instead let your experience enable you to say what you truly feel.
4. When in doubt, be honest. Take responsibility.
5. Listen to your own tastes. Be prepared to be unpopular.
6. Use your intelligence, work to do well the things you want to do, no matter how insignificant they seem to be.
7. Make peak experiencing more likely: get rid of illusions and false notions. Learn what you are good at and what your potential is.
8. Find out who you are, what you are, what you like and don’t like, what is good and what is bad for you, where you are going, what your mission is. Opening up to yourself in this way means identifying your defence mechanisms and then finding the courage to “give them up.”
Aside from attempting to self-actualise, it would also benefit us to realise that happiness is a matter of perspective. Life isn’t intrinsically bad or good. It’s what you make it. Yes, everyone gets depressed; it’s the nature of being alive and of hormonal and chemical impulses occurring in our bodies all the time. But unless you’re actually clinically depressed, happiness is mostly a matter of perspective and that’s the mistake most people make. They don’t see happiness as a choice. Happiness and joy are seen as things that happen to you, rather than conditions you determine. Yes, there’s a reason why we feel we sometimes can’t control our emotions; they can be powerful as hell and we feel them for a reason. But no matter how intense an emotion may be, it is ultimately by its very nature a temporary thing. Happiness is about realising this, being rational about your emotions without repressing them.
We all need to whine from time to time. Constant whining, however, not only bores others but reveals one's lack of ability to take responsibility for one’s own life and happiness. Ultimately the world isn't going to cater to all your needs and tastes. The world couldn't care less. And you're only making yourself feel like shit in the process.

Posted 1:54am Tuesday 8th March 2011 by Kari Schmidt.