Maybe You Just Don't Know How To Be Happy?
“We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.”
Here’s a confronting question – Maybe you just don’t know how to be happy? – Ouch!
There’s such an amazing amount of research into happiness that you’d think all of us should be mind blowingly happy all of the time – but alas that is just not so. Depression and suicide lurk in the background of many situations. Even celebrities and star sports people seem to be afflicted by unhappiness and existential angst that can lead to bad outcomes. What’s sad is that often we don’t learn the truth until it’s too late – which of course feeds the cynicism that says that all the smiles and laughs are just a put on.
I’d bet most of us too would say that if we suddenly found ourselves in the lap of luxury or the face of fame we would be gloriously happy but the truth can be far from this. You see happiness appears to be more about habit than many other things.
Let me ask you this – Who do you know who is really happy? And what does happiness actually look like to you? See most of us tend to focus on the getting of things – unfortunately this is a consequence of the utilitarian paradigm under which we live. We can focus on getting a nice big house, buying a new car, even obsessing about all the little toys and trinkets that some say we need to live successfully in our modern world. But does the receipt of the latest iPhone make you happy? Does buying a new outfit make you happy? Does buying a new car make you happy? Maybe but only for a little while – just until the aura has worn off then it’s onto the next fix.
The problem with obsessing about things is that whilst you are striving for the achievement of those things you are not really living in the present moment and so what drives you on is the focus on the outcome. As soon as you get to the outcome you lose what you have been striving for and so instead of feeling deep satisfaction often what you feel inside is emptiness – until of course you find something else to strive for and then it’s back onto the treadmill again.
So – happiness as a habit. What have you habitually learned to be? Were your parents happy and did they bring you up to focus on the good things in life and be grateful, never wasting moment to complain or whine about anything? Or did they struggle and did they tell you that life was a struggle? Did you learn to struggle? Did you learn to focus on the struggle? As you have grown older does your conversation with others focus on struggle? Do you complain habitually about your day, your boss, the bad drivers on the road, the silly politicians, your lack of money, the lack of love in your life, the annoying people you had to serve at work? Does your struggle then become your justification for behaving badly, treating others badly, using drugs or alcohol to escape from your life?
I bet you think that – if only x would happen then I could be happy but since x hasn’t happened I can’t be happy so I won’t even try… where x could be winning the lotto, finding love, getting a new job etc
But is this true? Research into lotto winners finds that if you are poor when you win the lotto your chances of becoming poor again are very high. Waiting for something to happen before you can step up to the plate so to speak just doesn’t work.
So – back to the question – Maybe you just don’t know how to be happy?
Maybe you have been enduring a long drawn out conflict of some sort which has given you ample justification for bitching and moaning about life – and paradoxically – ample justification for washing your sorrows away with whatever form of sorrow solvent you can find. And – of course – it will attract to you people who will delight in hearing about your woes as it makes their woes feel better – all of which becomes a habit.
Happy people do some very specific things to habitually make themselves happy. First, they take responsivity for their own happiness – waiting for someone else to do something is entirely disempowering. They understand that happiness is holistic – it needs management of the physical, emotional, spiritual, material and mental self. Next they manage their focus – choosing to remember the good stuff and doing their best to let go of the bad stuff – this is the challenge of the remembering self versus the experiencing self. Then they manage the story they tell themselves about life’s events – this is positive psychology a la Martin Seligman – and the difference between being an optimist and a pessimist. Finally they do their best to get into flow – this is a state where you are able to lose yourself in what you are doing – doesn’t matter what you just need to be so into something that it allows for you to escape yourself. And all of this needs to be done habitually and repeatedly to feed into a happiness habit that will survive the harshest of existential storms.
So – again – Do you know how to be happy? Do you know what it looks like and feels like? Do you know what you need to do repeatedly and habitually to make that happen? If so, are you doing it? If not, why not?
In peace and love always.