Do a search right now on Amazon for books on the topic of “Happiness” and you will be returned page after page of titles, all claiming to have the secret to finding it. Why are we obsessed with happiness? Maybe the better questions is, why does happiness seem to elude so many people?
At one time, humans were too busy running from saber-toothed tigers and searching for food to be concerned with whether or not they were happy. But thanks to drive-thru windows, penicillin and other conveniences modern humans have extended their mortality and now have the time to focus on self-growth.
An expanding body of research has also suggested that happiness doesn’t just feel good-it is also linked to other benefits such as better immune-system function and higher earnings. No wonder so many of us pine for it.
But what is happiness exactly? We feel happy when we are with the people we love. We feel happy when we’re watching a funny movie or eating our favorite pasta dish. But happiness seems more than just an emotion because emotions are fleeting and transient.
So, what is it then?
Happiness (or life satisfaction, contentment, peace and a variety of other descriptors) is a state of mind and as such, can be intentional and strategic. This is good news because it means we can intentionally make choices that lead to a positive state of mind – AKA happiness. We can look at common behaviors of others who seem to be consistently and inherently satisfied & at peace with life for direction.
And here is what such people often do:
They Understand Growth is Painful
Many people play life safe. They eat at the same restaurants, vacation at the same place every year and spend time with the same people. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying favorites in life, people often report feeling happiest when they are growing, developing and discovering new things-which requires life lived outside of your comfort zone at times.
They Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Happy people don’t sweat the small stuff and they are not perfectionists. This is not to say that we should all stop trying our best. But striving for excellence is different than demanding perfection, which when it comes to human endeavors does not exist. We should be able to celebrate our accomplishments and continue to set high goals without sweating the small stuff and allowing perfectionism to overwhelm the joy that accomplishing goals and personal growth brings.
They Feel Their Feelings
You would think that really happy people are happy all the time, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Psychologically healthy people are those that understand the importance of feeling their genuine emotions. Happy people don’t deny their distasteful or uncomfortable emotions, and they don’t sweep them under the rug. Instead they acknowledge, honor, accept and make peace with all of their emotions-and when possible use their negative emotions as signals so they can make different choices in the future.
For instance, a happy person might feel jealous because a coworker got a promotion and they didn’t. An individual who is at peace with life will acknowledge and validate these difficult feelings to themselves, as well as looking honestly at their actions to determine if they could have done something differently to achieve a more desirable outcome. Learning from life’s challenging situations and emotions is a key component to self-acceptance, self-love and happiness. Being able to do this is a skill that takes practice. But with time, patience and effort everyone can make improvements in this area.
If you don’t think you are as happy as you could be, think of the topics discussed above as potential starting points to help you in your journey to finding peace within yourself, and happiness and satisfaction in life.
If you’ve always been someone who shies away from their emotions, it may be difficult to feel out your feelings. A therapist can help you get acquainted with your emotional life and offer tools so you can navigate your emotions in the future.
If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.